13 apps for a more productive 2013 Day 10: Unroll me

Heading out of 2012 and into 2013 I am highlighting 13 apps that help me with my productivity. This is App 10 and today I’m going to introduce you to Unroll.me.

If you have ready my blog before you probably know I am a big believer in inbox zero having a huge effect on my productivity level.

Now I am not one of those who say you have to be an inbox zero person or you will never be productive. However, I do firmly believe that the overwhellming majority of people would be surprised by how much easier their workflow is to handle if they controlled their email and were not controlled by their email.

It does not matter if you are in inbox zero or an inbox 71,000. Less emails coming in front of you daily will help free up time to be more important things such as spend time with your family or work on projects.

A HUGE tool for me in this fight against email is Unroll.me.

Unroll.me looks at your inbox and looks for subscriptions and other regulary occuring emails. It will create a master list and you can unsubscribe from them and never see them in your inbox again.

I never thought I was on that many subscription lists. In the last six months or so I have unsubscribed from over 400 different lists I was on. I don’t need to tell you how much time that has saved me. How many manhours I have generated by Unroll.me.

Take alook at Unroll.me for a more productive 2013.

 

Full list of 13 apps for a more productive 2013

Boomerang: A great email tool you should not be using

Have you heard of the app Boomerang? Boomerang: a fantastic email tool you should not be using .

Boomerang is an app that allows you to get an email that needs future action out of your inbox quickly and easily, and then it will return when needed.

With Boomerang you can tell an email to come back at a later date as a reminder you need to do something.

Sounds great right? Well it works great but I’m going to tell you why you should not install it.

In full disclosure I have used Boomerang hundreds of times. But that doesn’t make it right.

When I first starting working towards an inbox zero I discovered Boomerang and it was great because is an email I needed to follow up with came in, I would just Boomerang it until tomorrow, or three days from now, or next Thursday at 3pm. Whenever I wanted.

Then when next Thursday came and the email reappeared in my inbox I could complete the task. Or the more likely scenario, Boomerang it again.

And there is the real problem with the service. Boomerang turns your email inbox into a to-do list while giving you a false sense of being caught up on on your inbox.

Even though you can drive a screw into the wall doesn’t mean you should. Just as a hammer is not a good screwdriver, your inbox is not a good to-do and task management system.

Instead of playing the Boomerang see you soon game take action on your email now and process it correctly the first time.

Delete it, delegate it, or send it to Evernote or a to-do list such as Wunderlist and be done with it.

Boomerang works great, but that doesn’t mean you will work great using it.

Single best thing I did to get control of my email

In my last post on email about slaying the email dragon I mentioned I was going to be sharing one tip I recently implemented that changed the way I view email.

Do you know the power your email has over you? Neither did I.

Even as an inbox zero guy, I did not have as much control over my email as I thought I did.

About a month ago, one of my favorite bloggers, Dan Gold, posted an article on how push notifications are bad for our productivity.

Dan basically challenged me to try it; so I shut my email notifications off on my Nexus phone.

One month later? They are still off!


What I learned

I learned from this experience that even though I have fairly good control over my workflow, better than most, my email was still driving me.

I was surprised to learn how different I felt about my email after I tried this.

After the notifications were off, I checked my email when I wanted to. Every 30 minutes, every hour, not for a few hours- I was in total control.

Before, even though I did not check my email as often as I used to, when the notification on my email went off, I would usually pick it up and just do a quick glance to see who it was from.

When you live like most people live, and you check your phone every time that notification goes off, your email is telling you it is important and it calls the shots.

Once you start checking it only when you choose, then it becomes just a tool, as it should be.

It is really hard to explain the difference, so here is what I want you to do.

For one week, just one week, shut off your email notifications on your phone and on your computer. Check your email when you are ready to, and tell me if it changes how you feel about email.

Slaying that email dragon

Bad News: There is nothing that will control your time and be more of a time suck than email.

Good News: It doesn’t have to be that way.

Walk by just about anyone working on their computer during the day, and there is a good chance they are going to be in their email inbox working.

This used to be me, and I would justify it by saying it was the most productive way for me to work.

Wow- was I wrong.

 

But I run my business through email

I understand, so do I. I probably conduct 75% of my business communications through email. That was always my excuse for living in my inbox.

