"Experts" have been analyzing and describing best practices for email productivity ever since... well, since email started. It is crazy how something that should (and does) help us be more productive actually creates its own productivity black holes.
The whole idea of email productivity has been simmering in my mind ever since I read last week about a new email client that has been developed by a company called Superhuman who just raised $75 million in a series C funding round. Currently, Superhuman works for Gmail and iOS users only, but the company is now developing service Android and Outlook users and already has alpha testers in the product.
The company began in 2014 with no formal launch. Although they have not announced a current customer count, their waitlist now includes 450,000 people just waiting to spend $30 per month. In other words, the company has a identified people who want to pay annual revenue of $162 million!!
What I read about the consumer demand for Superhuman and the interest of investors in the product has led me to two thoughts.
First, even with all of the advice on email productivity, there is a huge disconnect between best practices and actual practices. Second, people are willing to pay a decent amount of money for help (aka a "magic wand") with their email productivity. A user of Superhuman pays $360 per year. Some executives even hire assistants simply to manage their inboxes.
Is there a magic wand for email productivity? I believe that machine learning and artificial intelligence will over time become more widely used in email clients. But I don't think there will ever be a magic wand that will replace me doing my job as a human. Although technology does help (and will be able to help more in coming years), I will always necessarily need to manage my own email.
I'm human. There are times when I respond much later than I should to an email or miss one altogether. But I've created my own strategy for managing my email which allows me to better support my teammates and our customers. And I find it much easier to end my day in peace.
1. Use rules and spam filters to limit what actually gets to your inbox.
2. Learn and use keyboard shortcuts.
3. Use other tips and tricks such as the Outlook Desktop tips and tricks I use (customize the ribbon to reduce visual clutter, use Add-ins and use "Quick Steps").
4. Commit to a daily zero inbox at the end of every work day using Joe Woodard's system of email management outline in this article. Joe's twist of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" tells you to apply the four D's to your emails in this order - Delete It, Delegate It, Do It, Defer It.
I wish I could give you a magic wand. The truth is that you just have to do the work.