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Three Gmail CRM Tools To Boost Productivity

A torrent of emails constantly pours into your Gmail inbox. You check your inbox every time your phone beeps, you slog through newsletters and Facebook notifications just to get to the important ones — it can be overwhelming. Take back control over your inbox with these three productivity extensions for Gmail.

Your Gmail inbox is flooded every day by an overwhelming deluge of information. The sheer volume is enough to make you dread checking your inbox in the mornings.

Fortunately, there are a few apps and services that can help keep this email avalanche down to a manageable level. Here are the three Gmail productivity extensions that I just can’t do without.

Unroll.me

I’m willing to bet that most of us can’t remember all of the email newsletters and subscriptions we’re signed up to. Unless you’re very meticulous in setting your filters and labels, all those newsletters, Amazon offers, Facebook notifications, etc, while seemingly useful at first, soon become a daily stream of distraction.

Even if you have gone to the effort of setting up filters, the emails sit in folders almost begging and screaming to be read just to reduce the unread email count. This just kills productivity and focus.

Gmail Inbox

I’ve been using a Gmail extension called Unroll.me to keep my head above the email flood. It allows you to pinpoint and unsubscribe from the mailing lists you don’t want while retaining those that still hold your interest.

Better still, it “rolls” the emails you do want to receive into a single more digestible email that it sends at the same time every day.

When you first sign up for Unroll.me, it scans your inbox for subscription-based emails. You can choose which you want to unsubscribe from and which should be added to the digest email, called the Rollup.

The Unroll.me Rollup

Unroll.me’s Rollup digest in grid view. You can also switch to list view.

You can choose when you receive the Rollup, view previously sent Rollups, and even take a sneak peak at the next one. The newsletters, notifications, and such remain in your inbox and can be found in the Unroll.me folder that the app automatically creates.

It’s not hard to see the appeal in receiving just one subscription email instead of hundreds every day. Unroll.me keeps your inbox nice and tidy; you spend less time on your inbox and more time getting work done.

ActiveInbox

One approach I used to use when I couldn’t immediately attend to an important email was to mark it as unread. That way, I had a constant reminder that there was still at least one thing to be done before I could pack up and go home.

It kind of worked, except of course it also meant that at times I had an inbox full of unread emails. The Chrome add-on ActiveInbox remedies that problem by letting you clear your inbox of unread emails without losing sight of any email-related tasks that have yet to be completed.

ActiveInbox is a kind of shortcut to David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) process: delete the emails you can, file those you can’t or don’t want to act on yet, and deal with those you can reply to in under two minutes.

ActiveInbox

The app lets you turn emails into actionable, trackable tasks, effectively turning Gmail into a task manager. For example, you can assign a due date to an email and receive an alert from Gmail when that date comes. When you ask someone else to do something, ActiveInbox can track their response.

Perhaps best of all, it gets rid of that niggling, back-of-the-mind feeling of “I really should reply to that email” and then wondering exactly where it has been filed!

I’ve been running with ActiveInbox for maybe two weeks now.  I know I have only just done the basic setup, but already the change in how I manage my daily email has freed up a minimum of 45 minutes per day.  Or to think of this another way, almost 4hours a week or a staggering 10 full days per year.

WORK[etc] Gmail CRM plugin

The WORK[etc] Gmail CRM plugin lets users turn any email into an actionable activity or item within the WORK[etc] web app. It also allows you to share an email with other people on your team without having to forward it to everybody.

Once you integrate G Suite (apps google) into your WORK[etc] account, you’ll notice a gadget on the bottom of your Gmail emails. With just one or two extra clicks, this gadget lets you:

  • turn any email into a sales lead,
  • update a project or contact with new information,
  • create a new timesheet, expense, or invoice with the email attached,
  • create an event and schedule a reminder,
  • assign a new task or support case to a team member.
WORK[etc] Gmail CRM gadget

The WORK[etc] Gmail gadget helps you act quickly on any piece of communication that reaches your inbox. You don’t have to spend time switching to the web app, as it’s already right there.

What other tips and strategies have you come up with to help you keep your inbox manageable? Let us know in the comments.

  • David McGarry

    Thanks for the tips, I will be giving unroll.me a try for sure..

    My own tip would be to try out ‘Mailbox’ from the same team that created Dropbox. I find that being able to swipe-delete messages my inbox has now become much tidier and uncluttered… And in a sad way, it’s quite fun!

