How do you manage email?

In this post, I am not giving advice —I’m asking for it! Do you stay on top of your email? If so, how?

First, I’ll start with a survey asking about email:

Being overwhelmed by emails is something I brought up in last week’s Friday Links (also see * below), where I linked to this BBC piece on why we feel busy all the time, even though we’re not. From that piece:

There are always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up – and digital mobile technology means you can easily crank through a few more to-do list items at home, or on holiday, or at the gym. The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed: we’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to “do it all”, at work and at home, but that’s not just really difficult; it’s a mathematical impossibility.

I then said that I’ve been thinking of writing a post where I ask people to give their strategies on emails, since that often leaves me feeling overwhelmed. Here’s the post!

I strive to be an inbox zero person. My goal is to deal with emails as they come in, either sending a quick reply if it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, or adding it to my to do list (or, more often these days, blocking off time on my calendar to deal with it). I use a “still needs attention” folder for things that I want out of my inbox but will want to be able to access quickly in the future. And I use FollowUpThen to get things out of my inbox but to not forget about them completely.** I also have removed myself from as many mailing lists as I can, and use filters to label and/or filter messages. (And, yes, there are some filters that send some things straight to the trash.)

But, even with a goal of having as few emails in my inbox as possible, and with having spent time this weekend trying to make a concerted effort to get more on top of email, I currently have 44 emails in my inbox (not including the journal TOCs and Google Scholar alerts, which go to a different place) — and I’m about to go away for a couple of days, so that number will go up by a lot in the next couple of days. Is 44 emails terrible? No (and I’m sure many readers have many more emails in there), but it’s enough that I feel like I am not keeping on top of things. This is in part because things remain in my inbox because they still need attention from me. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in there. So, when I have a lot of messages in my inbox, I feel like I’m generally behind on things.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s only at 44 because I spend a lot of time trying to keep the number low. But, of course, sending emails to reply to them and to try to deal with them just leads to more emails coming back in my inbox. There’s definitely a Red Queen phenomenon with email — it takes all the running/emailing I can do to stay in one place.

And then there’s the issue that dealing with some of the easier to deal with ones means that some of the important ones that require longer responses sit there a long time. Clearly I’m not alone:

I tried to see if we could cut down on some email traffic by using Slack with my lab, but recently declared that experiment a failure. I know it works really well for some labs, but my lab never really took to using it, and it started to feel like another thing I needed to monitor and keep up on.

So, now I’m considering saying I will only email for X hours per day. But should x = 1? 2? 4? I’m not sure. I could easily spend my entire day emailing or in meetings, but that doesn’t leave time for all the other things I need and want to do. It feels like email is a gas that will expand to whatever volume I allow it. So, I can try limiting myself to a couple of hours of email a day. Will that really work? I’m also not sure. I think that will mean some emails just never get dealt with. Is that okay? Do other people just completely ignore some emails? If so, how do they decide which ones to ignore?

Because I often feel overwhelmed by email, I also find myself half wishing that email didn’t exist. I don’t really think I would prefer to be in the pre-internet days, but some days it feels like it would be nice.

So, if you have suggestions for how to manage email, I’d love to hear them. I need to figure out a better way to feel like email isn’t taking over my life! If you use the X hours a day for email approach, what do you do if you aren’t keeping up with emails that way? Delete them? I’d especially love to hear strategies from people who receive lots of email and have lots of other demands on their time — clearly this would all be easier if there was less email and/or if I had more time to devote to it.

Until I figure this out, I’ll just be over here like Mickey:

mickey

(source; ht: Alex Bond)

* In an earlier Friday linkfest post, I linked to this post on email response times, which says:

Boomerang’s analysis has found that the average response time is 23 hours, but that’s because there is “a very long tail of people responding very, very late,” says Moah (e.g., the guy who went on vacation and didn’t put his auto-responder on). The point at which 50% of responses have been sent is much sooner: two hours.

Other research has found similar numbers. A paper from researchers at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering found that the most common email response time is two minutes. Half of responders in this study responded in just under an hour. About 90% of people who were going to respond did so within a day or two.

** For example, I recently forwarded an email I received to someone in my lab, who was in a better position to reply to it. I wanted to make sure it didn’t fall through the cracks, though, so bcc’d 1week@followupthen.com on the email, which made the email reappear in my inbox one week later.

34 thoughts on “How do you manage email?

  1. “I’d especially love to hear strategies from people who receive lots of email and have lots of other demands on their time”

    Just to clarify – do you mean work-related or home-related demands?

