It has been almost twenty years since Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox developed an entire relationship via email in the iconic rom-com “You’ve Got Mail.” A lot has changed since then, particularly pertaining to the evolution of how we use technology in the workplace.
Studies conducted in 2011 by Fonality and in 2012 by McKinley Global Institute found employees spend anywhere from 28 to 50 percent of their time on email.
Despite the range of information out there, the bottom line for small businesses remains the same: sorting through and responding to email takes a lot of time. That is likely no surprise to small business owners, who make it their life’s mission to bring their passion to life while simultaneously managing a million other tasks.
Fortunately, the continuous evolution of technology also brings a number of helpful tools to the table to help keep your inbox clean and organized.
We researched some of the top apps for email sorting that will help boost productivity in the workplace environment.
For one-stop e-mail, look no further than the Outlook app. Designed to sync your Outlook account with other accounts like Gmail and Yahoo, the app takes away the need to switch between three or more different accounts to get to the same end result. It relies heavily on swipe gestures, and allows you to share files from OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts. Outlook also offers what they call a “focused” inbox, which allows you to prioritize your most important emails and set messages to send emails at a specified time.
It’s not uncommon for employees of a small business to become experts at things they may not have other experience with to meet an important deadline or finish a crucial project. In the age where we all strive so hard to do more with less, it’s easier than ever before for things to fall through the cracks. That’s where apps like Boomerang become incredibly useful. With Boomerang, you can write an email and schedule it to be sent automatically at a specified time, but it will also remind you if you don’t hear back. The app also takes messages out of your inbox until you actually need them, helping keep your inbox cleaner without losing track of important messages.
When it comes to preventing your inbox from becoming a nightmare to sort through, Mailstrom works to organize bundles to help the organizational process. The mobile app is one of many helpful productivity boosters for small businesses. It works with most major email products and is designed to identify bundles of related email to save time and make it easier to parcel through. Features like Chill and Expire help to address how your time is spent while you’re sorting through email and clean it out automatically based on your preferences. Also of note about this app is it offers enhanced spam protection, which enables the program to block unwanted senders.
One of the best ways to get organized is to be proactive rather than reactive. By staying ahead of the problem by using high-quality spam filters like Cloudmark, the inbox clutter otherwise known as spam doesn’t even get to you in the first place. Instead, you have more time to sort through and respond to the emails that matter.
Just because a lot has changed in the realm of technology since Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks revolutionized online dating in “You’ve Got Mail” doesn’t mean you need to cringe every time you get an email notification.
While it may be disturbing to think of you and your employees investing as much as 50 percent of their valuable time on a daily basis working through email, there are tools out there to help.
In addition to using apps, consider trying some practical tips to keeping your inbox clean and organized.
Schedule a weekly cleaning time. Much like you would schedule time to clean your bathroom or kitchen, carving out as little as 15 minutes a week to clean out your inbox can help you be more efficient throughout the week.
Respond, don’t store. While there is something to be said for using a filing system that works for you, a best practice in email is to get away from thinking of your inbox as a long-term storage device. Respond, delete (or file) and move on.
Schedule a monthly purge. Think of this as your deep clean where you can catch up if you missed a weekly cleaning or two, dig deep and get to the ultimate goal: inbox zero! It might be painful in the moment, but it will boost productivity throughout the week.
Stick to it. It’s almost like a weight loss or exercise regime. Don’t fall off the wagon! Keep it up for long-term results to avoid having the messages build up to the point where you feel like giving up everything you’ve worked for.