    Also if your Gmail gets really unmanageable you can import it into outlook where it’s much more straightforward to sort and bulk delete messages. I resort to this tactic every few months.

  • It’s very useful post. I’m a lover of GTD concept and it’ll be interesting try ActiveInbox. Also, I missed this Worketc plugin and I’ll try it immediately. Also, I don’t know what’s happened with schedule options for Gmail. I still waiting for it.

  • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

    This is great – my 3 favourite apps in one post! I’ve been using AIB since the very early days, and have had some good conversations with the (amazing) initial developer too. The newest release adds some excellent new stuff in, and was great to take it for a beta drive recently. I already get it free, so benefiot to me in this referer link, but grab yourself 2 extra weeks free by all means: http://www.activeinboxhq.com/referrals/?rc=355dww23

    Only just started using unroll.me and loving that too. Now, if only I can work out how to hide all the emails from the boss… 😉

    Powerbot and Block Sender are pretty handy at times too. Sidekick has potential if only it didn’t hijack my links, and MightyText saves me getting my phone out to send an SMS – all done in Gmail.

    • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

      Additional power tip for AIB – the WORK[etc] Team know that if they include +Action+ in an email to me my Gmail filters will apply the Action flag and it will get dealt with quicker.

  • So funny when an article pops up that is relevant to what you are doing exactly at the same moment! I was on a unsubscribing binge this morning after noticing how all these unimportant email subscriptions were hiding important emails that I was starting to miss. I will be checking out unroll.me to handle that more quickly in the future. I use the task management tool Things but I really like how this does this for your inbox. Email has essentially become a giant to-do list for me anyways. Using and loving the W[e] app so already know how cool that one is!

  • Thanks for the tips. Will give AIP and Unroll a try. Not sure about that Gadget thing 😉 Actually, I love the WORKetc Gadget. It is probably the single most useful tool in my email/communication toolbox. I treat my WORKetc projects like “folders” and use the Gadget to dump things (emails, contacts, attachments) into the proper folder/project. All communication, people and attachments related to a project are in one place.

    One thing I do regularly in G Suite is turn an email into a task. Click the email, click “more” then click “add to tasks”. You can put a date on it as well. The task will link to the related email.

  • David Jones

    Very nice. I had not heard of ActiveInbox or Unroll.me but I am an avid Work[etc] user. I have nothing but good things to say about Work[etc] and currently use the Gmail plugin daily. It’s particularly handy when users send me support requests directly versus the support email account. Using the plugin, I can create a support case for them very easily and then respond with a suggestion that they email support directly next time.

  • I hadn’t heard of ActiveInbox or Unroll.me. Honestly, Unroll.me probably isn’t something I’ll use but I really like ActiveInbox and will definitely look into that.

    One thing that i utilize is labels. I have labels created for the various areas in my office that I manage most. Once I’ve read an e-mail that might have valuable information that I need to look back on in the future, I will move it into it’s appropriately labeled folder. By doing this, I get it out of my inbox and into an area that I can easily access. This also keeps my inbox at only having about 20 emails or less in my eyesight on a daily basis. Once a week, normally a Friday afternoon, I will read through the subject lines of each of my emails in my inbox and will either keep it there, act on it, or place it into a folder so I start with a fresh inbox for the weekend.

  • I hadn’t heard of the Unroll.me or ActiveInbox. Thanks for the info! ActiveInbox sounds like a great alternative to my “Mark as Unread” strategy. The more I think about – Unroll.me sounds helpful – I wish they had it for my hotmail which is now my GoTo for anything I think will start sending me junk mail. Thanks for the info this can really help my continued efforts to achieve maximum efficiency. As always – it starts with my WorkEtc.

  • I love ActiveInBox! I couldn’t get all my work done with out it.

  • I missed this Worketc plugin and I’ll try it immediately. Also, I don’t know what’s happened with schedule options for Gmail.

  • Thomas Lawler

    Unroll.me is awesome! I know one of the guys that works there through a mutual friend. I typically try to keep things organized in my work email through filters, but my personal email is a different story.

    I like the ActiveInbox idea, I will have to play around with it at home. It would be cool to have something like this integrate with Work[etc.].

    I have some users that use the work[etc.] plugin, but many of our users don’t actually log into gmail through the web and typically just use a desktop mail application, so they just forward messages into our “worketc” email.

