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11 Free Email Hacks to Step Up Your Productivity

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11 Free Email Hacks to Step Up Your Productivity

If you’re anything like me, a solid portion of your day is sifting through your inbox, sending emails to junk, and responding to time-sensitive emails.

Need some help managing it? We’ve got free email hacks that will help you better manage your inbox so you can focus on the important stuff.

→ Download Now: The Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing [Free Ebook]

11 Free Email Hacks to Step Up Your Productivity

1. Turn off your notifications or pause emails.

Other than social media, email is where most people get flooded with notifications. This can be one of the biggest blockers to productivity since your attention is being pulled elsewhere.

Solution? Simply turn off email notifications to focus on your more pressing tasks. Better yet, you can pause incoming emails from even showing up in your inbox – if your email provider allows it.

boomerang's pause email feature on Gmail

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Outlook users can pause notifications through the Boomerang app and unpause when they’re ready to tackle them.

2. Block out times for batch email review.

Emails can come at all hours of the day and if you’re working with a team asynchronous, there are no off-hours.

So, instead of constantly checking your emails and responding to each one as it comes, set aside blocks of time during your day to review them.

This can be early morning, late afternoon, or whenever when you expect to have some downtime.

Pro-tip: Once you decide on this time block, add it to your calendar to avoid conflicts with other work activities.

3. Create templates.

You know how websites have FAQ sections? In our professional careers, we often communicate the same thing over and over to our clients, colleagues, and stakeholders.

To make this a bit easier, create templates to avoid starting from scratch every time you draft an email.

email hack: use templates

Your templates will be based on the questions you get most often, the phrases you use the most, and the messages you share the most. Things like:

  • Cold emails
  • Redirections to other teams
  • Weekly team notifications
  • OOO message

To set this up in Gmail, navigate to your settings, click on the Advanced tab, and click on “Enable” next to the Templates section. email hack: how to enable templates in gmail

4. Create folders.

Organization is the ultimate key to productivity and emails often fall on the back burner. The irony is they tend to hold some of the most important information we use in our day-to-day.

Creating folders within your email will not only make things easier to find but also more manageable when prioritizing your emails.

For instance, you can create categories by:

  • Priority (e.g. Action required, informational)
  • Function (e.g. HR, Finance, Insurance)
  • Teams (e.g. Leadership, direct reports, colleagues, etc)

5. Filter your incoming emails.

Why sort through emails when you can have your email provider do it for you automatically?

The filter feature – available through most email providers – allows you to sort, delete, flag, and forward emails.

email hacks - step 2 of creating a filter

You can do so using the following information:

  • Email addresses
  • Words and/or phrases
  • Subject line
  • Attachment

Once you create the filter, you designate the automated follow-up action.

email hacks - step 3 of creating a filter on Gmail

Use cases include adding emails from leadership to a specific folder, deleting junk mail, marking reminders as read.

6. Use an email scheduler.

Gone are the days of waking up at 6 a.m. just to send an email you couldn’t send at 10 p.m. last night when you drafted it.

email hack - scheduling emails on Gmail

Some email providers allow you to schedule a date and time to send your email so you can set it and forget it – worry-free.

If your provider doesn’t have this feature, consider an extension like Boomerang, which you can integrate with your email to schedule emails.

7. Enable the “unsend” feature.

We all do it: Send an email then do the obligatory re-read of the email you already re-read five times before sending JUST in case – even though you can’t do anything about it. Until now.

Gmail and other email providers now allow you to unsend an email for a few seconds after you’ve clicked “Send,” just in case you spotted a mistake or simply changed your mind.

Pro-tip: Only add the recipients once your email is ready to go – this way, you’ll never send an unfinished email again.

8. Learn shortcuts.

Shortcuts allow you to complete your email tasks quickly without skipping a beat.

With email shortcuts, you can:

  • Compose new emails.
  • Add cc and bcc recipients.
  • Insert links.
  • Open spelling suggestions.
  • Format text with bold, italic, underline, indents, and alignments.
  • Archive emails

And that’s just to name a few. If there’s a feature you use often, there’s likely a shortcut to get you there with just one click or keystroke.

Of course, shortcuts will vary by provider and device. So before you start using them, make sure you’re using the right ones.

9. Unsubscribe.

If your inbox is anything like mine, there are a few thousand emails from brands you never interact with.

While deleting these emails is time-consuming, you can start decluttering your inbox by unsubscribing from emails you never read. Unfortunately, not all brands have disengagement workflows that will automatically remove you from a reading list.

In this case, you’ll have to manually unsubscribe yourself. Trust me, your future self will thank you.

10. Get a grammar browser extension.

Most of us draft emails directly from the “New Draft” box. However, that strategy comes with some risks – namely misspelling or awkward phrasing.

Apps like Grammarly will serve as proofreader, catching your mistakes as soon as you make them. Grammarly also has neat features that will tell you the tone of your message and suggest alternative phrases.

With this tool, you never have to worry about how you sound or if there’s a hidden typo. It takes all of the guesswork out so you can just focus on pressing “Send.”

11. Prioritize your emails.

If you’re still struggling with managing the large volume of emails you’re receiving, try following this popular rule: If the email requires a response that will take two minutes or fewer, respond immediately.

If it will take longer, save it for later. This strategy is designed to help you get rid of the clutter without getting overwhelmed.

There you have it – free email hacks that will help you get your inbox under control and maximize your productivity.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Aug. 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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