    • Either! I was intentionally vague. It could be something like teaching and/or having a major administrative task and/or having kids and/or being politically active and/or, well, you get the idea. Basically, for me, this was much easier when I was a grad student and postdoc, because I received many fewer emails and because there were many fewer demands on my time (both at work and at home).

      • OK, so, where to begin! I do have a lot of demands on my time at work (full UK professor, Head of Research for the Faculty, other university roles, quite a lot of teaching, several external projects/board memberships, a fair bit of community outreach, PhD students, grant applications, reviews, travel, blogging, etc. etc. etc.) and at home (kids are grown up but two are at home and I still try to keep weekends and evenings free and have a reasonable work-life balance).

        I tried to keep Inbox emails to fewer than 50 and file everything else into subfolders, but gave that up a couple of years ago. The thing is, all of our emails are archived and so if I need an old one I just do a search for it. Sifting into folders is just a waste of time.

        My email is usually on in the background unless I am doing some writing and I try to respond and get things out of the way asap. If I don’t do that then it often doesn’t get done.

        Do I feel overwhelmed by the volume of email? Yes. And I’m conscious that others do too, so I only use “reply all” when it’s absolutely necessary. I wish there was a “reply some” button that allowed you to take out some addresses more effectively, but as there isn’t I will try to prune a list where possible.

  2. Just a comment about the survey: I never remove items from my inbox – I read them and leave them there. So I responded about the number of UNREAD email in my inbox. I usually read and either decide to ignore the email, respond immediately, respond saying that I’ll respond later and asking to remind me if I don’t, or mark the email with a star to work on it when I have time. Going over my emails is the first thing I do when getting to work, and then I check them all the time because I’m sort of addicted to it…

    • I went in to try to edit the survey after seeing this comment (and a similar one on twitter). But I couldn’t figure out how to word it differently, and then had to catch a ride to the airport, so it ended up staying the same. Fortunately the poll is just for fun!

  3. Aim to have an empty Inbox. My technique is to have Outlook offline other than once or twice a day. You can still send emails, but don’t have to cope with new ones arriving whilst struggling to answer a backlog. Once Outlook is offline, go through my Inbox from most recent email to oldest: if it can be answered in 2 minutes, reply and file email. If more then 2 minutes, but needs attention within the next couple of days, put it into my Action folder. If I want to read it at a later date (week or so) and not urgent, into Review folder. If someone else needs to do something before I can deal with the issue, the email goes into the Waiting folder.

    I used to have a muddle of 500+ emails in my Inbox. Switched to Action, Review, Waiting a few years ago, with email offline most of the day, and much much easier.

  4. The way I worked with email changed after reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (http://gettingthingsdone.com). This strategy will help you to decide what to do at each time, if look for email for 1h or 2h is the best thing at that moment. I also use Evernote and Gmail’s Inbox to postpone emails and taks and manage meetings with the Google’s Calendar. It really worked well for me.

  5. Thanks for the useful post Meghan! I’ve adopted Trello as a means for getting groups of emails related to the same task out of my inbox and into a form that makes more sense. Trello has a feature whereby you can forward an email to a card, which is really useful for maintaining a kind of audit trail. Inbox zero remains an elusive goal though!

  6. I have an inbox with thousands of emails, but only a dozen or so marked unread (may have messed up your survey with my answers — perhaps the survey needs to be clearer for people like me). I tried using folders, and actually took your advice and used a “still needs attention” folder — I quickly declared it a disaster, because those emails were out of sight – out of mind. I just leave things in my inbox because sorting them into files seems like a waste of time, and mark things that still need attention as unread. I search by name/date/topic when I need something. I try to answer emails as soon as I can. If its something that needs a bit more time, I put that specific item on my calendar (ie. not just ‘answer emails’ but ‘send X the details’) – somehow this makes it more likely that I will actually do it.

  7. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method, I read his book as a post-doc and have been using a modified version of it ever since. To start I have lots of filters running, anything from internal or external mailing lists goes straight to a folder for reading later (if ever).

    Anything addressed to me that needs a short response gets either dealt with right away (Allen’s ‘2 minute’ rule) If I can’t deal with it in 2 minutes it gets sorted into one of four folders ‘action’ (becomes a to-do item later on) ‘information’ (something I need for a short term usage, like a phone number), ‘sometime’ (ideas or pie-in-the sky things) or ‘waiting’ (stuff I’ve delegated or responded to and am waiting for an answer). I process the action and waiting items every day when I’m ‘doing email’ and check in on waiting items once a week or so, and clean out the information folder once a month.Once I’m done with something I either trash it or send it the ‘archive’ folder. If I’m looking for something I use the search functions in Outlook.I’ll occasionally create a special folder for an event or committee, just to keep a set of messages together, but hardly ever do this anymore.

