7 Email Hacks That Will Make You More Productive

Email is a wonderful tool that has allowed the speed of business to grow exponentially.  However, it can also be a colossal time suck that keeps us from being productive if we let it!

It’s easy to get sucked in and side-tracked when you open your inbox and see something that looks important (or just interesting).   The next thing you know, half the morning is gone and you haven’t actually accomplished any of the tasks you set out to do.

Fortunately, there are easy solutions that allow you to enjoy the power of email without all of the headaches.  Below, you’ll find seven “email hacks” that will put you back on the productive track and reign in the distraction factor that this type of technology inherently creates.

7 Email Hacks for Increased Productivity

Check Email Only Twice a Day

If possible, log in once in the morning – in order to see if there are any crises you need to respond to – and once in the afternoon.  There’s no need to keep your email client open, to have push notifications on your phone or to repeatedly stop what you’re doing in order to send and receive messages.  Really, there are very few emergencies that will ever be communicated to you via email!


Noted productivity expert Bob Pozen came up with this acronym, which stands for “Only Handle It Once.”  That means that you don’t put off dealing with emails until later—you deal with them when you receive them.  That way, you’re not constantly reminding yourself to remember a certain email message all day or forgetting about it until after hours.  You’re also not wasting time re-reading and rethinking what’s been sent to you.

Use Dropbox for Large Files

Dropbox is a cloud-based application that allows users to share files that are too large to fit in emails.  Nobody wants to have his inbox plugged with huge data files, videos or other piles of ones and zeroes.  Worse yet, sending and receiving such files may cause your server connection to time out – meaning that you have to try sending/receiving again, wasting even more time.

By using a dedicated file sharing system – rather than trying to shoehorn that functionality into your email account – you’re not only saving yourself tons of time and hassle, you’re saving your recipient time as well.

Set Up Filters

In order to keep your inbox clear and save yourself some time, set up a filing and filter system that automatically sorts your emails for you.  That way, you’re not reading, analyzing and sorting messages yourself.  Desktop clients like Outlook and Windows Live mail, as well as web-based applications like Google’s Gmail, all support this functionality – so make use of it!

Use Mobile Email to its Fullest Potential

After reading the first hack in this list, you might be thinking that I’m contradicting myself right now (and, really, I am a bit).  However, mobile access to email – either via smartphone or tablet – can turn downtime into productive time.  If you’re commuting, stuck in an airport or just waiting in line at Starbucks, you can access your email then – rather than during “business hours.”  This ensures you’re your work hours are left open for more important endeavors.

Set Up Canned Responses

Chances are a lot of the emails you’re receiving are very similar in nature.  But there’s no need to type the same response over and over again when you use a template message tool like Google’s Canned Responses.  This program allows you to create message templates or entire messages that can be sent out with a click of a button or two.  Adding this hack to your day saves a whole lot of typing time and allows you to quickly get back to business at hand.

Create Team Member or Project-Specific Inboxes

Use the folder system and sorting filters to create “inboxes” for every member of your team or for every project you’re involved in.  This allows you to easily keep track of all of your relevant messages at a glance.  In most cases, if you CC yourself on outgoing emails, these will automatically be sorted into the correct folder for you as well, saving even more time when it comes to tracking down past messages.

Free Email Tools

Implementing the hacks described above can go a long way towards minimizing the amount of time you spend managing email messages.  However, if you’re ready to take your productivity to the next level, looking into any of the following productivity apps:

Boomerang Gmail Extension, which allows you to schedule messages to be sent later and automatically sends you copies of emails you’ve sent that haven’t yet received responses.

Alto, which creates message groups (referred to as “stacks”) automatically so that you can bulk sort and respond without all the headaches and hassle.  This is a free, browser-based interface that works with Gmail, iCloud and Yahoo in order to present messages in a more visually intuitive way.

Mailbox, which was recently acquired by Dropbox, is a portable web app that’s essentially a re-skinning of Google’s popular Gmail system.  However, Mailbox offers more functionality, is better organized and gives users more control over their inbox than other email systems out there.

By adding these tools to your email arsenal and utilizing the productivity habits described above, you’ll cut the amount of time needed to manage your inbound and outbound messages significantly.  If you’ve always dreamed of reaching “Inbox Zero,” these tips will help you get there!

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