Hindsight

Garrett Dimon, looking back on 10 years of building a product:

I’m leaning towards completely shunning social media if I build a new product. Instead, I’d focus on building a higher quality email list. There’s the big benefit of being a more direct line to customers and being less prone to the whims of the social media companies, but more than anything, I feel like a newsletter is a better way to communicate. Sure we’d have a blog and changelog, but longer-form, more thoughtful communication feels like the way to go.

Email by Days of Week

This is just how it feels for me.

DayVolumeInbox Level
MondayHighStarts Medium. Volume is high, but I FIGHT it back to Low because I’m FRESH!
TuesdayHighLow but growing.
WednesdayMediumMedium. Focusing on other things.
ThursdayHighHigh. Losing control.
FridayHighStarts High, but I fight it back to low so I end the week clean.
SaturdayLowLow.
SundayLowMedium. I don’t do much email on weekends so it builds up.

Email Debt Forgiveness Day

It’s April 30th, coming up next month, but that was a year or two when the fabulous podcast Reply All did it. No reason it can’t be done again!

If there’s an email response you’ve wanted to send but been too anxious to send, you can send it on April 30th, without any apologies or explanations for all the time that has lapsed. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. Just include a link to this explainer, the one you’re reading right now, so that your recipient knows what’s going on. Together, we can all make our inboxes less stressful. Alex Goldman

Save Those Tabs with Email Tabs

Email Tabs is a pretty nice idea from Ian Bicking and Dave Justice:

Ever needed to save or share a whole bunch of tabs as you research, shop, or just browse the web? Email Tabs lets you create beautiful emails from your open tabs to save them for later or share them. You can use Email Tabs to automatically send along links, screenshots, or even the text from articles.

Apparently, this idea used to be part of Firefox Test Labs, but that is defunct, and this lives on as a browser extension.

Everybody always has too many tabs open. I bet I have some 30 at all times. I’m not sure if it’s a problem or not, for me. I think of them all as little minor to-do’s, and I’m fairly prompt about addressing them and moving that to-do to a better location if it seems like the open tab deserves that. But I could see how it could be a cognitive overload problem for some people, and having tools to address that in a productive way is a good thing.

The trick is giving yourself a productive destination for those tabs. For me: it’s stuff like…

  1. Blogging the article from the tab
  2. Tossing it on my Things to-do list
  3. Saving it into Notion someplace
  4. Admitting I don’t care anymore and closing the tab

But it certainly could be “email myself a chosen list of these tabs” because you are an email yourself person and use your inbox as a to-do list.

Landing on Newton

The Google Inbox shut down date is looming large. “End of March 2019” is the quoted date. This is sad for me, as I find Google Inbox to be a very good email client, and I’ve yet to find anything that is as good or better. I think I’ve gotten close though, so let’s take that journey.

What I really loved about Inbox is:

  • Pinning
  • Reminders
  • Intelligent (and self-created) rollups
  • Snoozing
  • Really nice UI
I was blasé about Notion’s web clipper at first, but now, of course, use it for saving every link I want to take action on later.

Since forcing myself off Inbox, I’ve gotten over most of this. Pinning is just a way to get something back to the inbox, and most clients have a way to handle that. Reminders I’ve replaced with sending things to my Things inbox and using Notion’s web clipper. My inbox isn’t a great place for saving little todo’s and links anyway. Everybody has snoozing these days. So all I’ll really miss is the rollups stuff and the lovely UI.

Things Inbox

Knowing the shutdown was coming, I switched to using straight up Gmail instead. Inbox was always just an alternate interface for Gmail anyway. I like my very-often-used web apps in native app wrappers, so I was using Shift for that. I had moved to Shift from Mailplane, as at some point Inbox stopped working in Mailplane and that was a deal breaker for me. I think it’s fixed now, though.

Shift UI

Shift is largely fine, but there are some bugs I find fairly obnoxious:

  • It logs me out of my Google accounts a lot.
  • It doesn’t support 1Password natively so logging in is an awkward copy-paste workflow I’d rather do without.
  • It sends me new email alerts, sometimes, for emails that are filtered out of landing in the inbox.
  • It asks me demographic questions in a modal every time I open it.
  • It won’t let me rename my main account. Everytime I rename it, it reverts to an incorrect name.

Now that I write all that out, eeeesh, I’m glad I’ve found a new client I like for now. What Shift does have is Grammarly support, which is a pretty wonderful thing to support. Grammarly is an amazing browser plugin for spelling and grammar and getting close to a dealbreaker feature.

A lot of my Inbox-loving friends have found solace in Spark. One friend told me that the rather unusual strong UI separation between read and unread emails taught them to be much more ruthless about handling their email. Nice! I love hearing stuff like that. Spark didn’t do it for me though. It’s a nice UI, but it’s more Mail.app-y than Inbox-y and I just couldn’t get into it. I think what people are loving the most is that it’s the closest winner to having smart rollups.

Spark UI

The email client Newton has been on my radar for quite a while, but I had given up on it as the news was it was shutting down last year. I have no idea what changed, but it’s back from the dead. I’m glad it is, because it’s hitting all the right notes for me. Newton has some newsletter rolly-uppy stuff, but even that I’m kinda over, as I’ve been updating my newsletters to send into Feedbin.

Feedbin UI

What I like about Newton is largely that is has an Inbox-y and very nice UI on both desktop and mobile. Dare I say nicer than Inbox. It’s just simple and clean, has all the features I like and very little I don’t like.

Like my friend who found productivity in Spark, I’m finding Newton is making me much faster and more ruthless about dealing with my email. That’s fascinating to me, as I assumed it was more practice and my personality that made me handle email the way I do, but Newton is proving to me that a good client can go a long way. I’d love to see Newton get Grammarly in there somehow though!

The Immovable Email and the Moment of Clarity

I’m sure most of us have had that experience of an email sitting in your inbox for ages. Not one that you just didn’t see or got buried under hundreds of others, but one that’s right there staring you in the face. It kinda needs your attention. Or at least you think it does. After all, you haven’t trashed it or archived it yet. But for some reason you just can’t deal with it right now.

I’d love to know what the reason is. Do you have an email like that right now? What is it?

I get these all the time. A common one for me is that someone has sent in an article draft, and the draft is right on the edge of bad and mediocre. If it’s bad, that’s an easy email. Some pleasant version of Sorry, this isn’t good enough. If it’s mediocre, those take work, but I can muscle through them usually. It’s those on the line between mediocre and bad that are hard, because my mood plays such a big role. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to deal with something with fairly low potential, but I know that sometimes I am in the mood to try to pull someone up as best I can. So they emails sit, until the scale falls more firmly one way or another.

Sometimes the immovable email is from a friend. A loving little nugget tucked away amidst business stuff. The same frame of mind that answers business emails doesn’t feel right for friends, so it sits and sits.

Whatever the immovable email is, there tends to be a moment of clarity that handles it. Something sparks, and the email isn’t hard anymore. For me, it’s not just getting started writing it. Sometimes I try to trick myself into that, but it doesn’t work. Then the draft just sits and sits.

The moment of clarity usually comes from somewhere else. A long weekend when I didn’t think about it at all. Perhaps I snoozed it for a week and the answer came easier then. Or something related and serendipitous happened and the answer became clear.

Is this a common experience or something in my weird head? Have you ever had an email moment of clarity that helped to clear the stragglers in the ol’ inbox?