Email is a necessity of modern business, but despite the level of dependence we have on it, it’s notoriously inefficient. Gmail and Outlook are the two undisputed kings of business email today, and both include tools designed to help you chip away at the inefficiencies of the medium. The following is a list of five tips and techniques you can use with your Gmail or Outlook accounts to help you refine the way you handle email and reclaim more of your time using those built-in features and some third-party email integrations. 

1) Make Sure the Most Important Emails Standout in Outlook

Gmail does a great job of sorting email through their inbox, social, and promotional tabs. While occasionally an email ends up in the wrong folder, for the most part, Google gets it right, and users never have to sift through LinkedIn notifications, newsletters, or advertisements to find the work email that matters to them the most. Outlook doesn’t have those types of folders enabled by default, but there is a way to reproduce similar functionality using a feature called Focused Inbox

Focused Inbox can be enabled on Outlook 365 by clicking the gear icon and opening the display settings, and on iOS with a slider directly in the gear icon’s dropdown menu. With Focused Inbox enabled, two tabs will appear, one entitled Focused and one entitled Other. You can then begin sorting email as needed and the system will then automatically sort new messages based on the sender’s previous categorization. Focused Inbox is a great way for Outlook users to automatically set aside emails that aren’t critical, but that they still want to read eventually, like newsletters.


2) Use Gmail Labels to Make Sorting Your Email Easier

While Gmail does a great job of directing new email to the right top-level folders automatically, things can still build up quickly in your inbox. While the search function works well, sometimes it’s nice to be able to access a complete email history for a given person, client, or project in one shot. That’s where Gmail’s labels can make life much easier. Labels work kind of like folders in that they help you organize your email, but they’re much more flexible. They can be applied to both incoming and outgoing email, and you can create as many as you like. 

Labels can be added to outgoing messages in the composer by clicking on the three dot icon in the corner and then entering the labeling pane. Once labels are established, you can then access each one’s history by clicking on it in the side pane. You can also drag existing inbox emails to any label, which will automatically apply them. 


3) Let Outlook Conversation Cleanup Thin the Herd

Email threading is a fantastic tool that helps minimize the number of lines in our inboxes. Google does it automatically, and Outlook offers users the option to turn it on or off. When it’s turned off, pages and pages of your inbox can fill up in a flash. But, even with conversation threading enabled, messages within threads can build up quickly. Outlook includes a tool called Conversation Cleanup that fixes the problem by deleting all redundant messages with just a couple of clicks. 

A redundant message is one that’s duplicated because the text is contained in both the original message and the reply. For instance, if you open the third email in a thread and the text of the first two is included at the bottom – a standard feature – is there really any need to have messages one and two in your inbox as well? If you decide there isn’t, clicking Clean Up Conversation in the delete group on the home tab will automatically clear out those redundant messages, shrinking your inbox in the process. 


4) Consider Setting Specific Times to Deal with Email

According to McKinsey, workers spend 28% of their work weeks reading and responding to email. That’s an enormous amount of time – roughly 11 hours per work week. Think of the productivity being wasted! How much more could you get done at work if you could pare that 11 hours down by even just a few? What’s worse, email comes in bit by bit, all day, meaning the two-plus hours you spend on email each day aren’t concentrated; they’re diffuse – a constant stream of interruptions. 

One great way to solve that problem is to simply stop dealing with emails on a piecework basis as they come in, and instead allot specific times to checking and responding to the messages that have come in throughout the day. Whether you do that once or twice a day, or once an hour, checking your email only at specific times focuses your efforts, ultimately saving time and allowing you to concentrate on other tasks more fully. If you decide to only check once or twice per day, you can always set an auto-response through Gmail or Outlook to alert anyone trying to contact you to expect a response at a specific time. 


5) Gmail or Outlook Email Integrations with a CRM

At the end of the day, if you’re opening up a web browser or using a standalone application to manage your email, you’re wasting time. A far better option is to integrate your email into a centralized software platform that also controls the majority of your other daily tasks, like calling, customer account management, reporting, and more. Customer resource management (CRM) systems are designed to do exactly that, creating a single, centralized point of control for all your sales tasks and even many of your administration activities, and, in most cases, offering email integrations to bring your communications onboard too. 

IRIS CRM is the payments industry’s top customer resource management platform and includes tools for advanced lead management, automatic onboarding, residuals management, and much more. It also includes calendar and email integrations for both Gmail and Outlook. The system’s email integrations can be set up with ease, and the built-in email features enable a number of enhancements, including easy template creation, automatic email triggers, convenient scheduling, and more. You can also integrate and access third-party services like ZeroBounce, all through the CRM. 

To find out more about IRIS CRM’s many email features and how they can save you time and boost your productivity, schedule a free guided demonstration of the platform today.