Four Tools to Help You Write Better (and Typo-Free) Emails

Did you know that there are 269 billion emails sent every single day? And the average worker receives 121 emails to their professional account each day? It’s no question that this age-old technology is still the powerhouse of our daily communications. And as such, it’s important to pay attention to just how we’re using it. Sending emails may hardly seem like a craft to be mastered, but the truth is that a few tweaks in how you send emails can help you look more professional, increase your business leads and ultimately improve your bottom line. Here are a few apps that make it easy to polish your email communications, before you hit send.

Grammarly

Studies have shown that a single spelling mistake on a website can cut a company’s online sales in half! While website typos are a bad look, spelling mistakes within emails can squash your next deal before your client or customer even makes it to your domain. Grammarly is a convenient Google Chrome extension that serves as your own personal grammar police across all of your browser programs. Whether you’re sending a proposal to a client, or providing instructions to your team in tools like Trello, Grammarly monitors your communications to help make sure you look professional. The tool checks for grammar, punctuation and contextual spelling. When something looks awry, the tool underlines the area in red and makes recommendations for corrections. Upgrade to their premium plan for $29.95 / month and the tool can also be used within MS Word, personal blogs and more.
  1. Respondable

The latest tool from Boomerang, Respondable helps you write better emails – literally.  If you’re performing outreach via email this plugin is an absolute must-have. The tool uses artificial intelligence to help you write “better, more actionable emails.” Respondable uses criteria including subject length, word count, question count, reading level, positivity, politeness and subjectivity to score your email.  You can dive further into each of the criteria to understand your score and how to improve it to craft the “perfect” email. Boomerang created the tool based on data from millions of emails and continues to hone in on their algorithm over time.
  1. Just Not Sorry

Are you one of those people who uses the word “sorry” all too often? While there are certainly times for apologies in a business setting, cutting the word “sorry” out of your vocabulary in professional communications is a good career move. Just Not Sorry is an app that knows that is easier said than done. The tool helps you eliminate passive and weak phrases from your emails by underlining the words / phrases in question and providing explanations for why you would want to consider different phrasing. This is a great tool to help you communicate confidently not just with clients, but with coworkers as well.
  1. Crystal

If you’re looking to make email communications more personal, Crystal will certainly peak your interest. The tool gives you personality insights for anyone you’re emailing so you can understand how to best communicate with them. Though it can be a bit creepy to think about just how they gather this data, the bottom line is that Crystal can get you more email responses and more business. It categorizes individuals based on the DISC model, determining how dominant, influencing, steady and calculated they are, then shares the information so you can speak directly to them in “their language.” The expert version of the tool comes in at $49 per month and extends the technology to your LinkedIn communications.   What tips and tricks do you use to enhance your professional communications? Let us know in the comments!

3 Productivity Tips & Tricks for Handling Multiple Projects

As a digital marketer, we’ve got a lot on our plates. From managing different tools and to-dos, to working on emails and follow-ups on behalf of different brands with unique objectives, different projects involving disparate teams, and of course the research and technical know-how needed to effectively strategize, our role involves a lot of switching gears and multi-tasking. Managing between such different tasks is no easy feat, but there are a couple of different techniques that make managing such a challenging workload just a little bit more manageable. Below, we outline three productivity tools and tricks that can help anyone get a little more efficient when navigating multiple tasks, competing priorities and deadlines.  

Pomodoro Timer

I’m unsure of where I first heard about the benefits of the Pomodoro Technique, but it continued to pop up in blogs that I read that focused on everything from productivity, improved performance, to increased creativity and satisfaction. However, our company got to a place where we were all tracking time on projects to better manage our output, and to ensure that the company time being spent was best aligning with our high-priority projects and objectives. Since I’d read so much about using the Pomodoro Technique, I figured it was a good way to test a new productivity technique while implementing something that would be supportive of a company-wide goal: Tracking time on priority projects. The Pomodoro Technique is fairly simple in its implementation: Work for 25 minute bursts on a single project using a timer. When the timer goes off, give yourself a 5 minute break to reset, use the bathroom, refill your water glass, or step outside. Spend some time reading something for pleasure, or check push notifications on your phone. Once the 5 minute break ends, the timer resets, and you engage on the single project in bursts of 25 minutes until your project is complete.   The idea itself is steeped in science. In a tremendous post by Belle Beth Cooper, the process of resetting and refocusing comes under the magnifying glass. Cooper says that “on average, our brains are only able to focus for 90 minutes, and need at least 20 minutes rest thereafter, if we consider our natural ultradian rhythms.” Image via Buffer In this sense, taking breaks throughout the day can actually be a great way to help enhance productivity, by ensuring that the time you’re spending at your keyboard is when your mind is focused, sharp, and ready to be productive. The Pomodoro Technique helps enforce these breaks, allowing you to reset periodically and makes sure you never burnout.   I had a similar reaction to the Pomodoro Technique as outlined by Kat Boogaard in this post, in that I anticipated that I wouldn’t like timing my work nor stopping after short bursts. Instead, I’ve found it invaluable. It’s been eye-opening to notice that I am decidedly more productive when I’m actively implementing the technique, and it’s also a good way to catch projects that are taking far more time than initially expected.

