Email is Great
Stop trying to replace it
I am going to say it and probably be ridiculed for it, but – email is great! I have been talking with a lot of people lately that don’t want anything to do with email. As a 90s child, I love email. I remember the excitement of logging on to the internet, waiting for the screeching sound of your modem to quiet, just to hear those magical AOL words. If there was an email in your inbox, it was a good day. It was likely a family member, maybe a distant cousin emailing you, but it was nice.
Now, 30-ish years after the democratization of email, people are finding any way not to use it. There are dozens of startups, tools, and automations that are meant just to keep you out of your inbox. Their goal is to use machine learning to do this menial task for you.
Most want their written communication to look more like a text – single lined, spontaneous, thoughtless threads. Written communication used to be intentional, thought out, an experience. We had a place for it, a time. We wrote longer form and with emotion. Now we send emojis from the toilet, or worse, while driving.
The confusing thing for me is that people are always trying to find a way not to use email, but why are people not doing the same about physical mail? Now that is crap! It is wasteful and only spam.
Then why are we trying to kill the original, digital, async form of communication?
In an age of knowledge work and the boom of remote, we all talk about asynchronous communication. People are building followings, businesses, and cultures based off the idea of async. Then why are we trying to kill the original, digital, async form of communication? When sending an email in the 90s, you wouldn't expect a reply for days. Now, tools like Slack foster environments where minutes feel unnecessarily long. Just to note, it is not Slack's fault, it is the responsibility of the companies and teams using it to set healthy norms around it.
Email is also the ultimate aggregator. One spot to get direct emails, newsletters, bills, banking updates, etc. Sure, marketers and bad actors will use this as a place for spam and phishing scams, but they will always find a way. Doesn't anyone else hate poking around their phone or computer, having to open a dozen apps, just to get caught up with your day? Wouldn't it be nice to set aside 30 minutes a day or even a few times a day to see all of your async comms in one place? Email is that thing.
So how do you get the most out of email?
If your email is riddled with spam or years of unnecessary marketing sign ups, you can fix this. I target an inbox zero approach as often as possible, usually daily. Not just to say that I hit inbox zero, but so I actually read every piece of email in my inboxes.
If your inbox is overflowing, email bankruptcy is your friend. Select anything 30 days or older and archive, don't delete, as you might need to reference it.
Everything 30 days or newer, go through it all, one by one.
Always start from your oldest email and work towards your newest
Don't stop to reply at first
Triage it all
If you find something that doesn't bring you value – unsubscribe, mark as spam, or block.
When your inbox is left with the actionable items, start from the bottom again and act on them
Use this process every time you interact with your email
If you are a Gmail user – Jeff Su has a great tutorial for getting to inbox zero.
Pro-tip: Only interact with your email at certain times of the day. Not only will you waste less time, incessantly checking it, but you will make it more of an intentional experience, leading to less dread.
You might not have great memories of email like I do, but it is a great medium. It allows for a lot of great quality of life improvements. Email is not a problem that needs fixing. We just need to slow down and appreciate it for what it is.