One of the tips that seems to come up most often is managing it as you go, on your mobile device. I of course already do this with Mailbox, but that’s really more about triage and less about taking care of business in real time. What these people usually mean is actually responding to emails as they come in, rather than organizing them to respond to later.
Admittedly, I’m awful at this. But that’s sort of by design.
If an email comes in when I happen to be on my phone (or if I get a push notification, causing me to pull out my phone), I very rarely respond to it right away. Why? Because I’ve found that if you send a response immediately, that usually just leads to another email being sent right back to you. Explicit or not, it’s a signal to the sender that they have your attention and should keep sending messages.
In other words, I find that it morphs email into chat. But it’s a really shitty chat being run as slowly as possible thanks to decades old protocols. As a result, it makes me hate email even more.
And so I wait. I triage my email to get to at a later time — usually a time when the person I’m responding to isn’t awake or in a position to respond (meaning at night or on the weekend).
I know all of this sounds crazy. But given my hatred of email, I often find myself thinking about the psychology behind it. And thinking about if there’s something here to give me the upper hand.
One such suggestion that comes up quite a bit is to use the “Sent from my iPhone” to my advantage. This signature, inserted by default from the iOS Mail app, shows a recipient that you’re sending an email on the go and as such, may be more concise than usual. Hell, you may even sound terse as a result. Or have typos.
It’s a good mind hack to turn something that’s often comically formal 3 into something much more informal. I even know some people who use the “Sent from my iPhone” signature when they’re not actually sending the email from their phones. Tricky brilliant bastards.
I still believe there’s more innovation that can happen in the mobile email space to turn your phone into a weapon capable of at least wounding the beast. But I’m also realizing more and more that the problem isn’t really email at all, it’s us.
What did we do in the era before email existed? Placed and receieved a lot of phone calls. But surely not as many as most of us get emails in a day. And yet, the world still managed to survive. Life went on.
Many people seem to use email now as if they’re spoiled children. I need an answer now, now, now! Why? Because I can get it. And if you don’t respond, you’re either incompetent or disrespectful.
Except you’re not really either of those things. I once took a month off of email and my life continued on unimpeded. We’re allowing ourselves to be enslaved by this dreadful piece of technology.
And so when I sit here on my couch, on a weekend, with playoff football on in the background that I’m not watching, next to my wonderful girlfriend whom I’m not talking to, all because I’m stuck doing email that I didn’t get to this week, I can’t help but wonder why. It seems insane. Because it is.
Time to try something new. Again.
Yes, quite often people do this via email. ↩
Since, like all great adversaries, email can only be contained, never defeated. ↩
Some people seem to treat email as as a direct descendant of not just mail, but of long-form letters. Like the kind that people would send during The Civil War when they hadn’t seen their loved ones for years. ↩