    I also have 2 addresses, one for work and a gmail for personal stuff. The personal one goes to my phone and is mostly for school stuff for the kids, amazon purchases etc.. It keeps the personal from bleeding into work (and also because my email is subject to FOIA/ATIP requests). My personal email adddress is nowhere near as organized as my work address, but I use the Inbox app, which has some GTD-like features baked in.

    The only thing I am bad at is scheduling time for email. I should check it for an hour in the am and an hour in the afternoon before leaving. In reality I have it up all the time and am constantly distracted. I know leaving it would work, as I’m amazed how fast I can process email when I’ve been out of the office for a day, but I haven’t managed to focus the will power.

    • When I was at Georgia Tech, I had my emails merged and planned on doing the same when I got here. But I couldn’t get it to set up to merge correctly, and now I’m so glad that I have the accounts separate.

      Thanks for the ideas!

  8. There are great suggestions here for longer-term email organization solutions. One thing I found really helpful for my psyche though was changing my mail settings from constant email checking and alerts to a once-hourly check. Granted, every hour I’d get a new handful of emails but it pulsed the flood and allowed me to get things done in the interim. That doesn’t really change the problem of having a queue of 40 in the inbox at a time, but it might make days easier if, like me, you’re a compulsive checker and feel the need to jump on every new email alert as soon as it comes in.

  9. I have been using Todoist for many things, including emails. It works with gmail. You can add links to specific emails so they end up in a To do list and they can be sorted by priority, grouped into categories, you can set reminders to reply to some and you archive the emails right away. When you are easy to deal with it, or it is time to deal with it, you can easily retrieve the email and check it off your list. That way the inbox can be empty but you won’t forget to deal with emails even if you don’t see them sitting in the inbox. When the inbox has many items you don’t see most of them without scrolling anyway. Todoist has helped a lot though I have been slacking more and using it less lately. I need to do it again.

    • I also use Todoist this way to help manage my emails, cue things up for when they need responses, etc. Its super helpful.

      I also use labels in gmail liberally and archive everything so I can search by label and find what I need quickly.

      I turned off email push notifications on my phone last year, was a great idea.

  10. The way to not be overwhelmed by email is NOT to solve the email problem. It’s to solve the overwhelm problem. The email problem is not solvable. You will always get more email than you have time for. And just like everything else in your busy life, you have to prioritize. And that means triaging. And that means failing. So you have to become comfortable with failing. And thinking that you let people down (though you likely haven’t really). And it means missing things. But that’s okay.

    Very little (if anything) is really time-sensitive in academia. That is, there is no good reason to check your email more than once per day. Set a time each workday — preferably not first thing in the morning — and only do email then. Tell the people who are important — grad students, colleagues, etc. — when you do email and let them know to never expect shorter than a 24-hour turn-around time. You have to set the expectations properly. Let them know that if something is *really* important, they can call you. Or drop by your office. Or whatever. But email is a slow cycle. Then, stick to your schedule and only do email during your given time.

    How to make your hour or two of email per day efficient: (And I recommend one hour or less. Think about it: 2 hours/day = 10 hours/week = 1/4 of your work life! (assuming a 40-hour week)) Do not read an email and not *do* something with it. You have 3 choices: ignore, reply, prioritize. If it’s worth replying to and takes 2 minutes or less, reply right away. Be done with that email and never touch it again. If a reply comes back immediately, wait until the next day to touch that email. (Remember, you’re training your correspondents to not expect immediate replies.) When you just have prioritized emails left, start with the most important one in your inbox and work through them. If you can’t regularly finish your priority list in the time you allocate, you’re not choosing to ignore enough emails. One possibility is that you should be talking (in person, phone, Skype, etc.) to someone rather than emailing. Or you might just have too much going on with too many people. Then you really do just have to prioritize. This is hard. Practicing triaging is hard. But it’s worth the work.

    Every once in a while you’ll screw up and not get to an email that you should have. (But that’s already happening, isn’t it?) Apologize. Move on. You must fail in order to not be overwhelmed by email.

