Do you ever find yourself at the end of a workday wondering how the time got away from you?
Join the club. Email is a central function of nearly every modern profession, and an astonishingly effective one, but a handful of quirks end up forcing you to spend far more time on email than you might realize.
There’s the constant bombardment of distractions from incoming notifications. There are the cluttered, opaque messages that take minutes apiece to hash out. And of course, there’s the sheer volume—the average worker receives 121 new messages per day, which means even a slight hiccup in email productivity can quickly multiply to have a massive impact on your overall performance.
Thankfully, email productivity tools are available to help you and your team master the art of email, and save significant time every day.
Table of Contents
- Why Email Productivity Tools Are Important
- The Best Email Productivity Tools for Professionals
- Email Productivity Tools for Sales
- Email Productivity Tools Within Gmail
- Email Productivity Tools for Cleanup and Organization
- Task Management Apps That Double as Email Productivity Tools
Why Email Productivity Tools Are Important
If you haven’t been reading the EmailAnalytics blog, you might wonder why email productivity is such a focal point. After all, it tends to manifest as a kind of background noise throughout your workday, occupying your focus and attention when you aren’t doing anything else.
Therein lies part of the problem. Email is actually one of the most impactful areas of your job in terms of productivity, and for several compelling reasons:
- Low profile. How many hours per day do you spend emailing? How about per week? I’m guessing you don’t have the answers to these questions. That’s because we see email as a kind of sunk cost—something we have little control over, but that needs to be done all the same. Accordingly, we don’t pay much attention to the bad email habits we develop, and don’t spend much time thinking about how we could improve.
- Diagnostic potential. Email plays a role in almost everything we do, which makes it perfect for understanding how we work at a high level. For example, nearly every project you’ve ever started and every client you’ve ever spoken with had some kind of link to email, so you could feasibly use email volume as a gauge for your workload—and track down the items hogging your time.
- Sheer volume. The sheer number of emails you send and receive per day can’t be ignored. You may not realize it, but you spend at least a few hours of your 8-hour day checking, reading, drafting, sending, and managing emails, ultimately accounting for an unprecedented percentage of your time. This sets the stage for a massive productivity ripple effect; saving just 30 seconds of time per email, when you send 120 emails per day, can result in a net time savings of 1 hour per day.
- Miscommunications and wasted time. Emails are typically our source for new information, direction, and advice. If you’re not communicating effectively, eventually you’ll end up dedicating time to the wrong projects or the wrong approaches, costing you hours of time overall. Every email strategy you use, including wording, thread management, and organization, can have an impact on how well you work.
- Distractions. Whenever you get distracted, it takes 23 minutes for your focus to fully recover, and email is a medium ripe with distraction potential. If you’re the type of person who keeps an email tab open at all times, you’re probably getting pulled away from your most important projects whenever a new email comes in. It may not seem like a big deal, but it can eventually have a massive impact on your ability to complete projects in a timely manner.
That said, the right email productivity tools can help you better understand the role email plays in your daily working life, and identify the areas that need improvement.
The Best Email Productivity Tools for Professionals
Let’s start with some general purpose email productivity tools that have the capacity to help you diagnose potential problem areas, or otherwise improve the effectiveness of your approach to email:
You can only change your bad habits and fix problematic situations if you’re aware they exist in the first place. That’s why we built our namesake tool, EmailAnalytics. It’s an appropriately-named email analytics tool that integrates with Gmail to help you dissect things like how often you email, who your top senders and recipients are, your busiest days and hours, and your average response times. It’s the perfect way to identify areas that need improvement, and track how you improve over time. You can also use it to track and analyze your employees’ email activity, so you can improve as a team.
2. Microsoft MyAnalytics.
Microsoft’s MyAnalytics platform is designed for teams that use Office 365. It serves a similar purpose as EmailAnalytics, helping you identify your habits and analyze how you’re spending your time, but it relies heavily on data from your Outlook account, calendar, and other apps. Once you learn what’s wasting your time, you can take measures to reduce its impact.
