Crowdsourced workflows, tools, and hacks that AU members use
Raise your hand if you hate email? Almost everyone raises hand. That was the response I got at Wednesday’s Helpfest. We’ve all been there — fighting a never-ending inbox while struggling to excavate emails of importance, sort out to-do items, and respond to valuable contacts as quickly and concisely as possible. It’s for that very reason that we focused a Helpfest on crowdsourcing email management wisdom. We selected three AU members to share the tools, workflows and hacks they use to improve the email experience.
Doug Strasnick of Moogfest uses Boomerang in three specific ways to make Gmail his to-do list.
- As an email tracker — If Doug sends a message to someone of importance, he uses Boomerang to return that message to him after a set number of days if the person hasn’t replied. This alerts him that he may need to circle back.
- As a task reminder — When an email contains a task with a deadline, Doug boomerangs the email back to himself as he gets closer to the deadline to ensure he doesn’t forget.
- For optimal outreach — Doug can compose an email at his convenience, but schedule it to send at an optimal time that makes sense for his recipient. Hemingway Editor
Given that email is a written medium, it is more difficult to get your point across quickly. If you fail to be clear and concise, it can lead to confusion and cause unnecessarily long email threads. UX Specialist Melissa Eggleston uses the Hemingway Editor to make her emails easier to read. The tool tells you what reading level you’re writing at and where to make revisions to make it more Hemingway-esque. The goal is shorter sentences at an 8th or 9th-grade reading level to make emails easier to understand.
The 4 D’s (plus one R)
Justin Winter of Boostopia focused more on workflow than specific tools, although he did highly recommend SaneBox. He also mentioned that tools could help manage business processes so they never become email conversations in the first place.
Justin’s main tip was to use a modified version of the 4 D’s of productivity to handle incoming emails.
Delete — Delete or Archive messages that don’t require action.
Delegate — Pass on tasks that can/should be handled by someone else.
Respond — Respond to emails that take 60 seconds or less.
Defer — For emails that take longer than 60 seconds, revisit them in a 2nd round or enter them into a project management tool.
Do— Attack your resulting to-do list starting with the scariest things.
Check out Justin’s deck below to see the method he uses and some tools that can aid in your quest for Inbox Zero and better productivity.
Other Email Tips/Tools
Some AU members in the Helpfest audience shared additional recommendations about email.
Chris Rathgeb (Digitova) — Don’t look at email until after lunch. You’re most creative in the mornings, so don’t waste that creativity on emails. Use the morning to move forward with something more mission critical.
Anthony Garritano (Digitova) — If you’re signing up for a service with your Gmail address and are afraid it will be spammed as a result, use “+ [descriptive word]” to modify your address so that you can later filter out those emails. For example, if my email is email@example.com, I would enter the address firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, in Gmail, I can use a filter to remove everything I’ve marked as “spam” from my main inbox.
While an empty inbox may continue to be the white whale of the business world, I hope one or more of these methods can help email suck a little less for you.