Your email inbox is the nerve center of your professional life. It’s your Rolodex, information repository, and primary means of communication with contacts and colleagues all wrapped into one.
But too often, just like the physical in-bin on your desk, your email inbox can get piled high with unorganized messages. When you’re confronted with a jumble of disordered memos and random dispatches every time you check your work email, you waste valuable moments just trying to locate the information you’re seeking out.
Plus, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by not enabling your inbox to perform in prime condition. A clean, uncluttered inbox can do more than receive and categorize newsletters and notes; it can amp up your contact database, streamline your to-do list, and more.
The thing is, thanks to a few cool apps and plugins, you can actually turbo-charge your email power on the cheap. Here are six tools that will keep your inbox spic-and-span and optimized for professional powerhouse status.
Any Email Provider
Do you have the same bad habit I do of keeping emails you’ve already read in your inbox as a reminder for an action item? Or maybe you obsessively file emails away into folders, only to forget when you need to follow up since they’re not readily available in your inbox. Enter FollowUp.cc (available for Apple Mail, Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and AOL), which lets you forward your emails into the future to remind yourself to, well, follow up.
You just CC or BCC a email@example.com email address, like “firstname.lastname@example.org,” and when the day arrives, the email will reappear at the top of your inbox. You can even schedule regular email reminders to say, order flowers for your mom before Thanksgiving, using email@example.com.
You probably spend almost as much time checking your work email on your phone as you do on your computer. But your native smartphone email app has limitations, no matter your operating system. Give CloudMagic a try; available on iOS and Android, it’s an email client that also lets you complete work while you’re checking messages.
For example, right within the app, you can see Salesforce info for contacts, create a note within Evernote, save a link to Pocket, subscribe a contact to your MailChimp newsletter, and more. You’ll be amazing how much more productive your emailing on the go gets.
I’ve always wished Gmail’s built-in task manager was more robust. Taskforce addresses that need in a major way. It’s a productivity system, available for individuals and teams, that lets you slice and dice your emails into separate tasks in different workspaces, which are basically the equivalent of separate computer desktops that you can categorize however you’d like.
No more languishing emails, which lead to by-the-wayside follow-ups. No more to-dos that get lost in the sea of information. You can also tag teammates and colleagues in tasks, who will then be notified, making it easier for you to remind them how you divided up work in that confusingly long email thread.
The aptly named Notes For Gmail lets you affix notes and tags to any email message. Don’t tell me you’ve never wished you could do that!
You can also pin notes to any email thread, or at the top of your sent-emails view, starred-emails view, or really anywhere else in your inbox. With a tool like this, you can turn your inbox into a personal CRM system.
You know a digital tool is working for you when you stop noticing its inclusion in your routine. Rapportive is one of those for me. It’s a free Chrome plugin that displays your contacts’ social networking information right inside your inbox.
You can connect with them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter without even leaving Gmail, in addition to seeing a punch list of recent emails from them and recording private notes to attach to their addresses in your account (giving you a way to remember facts and information about them that will help build the relationship).
Like Gmail on steroids, Gmelius is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera that majorly boosts your Gmail experience with everything from a cleaned-up interface (no more ads!) to the ability to block email trackers to protect your privacy.
One of the most useful elements, from a work perspective, is the option to quickly categorize each email you receive or send using hashtags, which are much more easily searchable than Gmail’s built-in labels.. Another favorite feature is the automatic “Unsubscribe” button that replaces Gmail’s “Spam” button whenever Gmelius detects a mailing list.
What tools do you swear by to make your email inbox work better for you?
Photo of email icons courtesy of Shutterstock.