3. Boomerang for Gmail.
One of the leading email productivity tools for Gmail, Boomerang’s primary focus is allowing you to schedule emails to send at a later time. With it, you can also elect to get a reminder whenever it’s time to follow up on an email that never got a response (be sure to see our top sales email follow up templates!). It’s also possible to postpone receipt of emails, so you can receive and read them when it’s convenient for you. It’s a multi-purpose tool that can help you work more efficiently in each of several distinct areas of email management.
If you’ve ever felt the pain of getting new email notifications when you’re in the middle of something important, BatchedInbox could be a great email productivity tool for you. It allows you to “batch” your emails, so instead of receiving a slow trickle of new messages throughout the day, you get all your emails at once, at the times of your choosing. If you schedule your day appropriately, you could spend several uninterrupted hours on the projects that are most important—and still ensure you get all the incoming messages you need to read (eventually).
5. Right Inbox.
Right Inbox is another email productivity tool with a handful of unique features to improve your email productivity, making it right at home in this “general” section of the list. With it, you can schedule emails to send at a later time and date, set reminders to follow up with emails you send at the time and day of your choosing, and even create multiple custom signatures, so you can sign off appropriately to different clients and employees.
ActiveInbox is another management and organizational tool, but it offers plenty of features to boost and measure your productivity as well. With it, you can turn your email inbox into a task list, which you can then manage and break into smaller, more digestible chunks. You’ll also be able to schedule emails to send later, set follow-up reminders, and work your way to achieving the elusive dream of “inbox zero.”
7. Rename Email.
Rather than being a comprehensive tool, Rename Email is a Chrome Extension with a single, niche specialty: helping you change the subject lines of the emails in your inbox. If you have coworkers or clients who are notorious for leaving the subject line blank, or if you just want a better way to understand the purpose and direction of the emails in your inbox before you click on them, this tool can help. And for more help with crafting perfect subject lines, see our post on the best sales email subject lines.
8. Just Not Sorry.
Just Not Sorry is another extension with a singular, niche focus, and this one is perfect for people who struggle with wording their messages in an assertive, confident manner. The plugin works by identifying key words and phrases that might otherwise undermine your message, like saying “sorry” too frequently, or framing your idea with “I’m not expert, but…” If you’re the type of person who frequently second-guesses what they write, this could help you write faster and draft more concise emails.
9. Inbox When Ready.
Serving as a Chrome extension, Inbox When Ready is an email productivity tool that claims to help you save an hour a week (but I’m guessing you could save even more). It functions much like BatchedInbox, reducing the number of times you check your inbox. With it, you can hide your inbox by default, or lock yourself out of it so you can only access your email during specified times (or when you choose to override the lock). Much of our chronic inbox-checking is unconscious, so this could be the perfect tool to break the habit.
Followup.cc is perfect for setting reminders to follow up with your most important employees and prospects. You can also use it to delay your receipt of certain emails, so you can handle them when you’re not busy, and track the emails you send to see if (and when) they’re opened. There’s even a built-in proto-CRM to help you manage your prospects’ information, making this useful as a sales tool as well.
Did you know there are more than 100 keyboard shortcuts in Gmail? It’s true. With a single keystroke, you can access features and sections that might take several seconds otherwise. It may not seem like much, but if you can master these shortcuts, you could save a ton of time. The problem is, nobody wants to memorize them—which is where KeyRocket comes in. KeyRocket automatically notifies you when you take an action that could have been simplified with a keyboard shortcut, so you can quickly and easily learn the best keys to improve your productivity.
One of the best-known grammar, spelling, and syntax checking apps in the world, Grammarly is a writing assistant that can help you write emails faster and be more confident that they’re representing you professionally. When integrated with your email account, you’ll be able to get automatic prompts when you’ve misspelled something, when one of your sentences could be more clearly worded, or when you could use stronger phrasing.
Another great spelling and grammar tool to consider is Ginger, which functions as a Chrome extension. Like Grammarly, it provides you with real-time notifications of any mistakes you’ve made while typing, and offers recommended alternative phrases to sentences that could be clearer. It also has tools like built-in dictionaries and a finder for contextually relevant synonyms, so you can keep writing stronger emails (and writing them faster as well).
