Did you know the average person spends 13 hours a week just reading and processing email – what a big fat waste of time.
We all get bombarded with too many emails every day, and most of them are not worthy of our attention.
What’s most frustrating is that the important ones often get lost in the big black inbox-hole, otherwise known as a complete lack of email organization.
So today I’d like to put a stop to that by sharing with you my three-step email system that has helped me save valuable hours each week and quit wasting time reading email that I just shouldn’t be.
I’m not talking about aiming for Inbox Zero. Personally I think that’s crazy quest to embark on, the minute you get it to zero it will fill up again.
What I am discussing here is a system that works for you to make sure you read the important emails first, and filter out the rest.
There are three email inbox tools that I couldn’t live without and exactly how I use them to become more productive and effective.
Step 1: Sign Up To SaneBox
I came across Sanebox in September last year after trying various solutions that I liked, but just didn’t cut the mustard.
SaneBox was super easy to use. There’s nothing to install, it just creates another folder in your inbox that filters your email into Sane Top, Sane Later and Sane News.
Over a series of introductory emails Sanebox told me about how to use its features by directing me to short, fun video trainings.
It also allowed me to `train’ it to filter out and summarize all the unimportant emails I received – not spam, but emails like product updates, latest deals, airpoint summaries, that simply interrupted my day.
It took me less than 2 weeks of using their tool to figure out the main features and how to use them.
For example they have a simple folder SaneBlackHole you can drag those emails into that you’ve been trying to unsubscribe from forever, and they do it for you in one click.
They’ve introduced a cool `attachments’ feature where you simply tick a box to tell the tool to put all email attachments you get sent into your Dropbox folder.
That means you dramatically reduce your inbox storage space and have a clever filing system for those attachments in Dropbox, where they should be anyway.
They also can send you follow up reminders if an email you sent hasn’t been replied to so you can take action, and you can set reminders for yourself to send emails.
Quite honestly I think you’ll fall in love with email again (which is their mission by the way) and you’ll gain back control of your inbox.
In the first week of using SaneBox they sent me a groovy little email visual showing that I’d saved 2.5 hours on not reading unimportant email.Here’s a more recent one:
So if you get lots of email and haven’t tried SaneBox yet then you’re seriously missing out. It’s free for the first two weeks and then they have 3 pricing tiers starting from just over $2 per month.
Since I tweeted how much I liked them, Dmitri, VP of Growth and I had a little tweet chat, which turned to email and him offering my community a special deal.
Step 2: Install Gmail’s Canned Responses
If you’re the type of person who wastes time writing out personalized email responses for the same requests you get daily then stop it now.
That’s what Google Lab’s Gmail Canned Responses is for and it will quite literally change your life overnight (and even save you from developing RSI).
There’s no need for you to be writing out the same old email each and every time.
That’s because Gmail Canned Responses lets you save templates of emails you’ve prewritten and then simply insert them into a new email when you need it.
It’s quite simply genius and I love it. You can edit the template at anytime and save it again, or delete it once it’s done.
As I said it’s free and it takes you about 1 minute to set up. Simply login to your Gmail account on the Web and click on the gear icon in the upper right hand corner.
Select Mail Settings from the menu and click on the Labs Tab and type in Canned Response in the search and `Enable’ it. Then save it.
I recommend you then write up your template in a word document until you have it just right, and include relevant URL links if you need to.
Then compose a new email and click on the Canned Response menu and choose `New canned response’, give it an appropriate name to remember what it’s for and click ok.
Next time you reply to the sender, you can simply choose `Insert [NAME]’ and a few seconds later there’s your prepopulated email response, which you can now just customize.
I can confidently say I save at least 2 hours per month using this tool, perhaps more.
I use it to say a friendly no to the numerous requests I receive for guest posts through my contact form (the ones that sneakily bypass my lovely Virtual Assistant Margaret).
I simply click on Canned Response > Insert Guest Post No, and add in their name, before hitting send.
I also use Gmail Canned Responses for sending a response to readers of my BYOB book who weren’t able to access the free downloads and templates.
I used two different versions of Canned Responses during my $100 Change initiative when I was reaching out to Change Makers – one short and one more in-depth.
I’ve set one up for approaching affiliates for the upcoming launch of WE Mastermind and for new members of my Social Media Club to welcome them.
Step 3: Install The Boomerang Extension
The Australian boomerang is an Aboriginal tool that you can throw far into the air and it will come back to you.
The same applies to Boomerang for Gmail, you send an email into the email-osphere and it will send it back to you – but when you want it.
I think this is one of the coolest tools out there that allows you to write messages now and schedule them to deliver at any time.
So let’s say I want to reply to someone who just emailed me, but I don’t want to look to available and start a whole email thread just because I’m online.
I just type a reply and use `Send Later’ button to send it an hour or even a day or two later.
It also lets you schedule messages you’ve received from someone to return at your inbox at a later date. Perfect for those less than urgent emails you don’t want to forget.
Just click the Boomerang button when you have an email open, and choose when you need it again – like tomorrow morning, in 4 days or even months later.
Boomerang instantly archives the message and then puts it back in your inbox as marked unread or starred when you requested it to.
You can also remind yourself to follow up on messages that you definitely want to get a response to, and in a certain time period.
When you get email overload this is a complete godsend. I have often had my bacon saved thanks to Boomerang reminding me of an important email I haven’t responded to.
I tend to use Boomerang for requests like someone needing a guest post from me in 3 weeks time. I set it for 2 weeks out to leave myself wiggle room to do the write up.
Or if there’s a program launching that I’m happy to support as an affiliate but it’s a few months away, I’ll send a Boomerang for a week before I need promote it.
It’s invaluable for reaching out to coaching clients I say I’ll follow up with (although I use the feature in Highrise to send myself a reminder too).
I love using it to follow up on readers, who took the time to email me on how my blog helped them or what they liked about my podcast, and reconnect.
They really like that I took the time to reach out and follow up with them. Boomerang helps me to remember these conversations.
Putting The 3 Step Email System Together
I think you can see how seamlessly these tools work together.
Honestly I’d start out with a trial of SaneBox, if you it doesn’t change your life in 14 days you can just opt out and it returns your inbox to normal.
I do suggest you put aside one hour during the first week to watch a few of their training videos and getting used to it.
Like any great tool you’ll get out of it what you put into it, so put in the time upfront to save hours within the first week.
If you feel your inbox system is holding up pretty well as it is, then I’d recommend you consider Canned Responses if you’re consistently replying with the same responses to emails.
Boomerang is great for you if your memory sucks or you’re just losing track of the important emails to follow up on.
I also suggest you check out my review of Rapportive, another great tool that provides rich information on who contacted you (including showing their title, photo and social media sites).
At the end of the day what we’re talking about here is better investment of your time and creating systems that work.
So on that note I’d like to say a special shout to Elizabeth Saunders who recently published
Her book is about time management skills that work and how to reboot your entire life in three simple steps. A must read!
Let me know which of these tools you’re most excited about and which of your email challenges it solves.