    When you go away to a conference or on vacation, set your away message to explicitly state that you will not reply to any email that arrives while you are gone. If the sender wants a reply, they should resend the email after date X. Again, you’re setting expectations. This is a variation on danah boyd’s Email Sabbatical, which I highly recommend: http://www.danah.org/EmailSabbatical.html

    Finally, catch yourself if you use email as a way to procrastinate or to get the little thrill of getting a new message. Keep it off all the time, except when you’re actually using it.

  11. What Margaret said! This also gets to the comments I tweeted re: space to think vs. time to manage “stuff”. I think Cal Newport has some of the best writing on this topic, given he has the perspective of being an academic himself: http://calnewport.com/blog/2015/11/20/deep-work-rules-for-focused-success-in-a-distracted-world/ http://calnewport.com/about/

    I also employ a variation of GTD, and have for about the last 10 years. It’s how I know the wheels won’t fall off the wagon while I’m using my morning time for intensive drafting/revising/data analysis. I try (and succeed about 70% of the time) to not schedule meetings in the morning or do any emailing – just the focus time for the “deep thinking”. I sometimes email on the weekend (when I do my weekly review), but otherwise try very hard to not do any email in the evenings or weekend. Setting and managing expectations is a HUGE part of getting a schedule/rhythm/flow that works for you.

    Also, this from Merlin Mann re: the real point of Inbox Zero being not a literal zero, but not having important tasks living in your inbox (http://thenextweb.com/opinion/2015/07/26/bluetoot/) I try to be at inbox zero (because I love a finish line), or move it into my task management system and not have “to dos” live in my inbox.

  12. I agree with much of what has been contributed on how to handle email. I would encourage people to move away from a focus on having an empty inbox. If you can keep up with that then you may not be as busy as you think.

    To maximise efficiency in handling email I take the course of least action and least time investment. Think of email inflow as a factory conveyor belt – only pick off the interesting items and handle them immediately.
    — Have good filters in place, star important emails so that you can sort and search them later, and archive the entire inbox a couple of times a year (with sensible labelling).
    — Storage is cheap and my time is precious, so why bother deleting each email.
    — Search is efficient so why bother moving things around in folders.
    Bonus – I have, and can find and search any email ever sent to me. Colleagues have frequently called on me to resend something that they deleted or to help them when their email crashes.

    In the spirit of open and transparent collaboration I am a fan of “reply all” as it keep a record of decisions and feedback for everyone involved in a project. Content must be concise and to the point. Think carefully about how to construct emails to help your colleagues prioritise what is needed from them in terms of a response. This is where we can all improve.

    Definitely keep private and work email separate for many reasons: loss of job, privacy, efficiency, work-life balance.

    I conduct remote field work where we are off the grid completely for three weeks at a time. I love coming back and finding that hardly anything remains relevant after that period🙂. Out of office reply alerts people to resend after my return date if it is important.

  13. Glad to see so much GTD love here – changed my habits and perspective too. I’ve also recently thrown some money at the problem with Sanebox and am happy to do it. It learns which email are most critical to you and leaves them in your inbox, moving others to a SaneLater folder — all without you setting individual rules. There is also a sanereminder folder that works like the delayed followup reminder tool you mention above and a SaneBlackhole, which is the best unsubscribe option I’ve found.

  14. The benefits of Inbox Zero are oversold, for me at least. I have practiced a folder-based structure whereby I place email related to a specific topic/project but I rarely automagically filter messages; once they’re in another folder I will never remember to go back and look at them unless specifically reminded too, often messages need to be in several folders, and search is easier in the many interfaces I access my mail through if the message is in a single folder (even if just easier to initiate as “search current folder” not “search all folders” is the default.)

    Not through any conscious plan on my part I have realised that there’s very little email-wise that needs handling immediately (despite what some colleagues and journal publishers/editors think). I can think of only one instance this year where it would have been better for all if I’d responded to an email that for whatever reason I didn’t. You’ll soon find out what is important as those people will send more email, call, or pop by (esp if it’s local).

    I don’t think I have the perfect email set-up — I don’t think there is a perfect set-up as email is a flawed and much abused system of communication designed for a different time in the history of the interwebs — but I have become much less worried, to the point that I’m mostly comfortable, with the state of my inbox.

    I find it terrifying that you might spend 1-2 hours per day on email! Over the past few months I’ve been trying to keep track of time spent on email, keeping up with new papers (not reading them but going through newly published titles), etc. I try to spend at most an hour doing all of this. Usually I knock off email very quickly as nothing there, despite the volume, is that important. Going through new papers via RSS rather than entire issues, checking ArXiv, etc probably takes another 10-20 minutes depending on what actually comes out each day. Then I’m done. I’ll pick off trivial email when I get a few minutes in-between tasks. What I’ve come to realise is that, for me, I can handle email, new papers, responding to code things on github etc in about an hour at most and some of that will be time in the evening once the kids are in bed and I’m just picking off only loosely-work related github things or responding to StackOverflow/CrossValidated Q&As.

