Click here to unsubscribe: Part 2

This is the second installment in the Click Here to Unsubscribe series. Last issue, we looked at “Level 1 Solutions” which offered low-tech, easy to implement ideas for dealing with email overwhelm. In this issue we’ll explore “Level 2 Solutions” which make use of the software applications you’re probably already using, but with tips to use them more effectively.

Turn Off Notifications

We’re like Pavlov’s dogs: we hear a bell (the ping of a new message) and begin to salivate (we have to check our phones). Human brains get a quick hit of dopamine every time we hear a ping, ding, or chirp on our phones because we love new information. A growing body of research from the American Psychological Association shows that resisting temptation (therefore using willpower) is mentally draining. Shut down your mail application altogether until you’re ready to tackle your inbox with your full attention. Don’t waste your mental resources on silly things like resisting temptation to open your email inbox, because that can make it that much more difficult to resist temptation later (much like that slice of cake sitting in your fridge or a binge-worthy show on Netflix).

Unsubscribe and Manage

It goes without saying that taking ten minutes to unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists will pay off in the long run. While Canadian anti-spam laws make it relatively easy to unsubscribe to unwanted email campaigns, there are dedicated services that make this task easier. Unroll.Me (www.unroll.me) is a free app with an “unsubscribe” button you can click on right inside of your inbox. Additionally, SaneBox (www.sanebox.com) analyzes your email account and only keeps a small number of messages in your inbox that the software deems important. Lastly, if you’re an iPhone user, Apple Mail (as of iOS 10) has made it easier than ever to unsubscribe from mailing lists. If the Mail app suspects you’ve received a message from a mailing list, an “unsubscribe” banner will appear at the top of the email. Simply tap the blue link to confirm, which will prompt Apple to send an email on your behalf to get you off the list.

Leverage Organizational Tools

If you’re notorious for having thousands of messages in your inbox because you might need them later, do yourself a favour and set up folders. Once you’ve set them up, use them to organize the emails you’ve already responded to. (Searching for all messages from a specific sender and then moving them into a folder as an entire batch makes this task faster and easier). Keeping up with this process allows your inbox to function as an active to-do list versus an overwhelming sea of information. Another way to use folders includes setting up “rules” to automatically redirect emails from certain senders into folders, bypassing your inbox altogether.

Google Calendar Appointments

If you use the Google suite of software to organize your work, leverage Google’s Calendar integration abilities to make scheduling appointments with colleagues easier. There are two ways to do this:  by allowing your colleagues to view your calendar to find an empty timeslot or by setting up “appointment slots” that allow others to book time directly in your calendar.

The former method allows your colleagues to view your calendar and understand when you’re free. They could then request a meeting without having to send you an email to learn when you’re available. The latter method allows you to set up “office hours” that your colleagues can automatically slot themselves into on your calendar, bypassing meeting requests altogether.

Amy Ingram

Amy Ingram’s creators describe her as “an artificial intelligence personal assistant who schedules meetings for you”. By Cc:ing Amy Ingram when setting up meetings with colleagues or clients, she’s able to cross reference your calendar and work to set up the meeting for you. (Check out a demo at https://x.ai/how-it-works/.) She’s so realistically human that a client showed up for a morning meeting with two coffees in hand: one for the person they were meeting and one for her assistant, Amy. The technology is still being beta tested, but you can add yourself to the waitlist so you’re ready when she is.

Check out the final installment of the “Click Here to Unsubscribe” series in next month’s issue to discover solutions that eradicate email altogether.

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Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.