14. Auto Text Expander.
Does your job require you to write variations of the same email, over and over again? For example, you might be forced to explain the nature of your product to a customer, or relay the same IT instructions to your employees. Auto Text Expander can save you a ton of time in this regard; with it, you can create custom keyboard shortcuts and key phrases that trigger a more expansive selection of text. For example, you might tie 3 important paragraphs of text to a simply chain of letters like “3pg,” so you can replicate those paragraphs in 3 keystrokes, rather than hunting down the text to copy and paste it or, God forbid, retyping it every time.
If you like the idea of Auto Text Expander because you hate typing, consider using Otter. Otter is an AI-powered assistant with an important job; translating verbal speech into written text. Though it’s frequently used for recording lectures and meetings for future perusing, it’s also enormously helpful as an email drafting tool. If you’re the type of person who finds it easier to speak than to write, this is the perfect tool.
Gmail has a built-in way to take notes (which I’ll cover in a future section), but it’s not exactly comprehensive. If you’re looking for a way to take notes and manage those notes both within and outside of Gmail, Evernote might be the ideal app for you. It’s the go-to note-taking app for a reason; it’s incredibly easy to use, and offers both cross-app support and multiple integrations so you’ll never have to worry about being lost without your crucial information.
IFTTT (which stands for “if this, then that”) is the most flexible tool on this list, because you can use it to create your own unique “recipes” for automated action sequences based on how you email. For example, you might trigger automatic calendar events for when you get an email with a specific chain of words in it, or you might send an email automatically when a new task is created in your favorite project management app. Basically, it’s a way to automate almost anything email-related, so you can spend more time on meaningful tasks.
Zapier works somewhat similarly. The idea is to connect multiple apps together, like Gmail, Dropbox, and Slack, to perform a chain of actions in response to a trigger event. For example, when you get an email with an attachment, you might automatically upload it to Dropbox and send a message to a specific Slack group about it. Depending on how you use this, it could save you hours of manual work.
Email Productivity Tools for Sales
These tools are mostly geared toward salespeople, but their integrations and features could be handy for a wide range of different professionals. Don’t miss our other post on the top sales productivity tools! And it’s also worth reading our guide to automated email responses if you’re considering any of these tools.
Yesware bills itself as your “co-pilot in creating lasting business relationships.” It offers many distinct features, most of which are designed to help you close more sales or otherwise better manage your business contacts. You’ll be able to create and call upon email templates, schedule emails, and track who’s opening your emails and attachments. It also integrates with SalesForce so you can get regular updates on your prospects and leads.
There’s also Gmelius, which functions as a kind of hybrid of an email productivity tool, a CRM, and a project management app. With it, you can convert your email messages into tasks, create specific labels for those tasks, and automate your prospect outreach strategies. You can even customize your email campaigns based on how your prospects have interacted with your brand in the past.
Streak is a CRM for Gmail, giving you the ability to capture more information on prospects you’re emailing for the first time, manage prospects as they turn into leads and customers, and assign tasks to different salespeople on your team. Depending on how you use it, you could fundamentally transform your sales pipeline, automating many of the manual, repetitive tasks that are holding your team back and encouraging more active collaboration.
22. Send from Gmail.
If your salespeople need to draft emails on the fly on a regular basis, consider using the Send From Gmail extension for Chrome. This will give your salespeople a button that allows them to open a Gmail compose window at any time. When you use it to click an email address on a webpage, it automatically uses the page title as the subject and selected page text as the message.
23. Clearbit Connect.
With Clearbit Connect, you can find any email address in under 5 seconds. If you have any information on a potential prospect, such as their full name or an idea of where they work, you can use this app to scour the web, including social media apps, for further information. In most cases, you’ll be able to find their professional email address practically instantly, giving you a much wider lead pool to work with.
Mailtrack is email tracking software for Gmail. It’s free to install, and once you do, you’ll get a convenient UI layer that helps you see when your emails are sent and delivered. Next to every email you send, you’ll see a single green checkmark when the email is officially received, and a second green checkmark when it’s read. You’ll also get information on when it was opened and how many times it was opened.
If closing a sale means your salespeople and their prospects have to fill out paperwork, consider using HelloSign to hasten the process via email, and improve your email productivity. With it, you can document workflows, collect e-signatures, and securely send and store documentation for future use. It also has an open API, so you can integrate it with other apps or platforms as you see fit, and customize it to work within your current workflows.
