Tech Review: Keeping Track of Your Email Time

How much time do you spend on email? Or better yet, how much time are you wasting? An app called Email Stopwatch works quietly in the background with Microsoft Outlook to keep track of how many minutes you're spending reading and writing emails, and creates a report organized by email address and minutes spent.

Setting up was simple, and unlike some other Outlook add-ons we've seen, this didn't take up space with icons or otherwise interfere with Outlook. There are just two default setting decisions to make: The first is activity timeout, which is the amount of time the app waits before going to sleep. This is to avoid extra minutes added if the user leaves a window open while walking away for lunch. The minimum activity setting works in the other direction: the amount of time before Email Stopwatch starts recording time on an email, so you can easily eliminate emails you start and realize a few seconds later you don't want to send.

You can also upload your Outlook address book into the app, so this information will appear in the reports, but it's not required.

That's it. Email Stopwatch then starts keeping track of how much time you spend on each email. Email Stopwatch keeps this information on its own secure server, so users can log in and download reports even if they're away from their own computers. The data is easily saved into an Excel format, and is sortable by day, contact or email address, or time spent. The report function also comes with various options and filters: Users can select the time range and limit the output to specific contacts. They can filter out the short emails, and create a report of just emails that took you 5 minutes or more, for example.

Of course, users may be concerned about what exactly the app is saving, and Email Stopwatch addresses security issues in detail on the features section of its site. It explains it only keeps track of addresses of senders and receivers and time spent.

What You Can Use It For
Although even a small business or firm may want to use it as an aid to efficiency—how much time are you spending with particular clients and other business associates—the Email Stopwatch emphasizes its management uses. Managing partners or CFOs, for example, can use it to manage their staff's email activities. With an administrator account, they can see if they're making efficient use of their time in Outlook.

In our testing, the reports appeared clear and accurate, but users might want to use it with the same care they use GPS: don't ride it into a river. One spam email address made it into our report with several hours of time over a few weeks, an obvious error. Perhaps multiple emails were opened in the spam folder and not closed. But again, this was easy to spot.

Multiple Pricing Models
Email Stopwatch is more of a service than a product, and is price accordingly, with a subscription model. Prices start at $29 a month for one user and six reports a month. For $49 a month, you get the service for up to three users, 20 reports a month, free setup and training and phone and email support. (However, we needed no support to get it up and running.) There are other plans for larger entities. The service comes with a 14-day free trial and there are no long-term contracts—you can cancel or change the plan level at any time.

It's definitely worth a look for any firm or business that wants to take control of its email.


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