In late December of 2010, I went through the 12,000+ emails in my inbox and got down to inbox zero by January 1st. My goal was to make it through 2011 with an inbox zero.

Here I am today, more than 18-months later, and I am still at inbox zero and can assure you it is much better this way.

 

Anxiety you feel

When your inbox is several thousand deep, there is an anxiety every time you open the inbox and see that number. You may not realize it, I never did. But I can assure you it is there.

I promise you, if you get to inbox zero and stay there for any time, then you will notice it.

 

In control

When you work with an inbox zero you gain control over an important system in your life.

So how do you gain control?

First if you don’t want to go through thousands of emails like I did, then just select all emails from before the last week and hit archive. Don’t worry, they are still there with a quick search.

Second learn the difference between checking and processing email.

I check my email probably an average of twice an hour. By check I mean I will hop in, see if there is anything urgent, if so deal with it, then hop out.

Three times a day, early in the workday, sometime mid afternoon, then again in the evening, I process my email.

 

Processing

By processing I mean it is removed from my inbox getting the inbox to zero.

If it is something I need to save for a reference, it is sent to my Evernote account.

Anything that is an action item or a to-do item, if it is only going to take less than 3-4 minutes, I just do it and get rid of it.

If it is an action item that is going to take longer than a few minutes, again it is sent to my Evernote account as an action item.

And after I check my email during the processing period, it is removed from my inbox.

If you follow this simple process, I promise you that you will not regret it. You will find a new feeling of relief and productivity working with an inbox zero.

 

Friday

And on Friday I am going to share with you the number one tip I learned recently that completely changed the way I look at email.

Do not listen to what they tell you about morning email

Who doesn’t like checking email in their snuggie?

One of the most common pieces of advice I hear about email is “Don’t look at your email first thing in the morning.”

Well to me that is just dumb advice.

This morning when I woke up at 5am the first thing I did was open my email. Did it throw me off my game?

Of course not.

For some people this may be good advice, for anyone who actually controls their inbox, instead of being controlled by their inbox, this advice is flawed.

When I looked at my inbox this am, I saw an email from a client who wanted to move our meeting up from 10am to 9am if possible.

Now what would have happened if I had not looked at my email until after 8am, there would have been a good chance we never would have been able to reschedule.

The Key To Controlling Your Email

Now if you are one of those people who use your email for a dumping ground and use it for a to-do list, then yea, maybe it is not a good idea because there is a good chance you are being controlled by your inbox.

If you work with an inbox zero and are not checking your email every five minutes, then you most likely control your inbox, and checking email first thing in the am can be a good thing.

The key to checking email first thing in the am is to have a plan. My plan goes something like this:

  • Open email
  • Scan for spammy emails and delete
  • Is there anything that looks important that could effect my work day
  • If no – close email

* If yes – read those emails and then either add to calendar, do item if will only take a couple of minutes, or send to Evernote to be an action item for later. Then delete the email

I will not process my whole inbox at this time, I am just looking for important looking items and then getting out of my inbox until later in the day.

I will cover that next, how do I manage my inbox throughout the day.

The important thing I want you to get from this is don’t listen to those who tell you to not check your email early. Just do it with a plan.

Oh, and if you have a lot of spam or newsletters in your inbox in the morning, make sure you check out my post from last week on Unroll.me. It is insane how many email lists I was on and did not even know it. I have unsubscribed from over 300 of them now.

Just make sure you keep this one on your subscribed to list!

Email power tool to clear that inbox

Have you ever checked your email at 5:55am and saw maybe six or seven emails sitting there that came in overnight?

Then come back at 6:05am and all of a sudden that grew to 22 new emails?

It seems that just about every email marketer in the world likes to send emails out right at 6am.

How many email lists are you on? I thought I did a good job of unsubscribing to lists, then I heard about unroll.me. And i found out the truth.

Unroll.me goes through your email inbox every morning and looks for emails lists you are subscribed to and makes it easy to get them out of your inbox with one click.

I first started using unroll about three weeks ago and since then I have unsubscribed from 270 email lists to date.

270! I would not have guessed I was even on more than a couple dozen lists.

Head to unroll.me and check it out. It is free and so easy to use. Your inbox and your productivity will thank you.

Just remember, when you get the Productivity Agent email sent to you, do not hit the unsubscribe, that is when you want to hit the “Return To Inbox” so you can keep receiving great tips like this!