    This is working for me, but it’s taken a while to figure out; before I used to spend hours trying to file, reply to and otherwise manage my email. But then I wondered to what end was I spending all this time. Email isn’t important and getting it organised decidedly less so. I guess I’ve just learned to not bother.

    I’m sorry that Stack didn’t work out for you and your lab. When two post-docs started working with me and a colleague two years ago, I started having weekly “lab” meetings/journal clubs with them and PhD student in the same lab, and at the same time I introduced Ryver (a Stack clone) and Asana (a workgroup task management tool). Asana hasn’t worked out for us, despite one of the post-docs liking and using it. Ryver on the other hand has been a big success and it has taken on a few of the things we initially thought Asana would (posting papers to read, managing journal club meetings). The key to the Ryver’s success however has been driven by the people using it and not by me (I didn’t want to force any tool on people).

  15. I would agree with both Margaret and Gavin. Email will never, ever be solved! And at least for me zero-inbox was too inflexible once I passed a certain level of busy-ness/email arrivals.

    I used to be a zero in-boxer. But then I realized how much time I spent sorting things I wanted to keep into folders (or even deleting them) vs how good search engines are. I just let things queue up and then every 6 months I move the whole inbox to a folder (so I have folders that look like 2016H1 and I’ll be creating a 2016H2 come December 31). Search engines are so good and fast I can find anything I want without having to pay a penalty.

    I used to follow the mark for later (using a color, not a folder) anything I can’t do in 30 seconds rule and then go back and try to clean them up at the end of the day. Then I reached a point where I never went back to do clean up and lots of important things were dropped.

    Now, anything that takes less than five minutes and has to be done I just do it then. And anything I have to respond to that takes >5 minutes and that I truly think has to be done I mark with a color (blue in my case). Reading thesis chapters. Detailed answers to student or collaborator queries (that aren't better done face-to-face). Requests or first approaches where I need to craft an email carefully. Etc. Then I mostly just let my head prioritize. IE things that are truly important to me I will get back to without having to do anything special. And if it is a week until I sort the emails by color to go look at the ones in blue, well, I already got the ones my subconscious decided were really important by bubbling them up into my conscious mind in those moments when I have 10 minutes to kill. And anything that was truly important that my subconscious mind failed me on (passive aggressive!) I will catch it when I skim my blue emails (I tend to have only about 5 of these a day so I can skim them quickly). And well, a lot of my blue emails actually resolved themselves when I did nothing. I bumped into somebody in the hallway. Or a doodle pool got cancelled and redone with more days. Or somebody figured out a solution on their own. Love those that fix themselves (which they can only do if I ignore them for a while). I am increasingly moving to letting my calendar dominate email by which I mean if I see something that is >5 minutes I still mark it in blue, but if it is >30 and I definitely have to do it (e.g. reading a thesis, writing a tenure letter that I've agreed to do), then I put a block of time for it on my calendar and don't treat email as the way to remind me of those things. If I haven't scheduled it and it takes >30 minutes I'm never going to get to it! This gets into the topic of calendar management, and I have increasingly realized those things are related. They're both statements of my priorities.

    A lot of this is just recognizing that I have reached the point where I only have two speeds on things "now or never" so anything important I do now or put it in my calendar. And I just let everything else drift off to never with the safety net of blue marking that I can skim when I have time to avoid any horrific drops.

    But for me the key was once I let go of zero-inbox I was able to move from email ruling my priority list to me ruling my priority list. If I'm letting email rule my priority list, I am letting random people, of varying reasonableness and importance to me determine how I spend my day.

    • “And well, a lot of my blue emails actually resolved themselves when I did nothing.”

      THIS! A lot this. If you do email slowly, a lot of it magically resolves itself. Ta da!

