These tools and tips can help you keep your head above the rising tide of emails.
PROBLEM: Your email gets lost in the shuffle
SOLUTION: Boomerang. Say you're writing an email Friday but want it to appear in your client's inbox on Monday. The Boomerang browser add-on lets you set the time and date of delivery.
In a test, we successfully selected certain emails to reappear in our inbox at a future date -- useful for getting caught up after a vacation.
Works with: Gmail on any device, or Outlook on a PC
Cost: Free for 10 messages a month, then $30 for Outlook, or $5 a month for Gmail
PROBLEM: You need to stay on top of social media and email
SOLUTION: Rapportive. Download this tool for an easy way to keep tabs on friends and associates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
When you get an email, Rapportive compiles links to the sender's online profiles on the side of the message. It also displays her latest updates and tweets.
Rapportive tested well, though it missed one important contact's Twitter account.
Works with: Gmail or Mailplane on any type of computer or mobile device
Cost: Free (the service is owned by Linkedln)
PROBLEM: You miss a message from the boss
SOLUTION: Inky. This downloadable service analyzes incoming messages, then filters them so that you can focus on the most important ones.
Emails from close contacts turn blue and rise to the top of your inbox, while promotional and less urgent missives sink. While Inky categorized most of our messages correctly, it sometimes displayed important emails lower than we liked and had to be corrected.
Works with: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and other email programs on PC or Mac
PROBLEM: You need to respond to work contacts quickly
SOLUTION: Zoomin. Use this Outlook plug-in and app to see a summary that doesn't require you to open the email. Zoomin also highlights missives from "priority" contacts. Don't have time for a lengthy response? Tap "I agree," or another preset reply. One note: The company says it occasionally asks users to take an optional survey.
Works with: Outlook on PC or iPhone
Cost: Free for now. The firm plans to start charging an annual fee of about $75 later this year.
Habits for easy email
Simple moves to make e-communication more efficient
Forget folders. Don't bother with sorting messages. Searching your inbox is an average 42 seconds quicker than looking through folders, according to IBM Research.
See what matters. The new Gmail setup files social media and sale emails under their own inbox tabs. Still want to see some of those messages right away? Tag them as "primary" senders.
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