When it comes to Email, there are three universal truths: 1) We love Email, 2) We hate Email, 3) We can't live without Email.
When I dug deeper into the core of this love/hate relationships with Email, I came to one profound realization. We're doing Email all wrong. Skeptical? Give me a minute to explain.
Regardless of whether you use Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail or your iPhone to read your Emails, there is one thing that has been true for email since the beginning of time (email's time that is):
Notice what's wrong? No its not the fact that I have 3,000 unread emails (I actually don't care about that anymore — more on this later). Here's the problem: THE MOST RECENT EMAIL IS THE FIRST EMAIL YOU SEE.
Think about that for a second. Your Inbox is filled with correspondence from companies, people you've never met, family, friends, customers, potential customers, investors, etc. And with nearly 40 years of Email under our belt, the best we can do is show you what came in last?
Here's the 1 excellent way to process your Inbox that will change your life:
STOP looking at your Inbox in chronological order.
START filtering your Inbox based on groups of people that are important to you.
This may seem like a subtle point at first, but if you really dig into the woes of Email, it starts to feel a lot more important.
Ask yourself 3 questions, and you'll see why I'm right:
- Is the most recent email really the most important email for you?
- Given the choice, would you skip over making an important phone call to your most important customer so that you can take a phone call from a random company?
- If you had to carry on a conversation about this weekend's plans and almost simultaneously solve a customer issue — would you be able to do it?
Obviously, the answer to all three of those is a resounding NO. And yet, every day, our standard Email Inboxes force us to say YES. It forces us to forego what is important to us, and give priority to an arbitrary sorted list (i.e. time received).
Just to be clear. This is not some crazy new GTD system. This is not about Inbox Zero. This is dead simple stupid. Instead of letting Gmail tell you which email to look at first, simply tell Gmail, “I want to see all emails in my Inbox from my VIP Customers” — or — “From my Family” — or — “From my Investors” — well you get the picture.
This is easy to do. Here's how:
This doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, I've been using this sytem for months simply by creating a set of saved Searches in Gmail. It worked OK, but as you can imagine, with ever changing relationships, it just wasn't dynamic enough.
SO, we decided to automate the whole process using the latest version of ToutApp which plugs right into Gmail. Its free. Its awesome. And it will literally change the way you deal with your Inbox.
Here's a video to show you how it works:
When you do this, 3 magical things happen:
Context switching goes away. Most emails having to do with customers are related to each other and requires the same frame of mind. Same goes for Family emails, and same goes for Investor emails (by and large). When you filter your emails based on relationships, you can process them faster since there is less context switching.
Inbox Zero becomes meaningless. Chris Sacca posted on Twitter the other day: “Do you process your Inbox FIFO or LIFO” – thats geek talk for most recently emailed or oldest emails. I answered NEITHER. You cherry pick. You get the important emails done first, and then you deal with the rest (most of which is junk probably anyway)
- You control. Not your Inbox. And most importantly, you start to come into control. Try this for one day. Knowing that you've handled all of the important emails from all the people that are important to you is an extremely great feeling.
End result? You hate your Email just a tad bit less.
A recent LifeHacker article talked about how Email is just fine. Its us thats the problem. I saw thats an unfair assesment. We're not thinking hard about fixing Email. Until now that is. And we're looking forward to bringing more innovatios to your Inbox (and Outbox).