Email can save you time, but it also can distract you from what you really should be doing.
Office workers spend 13 hours a week — or 650 hours a year — reading, sending, and managing email, according to one estimate. Another study [PDF] found that it takes people more than a minute to get back to what they were working on after they’re interrupted by an incoming message. And a third report [PDF] shows that professionals who don’t have access to email for a week are more focused and feel less stressed at work.
So, how can you better manage your ongoing flow of email?
Here are six apps to consider using with your existing email service (such as Gmail or Microsoft Outlook) to boost your productivity.
1. AwayFind (CRM software, Exchange, Gmail, Outlook, many others; $4.99 and up per month) — Launched by Jared Goralnick, a former productivity expert, AwayFind encourages people to step away from their inboxes. The software learns which emails are important and alerts users via a text message or a phone call when one arrives. The premise, Goralnick says, is that you can get more done if you stay focused on the task at hand instead of constantly responding to messages. “For every one hundred messages, maybe one or two need to be dealt with right away,” he says.
2. Rapportive (Gmail; free) — Now owned by LinkedIn, Rapportive helps you see connections you may have with people you’re emailing by tapping into social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It aims to help you develop a better rapport with those you are messaging, so that you can send more personal and effective emails and better build your business and sales network.
3. SaneBox (AOL, Apple Mail, Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, and others; $2.04 and up per month) — SaneBox, which counts motivational speaker Tony Robbins among its users, uses a proprietary algorithm to filter email so that only the important messages land in your inbox. Other correspondence is sent to a separate folder, to be reviewed when you have a break. The startup estimates that nearly 60 percent of email is not critical.
4. ToutApp (CRM software, Gmail, Outlook; free for limited service, $30 per month for professional edition) — ToutApp (pictured) aims to help its users save time writing and sending messages. With it, you can set up email templates, schedule messages to be delivered at certain times, and track whether a recipient has received and opened a given missive.
5. Unroll.me (Gmail and Yahoo Mail; free) — If you find yourself receiving too many mass emails and newsletters, Unroll.me will aggregate them and send them to you in one daily digest. It will also help you unsubscribe from unwanted messages.
6. ClearContext (Outlook and Exchange; $89.95 and up) — A piece of software that you download and install, ClearContext highlights the most important messages so you see them first and files less critical ones into suggested folders. It also allows you to turn emails into tasks and appointments, as well as organize mail by project.