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10 Tools and Apps to Help You Escape the Tyranny of Email

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inbox

This is a guest post by Jocelyn Glei.  She is obsessed with how email is killing our productivity—and how we can break free. Her new book is called Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. She lives in Los Angeles and online at: jkglei.com.


When it comes to distraction (and anxiety) in the workplace, email is still public enemy #1. A new study of one thousand knowledge workers found that employees spent an average of 4 hours a day on email. (And that was not counting their personal email.) The state of our inbox addiction is so bad, in fact, that the Washington Post just created a calculator that predicts how much of your life you will waste on email. Their projection for how many hours the average worker will spend on email over the course of their career? 47,000 hours.

Given these disturbing stats, it’s pretty clear that we need to change our approach to email—and quick!—if we want to find time to focus on the work that really matters. I tackle this problem head-on in my new book, Unsubscribe, which looks at the psychology behind our email addiction and how we can build healthier productivity habits based on our creative and career priorities.

Along the way, I made some big changes to how I handle my own email and went down the rabbit hole researching which apps and tools are truly useful when it comes to taming inbox overload. This is a roundup of my top ten:

easilydomail

EasilyDo Mail

This killer free email app for mobile lets you snooze messages with one swipe; groups your travel, bills and receipts, and packages intuitively while sharing key details in the message preview; and—best of all—makes it dead simple to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters without ever leaving your inbox. *Highly recommended.*

Batched Inbox

Research has shown that “batching”—that is, checking your email at, say, 2-3 designated times each day and ignoring it the rest of the time—makes you more productive and less stressed than constantly nibbling on your inbox throughout the day. If you use Gmail and want to commit to checking your email only at specific times, Batched Inbox can help you do it by “hiding” those incoming emails in a separate folder until a set time each day. (If you want to be able to pause your incoming mail without committing to a set time, try Inbox Pause for Gmail instead.)

calendly

Calendly

Scheduling appointments in particular is a huge time suck when it comes to back-and-forth emails. And this, sadly, is not a problem likely to be solved by AI any time soon. (See what happens when two AI assistants try to schedule a meeting over email.) Calendly allows you to seamlessly share your available meeting times with colleagues so that they can book and confirm an appointment without ever having to email you back.

Email on Deck

This nifty service that provides free temporary email addresses that allow you to quickly sign up for a service and “confirm” your email address without getting on their promotional mailing list. This is ideal for when you need to submit an email address to get access to something but you don’t actually want to subscribe to yet another email newsletter.

SaneBox

If you can’t be bothered to set up folders and rules to filter your email and would prefer to just wave a magic wand and make it all go away, SaneBox could be the answer. It’s basically a paid deep-learning app for your email that uses algorithms to identify what emails are important to you, while sending everything else into a SaneLater box. Nifty additional features include a “blackhole” folder that unsubscribes you from emails and annoying people, a quick filter to see all emails with no reply, and built-in reminders.

sortd

Sortd

This Gmail “smart skin” allows you to organize your inbox into a flexible set of lists with labels that you create. So rather than having one massive heap of emails, you can sort them into, say, a To-Do list, a Needs Follow-up list, and a To-Read list. You can also drag and drop emails within those lists to prioritize what needs to get done, putting your most urgent and important emails at the top.

Alto Mail

Believe it or not, that ancient email dinosaur AOL has a 2.0 update to their Alto app that puts it on the cutting edge of inbox management. Alto 2.0 combines all of your email addresses into one inbox (no you don’t need an AOL account), and presents you with a daily dashboard of relevant details: That package you’re expecting today, the location details on the restaurant for your breakfast meeting, what the weather looks like, and so forth. It also has stacks, which suck your photos, attachments, and flight details out of email and organize them into quickly searchable lists.

senders

Sende.rs

One of the biggest distractions in email is all the “randoms” who show up in your inbox with unvetted opportunities or asks. This app scours the internet and places a little card at the bottom of each new email that gives you a quick stat sheet on the sender: how many Twitter followers they have, their LinkedIn job title and bio, and so forth. It’s great for a quick, glanceable summary of who’s getting in touch.

boomerang respondible

Boomerang

Another handy app for Gmail, Boomerang allows you to write emails in advance and schedule them to be sent later, and set up automatic reminders to follow up if you don’t hear back. The app developers also just added on an advanced new paid feature called Respondable that uses AI to predict how likely your email is to get a response based on rankings like reading level, politeness, and number of questions included.

More Email Tips

If you want more tips and hacks for dealing with email, make sure you subscribe for updates on the Escape Your Email. We have an email system that allows you to spend only 30 minutes a day on email. Sign up here and we’ll let you know when it’s available.


This is a guest post by Jocelyn Glei.  She is obsessed with how email is killing our productivity—and how we can break free. Her new book is called Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. She lives in Los Angeles and online at: jkglei.com.

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4 Comments

Posted by Brittany Joiner  | October 24, 2016 at 9:03PM | Reply

I haven’t heard of some of these apps! Thanks for sharing!! Definitely recommend Calendly and Unroll.Me. But i prefer Unroll.me for the batch unsubscribe… not a fan of bundling up all the emails in one because then it’s difficult to take action on an email that’s actually multiple emails.

Posted by Vikas BHAT  | November 4, 2016 at 3:56PM | Reply

FOCUS To DE-FOCUS .

Posted by Thinh  | November 15, 2016 at 10:40AM | Reply

As an alternative of Boomerang, you can also use Streak, which is is branded as a CRM for Gmail but has a LOT of great tools for managing emails, like Send Later, hide emails and make them reappear at a certain date (VERY useful), track emails to know if they’ve been opened. For most of this stuff, the extension works great and is free.

Posted by Alexandra  | January 4, 2017 at 6:04AM | Reply

Jocelyn, I’m a big fan of your ideas and writing. I actually look forward to your newsletter every week :)
From all the apps you suggested, the one that made the biggest difference in my personal inbox was unroll.me. I love the batching option.

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