When I look back to late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I cherished each email I got.
Back then, I remember that I used to go to public cybercafé to check if an email has ‘dropped” into my box which was either for job alerts or mostly Facebook notifications. It is ironic that today, I am now swamped with a lot of emails than I have time to even open.
As at the time I captured this screen – Easter Sunday; March 28th, 2016 – I had over 25,000 and 30,000 unread emails in my Gmail and Yahoo! Mail respectively.
The “inbox zero” and productivity movement.
I get about 20 to 40 emails a day (industry average puts it as 93.1 emails per day per person). In all honesty, this could be distracting. It is called email overload.
Yet, we all depend on email.
This is because email is an important part of communication, either for work or play. A study by McKinsey estimated that high-skill knowledge workers spend 28% of their workweek managing e-mail, so I shouldn’t feel guilty because it is not just me. Even messaging apps like slack, posing as the email killers, are not better suited at keeping us productive.
For me, it got to a time that I needed to turn email from being a daily distraction to become productive communication tool. So, instead of worrying about emails, you can make it serve a useful purpose to you. That is why I recommend you have a Gmail account
Why you should have a Gmail account?
Gmail is the most-used free email service globally. It has over 1 billion users; to put that in perspective, there are only 12 apps globally with so many users. Gmail offers 15G free space and seamless integrations with other Google apps like Calendar, Hangout, Google doc etc. So, if you don’t have a Gmail account, I recommend that you can create a free one so you can find this guide useful.
(While checking around, I noticed that Yahoo! Mail now offers additional functionalities like Gmail. Yahoo! Mail inbox gives you a whopping 1 Terabyte of inbox space, which can take over 54 million emails ; obviously what is missing from Yahoo! are the extensions that Gmail has)
I hope these hacks and tools will help you make the most of Gmail and turn it to a power-house of business tool.
A. USE YOUR GMAIL TO ACCESS YOUR OTHER EMAIL ACCOUNTS.
If you have multiple accounts that you need to login to daily, let’s say one is official and the other is personal. Instead of moving between the two emails, you can use Gmail to access the accounts.
Case 1: In case you have multiple Gmail accounts, you don’t need to sign out of one account before you log in to another. Instead you can simply add the second account without logging out of the first.
Case 2: You can add email addresses from other email clients to your Gmail using Gmail’s SMTP settings by following this guide (this includes your work email and other email service providers).
For example, I am able to receive and send emails as firstname.lastname@example.org from my Gmail account. I don’t even go to my webmail anymore. I can even compose and send new email right from Gmail.
However, you need to be careful to ensure you always put the right sender email before you hit the send button. 🙂
B. USE GMAIL FOLDER TO KEEP ORGANIZED.
You can keep yourself organized using Gmail so it is easy for you to access vital information in your inbox. In the growth hacking tip I created, I mentioned how I used Gmail to organize my learning.
Case 1: Gmail offers you an amazing “folder; system to keep things organized. In fact, Gmail supports up to 5,000 labels. Make the best of the folders and lab tools to star important information or categorize future emails. Here is a complete guide
Case 2: Sometimes, I want every future email from a sender to be categorized for easy access. That is when I use the Gmail filter feature which can be accessed here.
C. MAKE USE OF GMAIL EXTENSIONS AND PLUGINS
There are several extensions that work with Gmail out of the box in the Gmail’s extension repository. Some others are paid tool or have their standalone websites.
I will share with you five of my favourites and how they have been used.
Number One: Gmail’s Appointment scheduling extension
Recently, I had the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Dotun; co-founder of Starta – a free business support platform specifically for startup founders in Africa
He simply shared his available time with me right from email. 🙂
So, when I picked my preferred time, the app instantly set up the appointment. The app that does this is called MixMax.
Number Two: Schedule my emails and get notified when my email is read.
My second favourite Gmail extension is SideKick (by Hubspot). I have been a beta user of the app since it launched and used it to replace Boomerang, which is equally good. With SideKick, I can schedule my emails and get instant notification when the recipient opened the email, so if need be, I can follow up (sounds a little creepy, right? Let’s call it surveillanceJ).
Other equally good apps for CRM and sales include Streak and Contactually. Contactually sits in the background and looks at the emails you send, and who you are communicating with, and it gives you reports that tell you who it thinks you should be following up with.
Number Three: Add funky signature to every email.
Will you like to add signature to your email without asking your IT guys for the favour?
If you want to add some colour to your email signature in order to improve sales, you can do that yourself. If you want to do that yourself, on the settings tab; you can configure the email message for each account you added manually.
An even more beautiful hack is WiseStamp which makes supercharged email signatures. It will automatically insert signature with nice icons and interactive information that’s automatically inserted into the emails. WiseStamp’s makes a big different with the customization as you can see below.
Number Four: Turning Gmail to a customer support and ticketing tool.
Keeping is a ticketing system that helps you to turn Gmail into a help desk.
It works like a team collaboration tool you can use to assign ticket and respond to customer enquiries.
I know how difficult it can be managing customer support enquiry; hence I understand the 6 reasons why Keeping is a life saver.
Number Five: Automate Sending Mass Email That Looks “Personal”
Imagine if you are a secretary that wants to send an email notice to 500 contacts which you can’t send as bulk email (no cc: or bcc:) because each must have the name of the recipient in the “ Dear XXX”. Then you are stuck sending it one after the other.
The difference now is that you can use GMass and save yourself over 3 hours of mundane task. GMass is a Gmail extension for sending mass customized email (think of it like an Autoresponder) and it integrates directly with Google sheet. This means that you can upload your contact and start sending mass mail the next minute.
Imagine how much stress you can take off if you can upload customer database and send the same message but customized to your recipients all at once. Their blog has loads of helpful tutorials to get you started.
Gmail’s functionalities have been extended by several useful extensions. Here is a helpful list:
- Gmail extensions for sales and CRM
- 10 Gmail extensions to improve email productivity. You will like number 4, 5, 9 and 10
- Selection of 22 Gmail extensions for content marketers
There are equally other good lists of Gmail extensions that are worth checking out. You will notice that some extensions make appearance in multiple sources; this might mean that it has gained very useful acceptance. Some good lists I have found include:
Conclusion: How Far Am I With Emails Nowadays?
Despite all these tips and extensions, I still have a lot of unread emails, but I feel more productive that before. That is my goal and that should be yours too.
The idea of the inbox zero is NOT really to have all your emails read, but not to let inbox control your life. For example here is how Andreas Klinger controls his inbox since 2013. If you do this right, you can focus attention to what matters in your business and startup.