To-Do List Limitations

Tasks taking far more time than anticipated can also lead to another productivity paralysis: Your to-do list is far too ambitious, and inadvertently leads to far more frustration than it does completed tasks. The simple explanation here is that people often take on more than what they are capable of doing. To limit what goes on your to-do list and make your daily agenda work for you, try keep your to-do list from just acting like a wish list. Below, I’ve outlined some of my favorite tips to keep a to-do list from being a little too ambitious.

Evaluate Priority Tasks

The biggest thing you can do in order to keep things moving in the right direction is to try to evaluate your priority tasks. Identify the most-important items on your list and ensure that there is a schedule in place to accomplish these items. In this post by MindTools, they offer a whole repertoire of different ways to effectively schedule your day, but some of my favorites include the following:  
  • Schedule High-Priority tasks and identify the time of day where these are most-likely to be accomplished. I tend to put high-priority tasks in the beginning of my day while big projects are reserved for the afternoon, after most of my meetings and phone calls are over.
  • Schedule Contingency Time: Realize that things are going to go wrong. It’s often the case that even an aptly planned day can go awry when mandatory meetings or unplanned emergencies become priority projects. As a result, it’s important to pad your day with some time reserved for these disruptions so that you can still accomplish everything you have set out to.
ZenHabits mentions identifying your Most Important Task (MIT), and scheduling your MIT to be the first thing you do each morning when you arrive, while other suggestions might include breaking down your list into categories like “Must, Should, and Want.” In any case, it’s important to be decisive about your priority tasks and build these into your calendar for the day.

Break Big Projects Down to Smaller Tasks

I mentioned leaving bigger projects for the afternoon. In some cases, it’s inevitable that a big project (or at least a sizable chunk of it) needs to be completed in one sitting. However, more often than not, it’s incredibly important to simply make progress on big projects by taking on only one piece at a time. “Favor close-ended tasks over open-ended tasks,” says Nagesh Belludi. It’s inescapable that some tasks will be larger than one sitting, often calling on different departments, different personnel, and different skillsets. However, identify the small victories within the bigger complex tasks, and split these projects up into small, close-ended tasks with attainable results. This way, you can signpost progress on some of your big projects by doing something each day. As a bonus, managers will see the benefit in this technique as it often opens up opportunities for delegation and cross-training.

Use a Post-It to Limit Your Tasks Each Day

While I haven’t tried this tactic personally, I have adapted it to work within my own system. Mark McGuiness recommends only taking on daily tasks that will fit onto the size of a Post-It Note. “Because my day is a limited size, I figure it makes sense to limit the size of my to-do list. If I can’t fit the day’s tasks on the Post-It, I’m not likely to fit them into the day.” This is a good rule of thumb for identifying what’s likely to take up the bulk of your time throughout your work day, and what needs to be scheduled for another day during the week. The Post-It method helps you “close” your to-do list for the day and understand how to navigate scheduling non-urgent tasks for subsequent days to ensure that you stay productive and avoid letting arising issues keep you from completing your most important projects for the day.

Workstation Popcorn

Another fairly simple productivity tactic, Workstation Popcorn is a way to group tasks together to help you work alongside your body’s rhythm and attention span while staying on-task and on-priority. Created by Joel Runyon of Impossible, Workstation Popcorn works like this:
  • Identify your To-Do List
    • Use the tips above to identify the tasks that you need to complete for the day
    • Identify your most-important tasks
    • Assign the amount of time that you think it will take for you to complete each task (this can be a rough estimate)
  • Group a big task with a couple of smaller tasks to chunks of work that needs to be completed
    • A priority project that might take an hour or two of focused work
    • E-mails or follow-ups that might only take 20-30 minutes each
    • Reconciling your own organization systems / to-do list
  • Complete each of these groups of tasks in a different location
If you work in an open office space, this can be a breath of fresh air and a good excuse to try working from that room you’ve never used before. Try completing the day’s most important task from your desk. Then, do the next group of tasks in a shared conference room or workspace, and maybe finish the day on a couch. Joel’s initial plan involved more movement–becoming physical in your movement to offer a chance to internally meditate and physically use your body to switch from one task group to the next. However, I’ve noticed increased productivity regardless of how far I travel. The change in scenery helps to reinvigorate the mind and offers the same satisfaction of small breaks and increased intensity as the Pomodoro Technique. What are some ways that you stay productive? Let us know in the comments below!

Four Free Online Tools I Can’t Live Without

These days, time can often be in short supply, especially for those of us in the Internet Marketing field. Countless start-ups have risen to the occasion to combat the ever-mounting challenges of time management, as evidenced by the wide variety of tools and apps on the market. But where does one start? In this post, I have identified four tools that have proven to be especially helpful in managing and streamlining my workflow. Continue reading “Four Free Online Tools I Can’t Live Without”