    Overall good list thanks for sharing.

  • I use the same scenario as ActiveInbox describes HAHA! I set an email to “unread,” so I will definitely see if this is applicable tool for me. The only reason I may not use it is the volume of emails I receive daily is low. But, I can definitely see the usefulness of all 3 for high volumes of email daily. It’s nice to know there is software like this!

    One thing I can share is I recently watched a educational video (via lynda.com) on time management, and email was one of the focus matters. They talked about the downsides to multi-tasking and how it can affect the quality of whatever your focusing on. They recommended 2 things:

    1. Designating Time to focus on just emails. Yes some emails are more important than others, but if you are using ActiveInbox, you could save for later and read these emails during that designated time.

    2. If your not focusing on emails, TURN OFF email sounds, text sounds, and any other sounds. When I receive an email received beep, its very easy to get sidetracked from the task at hand.

  • Brad Crowley

    These look like some good suggestions. Of course I already use the WorkEtc tool. One method I use to sort emails is I have a lot of filters which is kind of a pain. I use the star feature with a divided inbox as well to keep important emails in focus. I also started using tasks and creating tasks from emails and assigning a due date to help make them something I have to act on.

  • Unroll.me looks interesting as I get so many subscription emails. I’ve used Sanelater by http://www.sanebox.com/, which I found very useful as it learns the importance of emails and files unimportants to a “sanelater” folder. It worked surprisingly well and definitely saved time. I guess the most difficult thing is finding a system that works for you as the cost can get high if you use multiple services.

  • Allen Bayless

    I’m going to check out ActiveInbox. That seems like a great find and tool to use! Already use the WorkETC Gmail extension, but have to admit some times it’s tricky depending what screen size I’m on.

  • Donna Grindle

    I already use Work[etc] gadgets directly in my Gmail with G Suite. I am also an active user of ActiveInbox. So, Unroll.me became my new helpful tool. I already have it set up and going. Thanks for the tip! I need all the help I can get these days.

  • Ahh… email and keeping my inbox clean. The bane of my life.
    Apart from the gmail add-in for WETC I hadn’t heard of the other two. Interesting. I’ll give them a whirl. The Gmail plugin is a great tool and I have been using that for ages, but we have found that following an aggressive proactive effort with our contacts to get them to all abide by one email address – we actually have less and less email that slips outside WETC.
    I do have a super trick for the contacts who refuse to “reply to” or who continually mail updates to the dropbox mail without a project code in the subject line (meaning they have to be continually manually allocated as they turn up in unhandled support):
    I provide them with an individual mail (supplier@ourcompany.com) and then, as we use google apps, edit the routing table to identify these mails by address (one rule per address). This is set up to strip out the subject and replace it with one I specify (the correct WETC code for the project), and reroute (readdress it) it to the proper central email dropbox. The mail turns up in the project as if they had addressed it properly with the correct code every time: HUGE timesaving.
    Took a while to figure out but works absolutely superbly.
    If anyone wants info on this (or help setting it up) feel free to drop me a line.

  • For me I have all my work emails directed to my work account in Outlook and I manage and file all emails from there. I have not needed a gmail tool at all because my emails are going through outlook. I can sdee how if i did use a gmail account it would be extremely helpful and it has made me temped to try it out!

  • Drew Tennimon

    I am not a gmail work user, however, the outlook plug in helps tremendously….thank you for supporting outlook

  • Very useful article will retweet to my fans as well.

  • Very useful article will retweet to my fans as well. Whilst i am not a current user of the gmail system in a business capacity as its does not integrate well with my current apple products i have signed up for a free trial so that i can evaluate both the gmail system for business and the WorkETC plugins.

  • Tabitha Mills

    I hadn’t heard of any of these until now. Although I am not a huge user of gmail as I collect most of my mail via iOS mail I’m certainly keen to try a few out. I am all for anything that boosts productivity in my day.

  • Branden

    I find that taking a heavy hand to email subscriptions and newsletters helps. If you have to use unroll.me, you’ve tumbled too far down the rabbit hole! Better to unsubscribe the second they start to be an annoyance. I also agree with previous commenters that labels are your best friend. If you think of your inbox as a metaphor for your desk, then leaving them in your inbox is the equivalent of just leaving them in a pile on your desk and labelling an email is like putting them in the proper drawer.

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