For salespeople who find themselves sending and receiving lots of documents, Digify may be a perfect email productivity tool. Digify allows you to secure your documents and track them, ensuring you stay on top of the process. For example, you’ll be able to see if and when your document is downloaded, and set parameters for how it can be accessed and used. There’s a built-in security tool in Gmail, but Digify takes it to the next level.
LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is an email-centric tool meant to simplify the job of a salesperson. It leverages social media data and publicly available data on the web to help salespeople find prospects by company, and gather the contact information necessary to turn them into leads. You’ll also get lead recommendations, and access to other tools to simplify the sales email process. Don’t miss our detailed guide on Linkedin Sales Navigator vs Premium!
28. Checker Plus.
Another Chrome extension, Checker Plus will give you the chance to manage multiple email accounts—which is ideal if you’re constantly emailing from different accounts. With it, you’ll be able to set up notifications when new emails come in across your profiles, and even open and read emails without leaving your current page.
Discover.ly is another email productivity tool that gives you a breakdown of a person’s contact information when you’re browsing social media. If your typical sales process is to discover new leads on social media, then find a way to track them down and reach out to them, this tool makes the process much simpler. In most cases, you’ll be able to get an email address immediately.
30. Detective by Charlie.
Detective by Charlie is a tool meant to improve employee training, SalesForce management, and email use all at the same time. With it, your employees will get prompts for how to manage your CRM properly, and immediate answers to their technical questions. That way, they can continue accessing client contact information hastily and minimize interruptions or inconsistencies in the sales email process.
Email Productivity Tools Within Gmail
If you use Gmail (and we recommend you do), you should know there are several built-in tools within the platform that can help you email more effectively:
You probably know that Google has a nifty Calendar app, but you may not know that it’s conveniently integrated into Gmail by default. If your job demands that you frequently schedule meetings, whether it’s with clients or employees, you can save a lot of time by scheduling events straight from your inbox. On the right side of the desktop layout of Gmail, you’ll find a Calendar icon, where you can convert emails into Calendar events or access your personal calendar directly.
The Tasks feature in Gmail isn’t as robust as a formal project management or task management app, but it should get the job done if you’re just trying to organize your to-do items. This is also available on the right side of your desktop app, and you can easily convert your emails to tasks, check them off the list, and monitor your progress so you can get more done every day.
Email is probably the most efficient form of communication with others, but what if you want to write some things down for yourself? Google Keep is Google’s own note-taking app, giving you ample features to keep your thoughts and action items organized. It’s built into Gmail, so it’s incredibly convenient if you’d otherwise find yourself constantly switching between apps.
If you use a lot of attachments in your work, consider switching to Google Drive. You probably know all about this Google storage service, but you might not know how easy it is to share, organize, manage, and attach your files when you use Drive as your central file management platform. There’s a Drive icon in every compose window, which you can use to access your files immediately.
35. Canned responses.
Head to the Advanced Settings in Google (under the Settings menu, represented by the gear icon) and you’ll have the option to enabled Canned Responses, a new feature in Gmail designed to save you time when writing similar messages multiple times to multiple people. Once enabled, you’ll be able to draft and save extended messages and paragraphs of information that you can recall in the future with just a click. See our full guide on setting up Gmail email templates for more information.
36. Keyboard shortcuts (and custom shortcuts).
I mentioned keyboard shortcuts in reference to KeyRocket, an app meant to train you in learning Gmail’s default keyboard shortcuts. However, you may not know that you can also create your own custom Gmail keyboard shortcuts (including modifying the existing defaults) to save even more time. This, too, is under the Advanced Settings menu, and must be enabled before you can use it. Using shortcuts to maximize efficiency is one of the best time management skills you can master!
Email doesn’t always have convenient timing, which is why Google decided to add a Snooze button to its Gmail app. Using the clock icon you’ll see laid over each individual message, you can set an email to be resent to your inbox at a designated time in the future. That way, you can manage your emails so they’re sent at a time that’s convenient for you, rather than constantly distracting yourself with low-priority messages. Plus, you can review your currently snoozed emails at any time, using the clock icon on the left of the desktop app.
