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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 11 Ways to Make Your Inbox Less of a Nightmare

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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 11 Ways to Make Your Inbox Less of a Nightmare

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What’s your favorite email hack?

1. Set up an Alias

Robert Castaneda

    Google Apps and Gmail have a feature where you can add a “+” to your name. For example: robert+receipts@servicerocket.com. You can use these to set up an alias for websites that send you receipts to help you easily filter where information goes when it comes into your inbox.

    Robert Castaneda, ServiceRocket

    2. Install Rapportive

    Ben Lang

      If you use Gmail, Rapportive is by far the most useful email plug-in you can install. It lets you see the social profiles of the people you’re emailing and easily connect with them on the side.

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      Ben Lang, Mapped In Israel

      3. Unsubscribe From Things

      Scott Ferreira

        I have had many friends and colleagues complain about their onslaught of emails and ask me what I do about it. For one, I cut the BS and unsubscribe from all the stuff that has built up over the years. Secondly, even if I still really want to be subscribed, I have it auto-filtered in Google so that I know I can go check it out at a later time since it typically isn’t that important.

        Scott Ferreira, MySocialCloud

        4. Filter Obsessively

        Kelly Azevedo

          I use Gmail, and its advanced filtering options have saved me hours a day and reduced my stress! Even if it’s an email that I need to read, already having a label applied saves me time and means I can organize thousands of messages effortlessly. Sure, you can manually move emails to a folder, but automating this process means I can have 200+ emails a day and only 20 or so in my inbox most days.

          Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

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          5. Create an “Answer Later” Folder

          Michael Margolis

            I constantly parse my inbox and move non-priority items into a second folder. Only clients, business development or important staff emails get my attention. This allows my inbox to stay manageable at around 15 to 40 emails at any given time. Once a day, and especially on the weekends, I batch process the unanswered correspondence in the “Answer Later” folder.

            Michael Margolis, Get Storied

            6. Use Outlook’s Offline Functionality

            Aaron Schwartz

              I’ve fallen into the trap of managing my time by what’s in my inbox. I love Gmail but find the chat and stream of incoming email to be distracting. Their offline product isn’t quality, meaning that when I’m working, I always see a stream of new work! Outlook offline is awesome, allowing you to work on projects without any external distractions.

              Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

              7. Use Boomerang for Gmail

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              doreen-bloch

                Boomerang for Gmail is a fantastic tool for managing the email inbox. Not only does it enable you to send away emails until a designated time, it enables you to program emails for strategically timed sends, too.

                Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

                 

                8. Don’t Check Your Email

                Wade Foster

                  The only time I’ve ever gotten sucked into email is when I started checking it compulsively. Now I try to only check email once midday and once at night. I spend an hour each time and answer as many emails as I can. The most important ones get answered first, and I go as far down the list as I can. Sometimes, I’ll make it to “inbox zero” and sometimes not. Either way, I’m less stressed about email.

                  Wade Foster, Zapier

                  9. Use Apps to Keep Your Inbox at Zero

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                  There are three apps that all keep me at “inbox zero” at least once a day: The first and second are Boomerang for Gmail and the Mailbox iOS app. I use them to track follow-up emails and snooze emails until later. The third app is SaneBox, which automatically moves less important emails out of your inbox and into another folder. Then, once a day, it sends a summary email of what you missed.

                  Henry Balanon, Detroit Labs

                  10. Identify Email Patterns With Toofr!

                  Ryan Buckley

                    We use Toofr! all the time to identify email patterns at small and large companies. We found early on that sending the right email to the right person yields high open rates and positive responses. This trick helped us generate over half a million dollars of revenue in 2012.

                    Ryan Buckley, Scripted, Inc.

                    11. Answer the Same Questions With Canned Responses

                    sean ogle

                      I answer the same 10 or so questions all the time. With Gmail Labs’ Canned Responses, all I have to do is hit a button, and my desired response pops up. Add a quick personal open and close to this, and you have the most effective tool for mass email response I know of.

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                      Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

                      More by this author

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                      Trending in Productivity

                      1 How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness 2 Are You Addicted to Productivity? 3 Is Avoiding Difficult Tasks And Doing Easy Tasks First Less Productive? 4 How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data) 5 10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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                      Last Updated on October 21, 2021

                      How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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                      How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

                      Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

                      Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

                      The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

                      Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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                      Program Your Own Algorithms

                      Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

                      Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

                      By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

                      How to Form a Ritual

                      I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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                      Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

                      1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
                      2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
                      3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
                      4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

                      Ways to Use a Ritual

                      Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

                      1. Waking Up

                      Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

                      2. Web Usage

                      How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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                      3. Reading

                      How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

                      4. Friendliness

                      Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

                      5. Working

                      One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

                      6. Going to the gym

                      If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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                      7. Exercise

                      Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

                      8. Sleeping

                      Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

                      8. Weekly Reviews

                      The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

                      Final Thoughts

                      We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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                      More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

                       

                      Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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