  16. Hi Meghan,

    I use gmail which has great filters and I refer all my business emails ( Info@writingclearscience.com.au) through my gmail account. I have slowed my inbox down to a trickle by setting up filters that send emails (mostly newsletters and other subscriptions) directly into different folders (skipping the in-box). I check these folders every morning and (obviously) don’t read all the newsletters but peruse the subject headings – which is why I opened your newsletter this morning. This way what comes into my in-box and the important emails. This morning I only had two emails in my in-box – the rest were in the folders. Because gmail has an excellent search engine, its easy for me to gather all newsletters together, if I wish to peruse them at once.

    hope this helps.

    my regards

    Marina

  17. I have email open in background and deal with emails as they come in, i.e. delete spam/irrelevant emails immediately so they’re not clogging up the inbox – so I rarely have unread emails in my inbox, but I may have a few ‘not dealt with yet’. I don’t schedule time for emails, because I think that limits everyone’s productivity & frustrates everyone. A lot of quick-response emails (e.g. paper requests, requests from admin staff that require a yes/no answer or brief response etc.) can be dealt with straight away – the person who emailed me can get on with their job, because they don’t have to sit around waiting for me to get back to them about a really simple question; and I can get on with mine, wihthout a long list of emails to sift through later that day.

  18. A few people have mentioned that in their out-of-office statement they will add a line that says something like “Please re-send important messages after [date]”. This kind of message has always struck me as being rather self important and uncooperative. In effect one is saying “I’m much too busy [and by implication busier than you] to look back over the emails that I missed when I was away so you need to take the time and effort to re-send your email because I am unwilling to take the time and effort to check my Inbox for unread messages”. What do others think of this? Am I being unfair?

    • I think this is fine. I wouldn’t read into it any implied self-importance or an attempt to create work for others. After all, anyone who does this presumably wouldn’t mind if you did it too.

    • As someone who does this, it’s simply a statement of reality. I don’t have time to come back to a full email inbox, and back before I started doing this, many emails received when I was traveling or on vacation were never replied to for lack of time — and without any explanation. I think it’s more honest and respectful to let people know that you’re not available to answer email at the current time and that you’re not going to get to it when you get back, unless specifically asked. (And if there is someone else who can help in the short-term, I put that in my away message, too: “If you need a question answered about X before I return, please contact so-and-so@univ.edu“.)

      • So what do you do when you return from traveling or vacation, Margaret? Do you just delete all of the unread messages in your Inbox that have appeared during that time? I’m genuinely interested in how this works because personally I could not do that, it would just seem wrong on many levels.

      • Before I leave, I create a filter that takes every email that arrives and dumps it into a folder. When I get back, I cancel the filter. That way I never even see the emails unless I want to.

        I do tend to do a quick scan of email subjects to pull out any that I care about. (like conferences, fellowships, etc. that won’t be resent). Last vacation, about 500 emails landed in that folder. I think it took me about fifteen minutes to skim it.

  19. I employed a variation on Margaret’s folder/filter strategy when I was on maternity leave (also, maternity leave is certainly one of those times you can use the “get back to me if it’s important” office responder). I gave a keyword to people that needed to get ahold of me and told them if they put it in the subject line, their email would go in a special folder that I would check. Everything else got my general out of office “I’m away from my desk for the next two months…resend later if you need me to see your message.” I could then ditch the stuff in the inbox, but monitor the important stuff from students and collaborators.

  20. Very useful thread! I gave this some thought a while ago and went through the navel-gazing exercise of analyzing all my e-mail to see what I was spending time on:
    http://rajlaboratory.blogspot.in/2014/11/a-week-in-my-e-mail-life.html
    http://rajlaboratory.blogspot.in/2014/11/verdict-on-mostly-bacn-free-week-of-e.html
    tl;dr: a lot of e-mail was Penn related crap, and a bunch was scheduling related. So I filtered all the “bacn”, which really helped. I’ve heard great things about SaneBox (also recommended here by Trisha and others I know), but haven’t tried it yet. I also got this scheduling AI software that has dramatically reduced the “Are you free Friday 1-3pm?” “How about Thursday?” back and forth, which is truly mind numbing:
    http://rajlaboratory.blogspot.in/2015/12/impressions-from-couple-weeks-with-my.html
    Hope these are helpful in some way!

  21. There are lots of good thoughts here (and there were more on twitter)! I think moving to a system where I only have email check itself once or twice a day (not first thing in the morning) is a good one. I especially liked the way it was framed in this tweet:

    (In case it doesn’t load, it’s from @belehaa and says “I try to treat email like paper mail: don’t check every 2 minutes, don’t leave open items inside, most messages can be read & tossed.”)

    One remaining thing I need to figure out: is it worth using something that batches email and something like SaneBox and/or todoist? I’d be interested in hearing thoughts on using them in combination.

  22. Pingback: Inbox insanity: A way to unsubscribe? | Dynamic Ecology

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