Cool Tools 2019 Spotlight: Boomerang

In this post, Kristina Alayan talks about the features of the Cool Tool she demoed at the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting. Questions? Contact her at kristina.alayan@law.howard.edu

Do you suffer from inbox (zero) envy?  Do you use your inbox as an (ineffective) to-do list?  If you have attempted and failed to engage in sustainable email management practices, there is a tool that you may want to consider integrating into your suite of productivity tools.  Inbox Pause, or Boomerang, is compatible with both Outlook and Gmail.  Like many productivity tools, there is a freely available version with reduced/basic features and a more robust version for those who are willing and able to pay for them.

The features I use the most are response tracking, recurring emails, return this message, and Inbox Pause advanced.  The response tracking feature allows you to tag an email that will require follow up if you don’t get a response.  The email will return to your inbox on the day/time you’ve selected to remind you the loop needs to be closed, but only if you don’t get a response.  You can pick the exact date/time you’d like the email returned or use one of the preprogrammed options (e.g., tomorrow morning, one week from now).

The recurring email feature is great if there is a (typically tedious, but necessary) reminder that you need to send out.  For some folks, it might be to their staff/students to enter their timesheets.  Like a recurring item in your calendar, you set the parameters once and once it’s saved the email will go out like clockwork (e.g., first of the month, every Monday at 3 pm).  I have found that I like to add myself as a BCC to those emails as a helpful reminder to myself that the communication has gone out.

Return this message allows you to return a message to your inbox when you know you’d like to deal with it.  Maybe there’s a meeting at the end of the week that you need to attend before you can answer the email.  You can respond letting them know, and schedule the email to return to your inbox at the date/time of your choosing.  An additional feature that I’ve been using more regularly allows you to add an internal note to the email when it’s “boomeranged” back to you with any reminders or additional information you need to respond to the email appropriately.

The Inbox Pause feature allows you to manage the flow of emails to your inbox.  Unlike working in your email offline, which most email clients offer, the advanced features of Inbox Pause allow users to identify specifically what time(s) of day email should enter their inbox as well as exceptions.  For example, I have mine scheduled to release emails first thing in the morning, mid-day, and before 5 pm.  I’ve created exceptions so that any emails from my boss as well as emails with certain words (e.g., “urgent) are always delivered immediately.  During the “inbox pause” window, your emails are held temporarily in a folder called “Inbox-Paused.”  The folder isn’t hidden, so you can access it at any time if you want to look for a specific response without going through the trouble of adjusting your features.

The Boomerang customer service feature is responsive and friendly.  When I had an issue, they were quick to resolve it.  The only downside I’ve encountered so far with the Inbox Pause feature is that you can’t adjust it by day or date.  For example, some folks might want their inbox paused while they’re out of the office (e.g., weekends, vacation).  I’ve submitted a request to their team to consider adding this to their options, so we’ll see if they’re able to make those changes in the near future.  Because I currently pay for premium access, some of the tools I described might be restricted or some features may not be available.  For example, the return message option is capped for non-subscribers and unlimited for subscribers.  For academic subscribers, there is a discount and you can trial the premium service to test drive it before committing.

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Assistant Director, Research and Instruction, at Boley Law Library, Lewis and Clark Law School, in Portland, Oregon.

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