Here are 15 email hacks that will stop you wasting precious time on your inbox, boost your productivity and actually do some of the work for you.
New research has shown 50% of an office worker's’ time can be consumed by emails and yet only 14% are actually useful or relevant. Calculating the total amount of time and wasted energy spent sorting through them and you are looking at a collective loss in productivity of around £1.5 billion per year (approximately $1.8 billion)!
Emails can be the bane of any eventprofs existence but they are also an essential tool for marketing, networking and communicating. It is time to claim back your inbox and learn some of these hacks that can make your life easier, boost your productivity and help you to stop wasting time by conquering your emails.
We are not talking about an out-of-office response, which automatically sends the same response regardless of the email content, instead we mean email presets and templates that you can create and organize as a go-to so that you don’t have to keep typing it out. This setting is particularly useful for standard information requests, marketing, networking or competitions where you can find yourself replying to a bulk of emails in the same way. For instance on Gmail, go to:
Settings > Labs > Canned Responses > enable
This will now give you access to an arrow next to your message where you can write and save custom responses to use all the time. You can also delete them when they are no longer relevant too.
Undo Sent Emails
We’ve all done it, sent an email that we instantly regret, whether it is an unfinished email or one that you know is rife with spelling or grammatical errors because you haven’t checked it properly. Did you know that it doesn’t have to mean embarrassment anymore! In Gmail, simply enable and turn on “undo send” in the “labs” section under settings in your emails and then after you send an email in the future it will offer you an “undo” function. The only downside to this is that you only get around 20-30 seconds so it is for immediate regret, not the ones that you regret hours later!
Catching Email Sellers
Have you ever suddenly got a ton of SPAM and wondered where it has come from? Unsubscribing to junk can take up a lot of time and crowd your inbox causing you to miss the important emails! One of the reasons for this is because your email address has been sold, but it is nearly impossible to tell which company has done it.
Or is it? You can now customize your email address every time you sign up for something new and it will still come to your normal email address all by using a “+” symbol, for example: when subscribing to new sites use “email@example.com” and if you start getting SPAM you will see it sent specifically to that email address and you will know who sold it on!
Track Opened Emails
In the same way that social media channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger show you when and who has viewed your message, you can now download a chrome extension called MailTrack.io which not only lets you know once the email has been received but also when it was opened and by who. It gives you real-time notifications and even allows you to see individual recipients who have viewed it if you have sent it to a group.
Bookmark Shortcuts for Searches or Labels
While you can bookmark search results or labels easily in your browser already on your work computer using the star or bookmarking function, this means you have only saved it to that that device. However, in some cases you may need to access your emails using a different device, e.g at home or if your computer breaks, therefore a bookmark directly in Gmail means you can take your saved labels or searches with you anywhere. Do this by going to:
Settings > Labs > Quick Links > Enable > Save changes
Then on your message, label or search click on > Add Quick Link > *Select name* > OK
And now you can access them at any time under quick links.
Sending From Multiple Addresses
If you have multiple addresses or if you share an inbox and need to send emails from different addresses this is a fab hack for saving time and avoiding signing in and out. Initially, go to:
Settings > Account > Import > Send mail as > *insert email address* > Verify
Once you have verified the extra email address(s) then you will have the option to change who you send it from in a drop down menu at the top of a new email message. You can add as many addresses as you like, as long as you are able to verify them.
Social Media Signature Icons
Clickable social media icons help to create accessibility as well as keeping your email signature clean and tidy. While it can be initially time consuming it is worth it in the end and once it is done, that is it. You can do this by:
- Downloading an icon image for your desired social media
- Open your email signature editor and inserting the picture (some editors like Office 365 are HTML only which means you will need to add upload it online and use the web location.
- Then click the image to highlight and select “Add a hyperlink” and add the full link (including http://) and select.
- For HTML editors you will need to add the URL in tags so that it ends up like this for each one: “<a href= “your URL”><img src“your HTML image URL></a>
In the event you are working out of hours or you need to send follow up emails and you are being extra efficient, scheduling or delayed sending can really help you out and keep you ahead. In Outlook you can do this this by selecting the message you want and clicking:
Options > More Options > Delay Delivery > Do not deliver before > *Select time and date* > Send
This will keep it in your outbox folder where you can edit the sending time/date or delete it altogether if necessary.
For Gmail users you can also download an extension called Boomerang that does it all for you.
In Gmail, you can Save yourself a lot of time and effort by enabling shortcuts by selecting:
Settings > Shortcuts > Keyboard Shortcuts On > Save Changes
Just a few examples of things you can do are (once you have selected specific messages):
- Bold text: Ctrl + b
- Italics: Ctrl + i
- Remove formatting: Ctrl + \
- Archive: e
- Reply: r
- Reply all: a
- Mark as unread: Shift + u
- Go to drafts: g + d
- Go to inbox: g + i
- Trash: Shift + #
For a full list check out the full keyboard shortcuts here.
Friendly SPAM Mute
Friendly SPAM is that situation where you get copied into a conversation with relevant information and then it becomes irrelevant because two people have started chatting or they have moved on and it doesn’t concern you anymore and it can really SPAM your inbox, especially if you have turned notifications on. Luckily you can mute the conversation so that unless you are directly messaged you won’t get the updates (although they will still be available for you to nosy through later if you wish). Simply, select one of the messages in the thread and press m (you will need the keyboard shortcuts enabled) and it will stay that way until you either un-mute or are cc’d or sent it directly.
Check for Nosy Colleagues
If other colleagues have details for your inbox and you have a feeling someone has been nosing, you can always check to see if anyone but yourself has been reading them. In Gmail, just visit:
Last Account Activity > Details
You will be able to see exactly who, their IP, their device and when they viewed the account.
If you are travelling or looking to work offline for extended periods of time and still need access to your emails then Gmail offers a new feature that allows you to work offline and you can read, search, archive or respond to emails without the need for an internet connection which means you aren’t restricted. Simply do this by accessing:
Settings > Gmail Offline
One thing to note is that although this doesn’t take up hard-drive space on your computer, it does take a little while to download so you will need to set it going and leave it so it can sync properly.
While this hack may not directly boost your productivity, who wants to look at the same boring screen several times a day. Keeping the theme fresh and interesting can stop you from automatically switching off as soon as you have switched to your email screen! To change your theme (or even add a custom one) simply go to:
Settings > Themes > Custom Themes > Select Background Image
From here you can either chose pre-selected themes or upload your own photos as well as change the font color to suit the background (if you have dark pictures you will want a lighter font and vice versa)
Search for Attachments
Ever forgot to save something from an email and then you have to hunt through days (sometimes weeks or months) of conversations with a person just to find it? Us too! You can use the search bar to add “has:attachment” to your search so that it will only focus on emails with that criteria, plus attachments so it narrows it down a LOT.
If you are an eventprof you may often have a lot of tabs open while you are planning or managing events but having the sound on to alert you of new emails can be annoying. Instead you can turn on tab notifications so that you can see if you have a new email and it will notify you on the tab so you don’t have to keep checking (particularly useful if you are waiting for replies!) while you are busy doing something else. On Gmail you can activate this by going to:
Settings > Labs > Unread Message icon > Enable > Save
At the end of the day, emails are unavoidable and an essential part of any event professionals working life, but that doesn’t mean you have to be sucked down the rabbit hole of the inbox when trying to deal with them! Using these hacks can help to boost your productivity and reduce the amount of time you spend on your emails every day, leaving you more time to get things done (or maybe even leave the office early every once in a while!)