Email Productivity Tools for Cleanup and Organization
Even if you try to stay on top of your inbox, eventually it’s going to get cluttered. These email productivity tools are designed to help you clean up your inbox so it’s easier to manage, and keep it organized in the future:
38. Clean Email.
Mailstrom is an email tool for anyone with a messy inbox (i.e., most of us). Once integrated with your email account, you’ll be able to filter, sort, and organize your message based on variables like subject line, time of receipt, attachment file size, and who originally sent it. With those factors applied, you can quickly delete the least relevant messages in your inbox.
Sortd is another app that attempts to put you back in control of your mismanaged inbox. It uses a new type of interface to convert your inbox into a series of card-like lists. From there, you can drag and drop individual emails to different lists, and get a solid high-level view on your productivity and performance.
SaneBox can also help you organize your inbox, and it works with almost any email platform. With it, you can consolidate different types of emails into different custom folders, including a “SaneLater” folder for emails that likely won’t matter to you. You can also use it to mark emails based on whether or not they’ve gotten a reply.
When you start bumping up against the storage limit for your Gmail account, you’ll spend way too much time hunting down and deleting old email attachments to make things work. With Dittach, that process is greatly simplified, improving your overall email productivity. With it, you’ll be able to organize your emails based on file size, preview the files, and delete only the files attached to them (keeping the original email).
43. Find Big Mail.
Find Big Mail works much the same way, though it has a simpler interface and fewer bells and whistles. It’s a decent alternative if Dittach doesn’t work for you for one reason or another.
Hiver is an email productivity tool optimized to help teams collaborate with each other. With it, you can create and manage group-centric email addresses, like [email protected] or [email protected] Once installed, you can grant the entire team shared access to a single inbox, so you’ll never have to worry about redundant work or missed communications again.
Task Management Apps That Double as Email Productivity Tools
These tools function as standalone task management, project management, or CRM platforms, but offer a unique integration that helps you incorporate them in Gmail. If you use these tools already or plan to use them in the future, it can help you save a ton of time. However, it may not be worth exploring these apps if your sole intention is to improve your email experience.
Todoist is an organization tool that allows professionals to create interactive, easy-to-manage to-do lists. When integrated with Gmail, you’ll be able to conveniently convert your emails into tasks, and access your task list whenever you’re managing email.
Asana is a project and task management app that also integrates with Gmail. When integrated, you can use content from your incoming emails to form new tasks, and keep better track of how your team is communicating on each project.
Trello works similarly, though its approach to project management is slightly different, with card-based layouts and drag-and-drop mechanics. With the Gmail add-on, you’ll be able to pull up your project and task lists within Gmail and easily pull your email content into your project management UI.
Wrike is a project management app that prioritizes planning and collaboration. Like many of the apps in this section, when integrated with Gmail, it lets you automatically turn new emails into workflows or project content.
Smartsheet is a work execution platform meant to help team leaders coordinate teams and automate certain tasks. With its Gmail integration, you can access many of Smartsheet’s features within the desktop Gmail app, and access contact information of your most important clients and employees.
Copper is a hybrid between a project management and CRM app that functions well as an email productivity tool when integrated with Gmail. When installed, you can use Copper as a kind of built-in email assistant, providing you with details on your contacts and direction with how to proceed with conversations. It also automatically integrates new information, like when you close a sale or when you email someone new.
You should also be aware that Gmail and other email platforms typically offer several built-in tools to improve your productivity. One of the most powerful often slips beneath email users’ notice: the ability to turn off notifications. Each notification you get will pull you away from whatever you’re working on and add stress to your day; you’ll be amazed how much more productive you’ll become once they’re turned off. Another way to get more productive with Gmail is to learn how to make Gmail faster (click the link to see our post on 15 ways to do so!).
Use these email productivity tools to learn about and improve your email habits, and those of your team. It will take time for those habits to manifest as real changes in your productivity and performance, but the effort and your patience will be worth it. And for more ideas on taking control of email to maximize your productivity, see our post on email management software.
Are you ready to get control over your email and start mastering your personal productivity? The best email productivity tool to get started with is EmailAnalytics, so you can learn how your email habits are impacting your work. With interactive data visuals showing you how many emails you send, when you send them, and how effective your communication truly is, you’ll be improving your approach to work in a matter of days. Sign up for a free trial today!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.