Online tools to streamline your email
These days we spend an awful lot of time sorting through and responding to emails. Oftentimes, email ping pong can take up a tremendous amount of time as we attempt to schedule meetings or phone calls on dates and times that work well for a group of invitees.
Another problem often encountered is that, for many of us, our email operates as a “to-do” list, which can sometimes become overwhelming since email wasn’t intended to be used this way. As a result, emails can often accumulate in your in-box incredibly quickly, making you feel overwhelmed and disorganized.
Fortunately, there are online tools designed to solve these problems by integrating with your Gmail account. I recently discovered a few new ones that I find to be quite useful and thought it would be helpful to share them with you, my faithful readers.
First, there’s Streak (streak.com). This is my new favorite email management tool. This Gmail add-on is billed as a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, but doesn’t need to be used for that purpose. Personally I only use it for two of its features, both of which I have become increasingly reliant on.
First, it has a built-in email tracking tool. This means that once you send an email, the app tracks it and advises you when the recipient has opened it. Sure it sounds a little creepy, but it’s a feature that I find to be incredibly useful. No more wondering whether you’re being ignored. With Streak, you can confirm that suspicion and move on with your day! Truly though, knowing whether an email has been opened really does help in terms of assessing whether you need to send a follow up email.
Another great feature that Streak provides is the ability to “snooze” an email. This means that you can temporarily archive an email and remove it from your inbox, but before doing so you can set the parameters for when it reappears in your inbox at a later date. So you instruct Streak to archive it for any time period that you desire. You can also set the requirement that it reappear only if no one replies to it. This is a really handy feature that helps to keep your inbox less cluttered, but still allows you to stay on top of emails that require a reply or that require some other action on your part.
Assistant.to (trybetty.com) is another great Gmail extension that integrates with your Google calendar and is designed to reduce the number of back and forth emails when trying to schedule a meeting date. The way it works is that any time you respond to an email, a prompt appears at the bottom of the email which allows you to choose the meeting length and location and then connects to your calendar so you can select a few dates and times that work for you. Once you’ve done so, you’re then returned to your email and the app inserts text into your email that lists your available times. It’s that simple!
Alternatively, if you don’t use Gmail and Google Calendar or prefer not to grant an app access to your calendar, another free and simple option for scheduling meetings is When Is Good (whenisgood.net). You go to this website and then simply choose the dates and times that work for you. Once you’ve done so, a special link is created for your event. You then send the link to the other attendees and they can then visit the website using the link and indicate which dates and times that you’ve chosen work for them as well. Again, this is another useful app that simplifies the meeting scheduling process.
These are just a few of the great email add-ons available for Gmail users and others. Hopefully these ideas will help to streamline your daily workflow a bit. After all, we could all use a little more simplicity in our online — and offline — lives!
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can firstname.lastname@example.org.