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It’s hard to believe that in 1998 when the movie “You’ve Got Mail” came out, people actually looked forward to opening their inbox. Back then “Inbox Zero” was an insult (“You have no friends, Inbox Zero-boy”). Now it’s considered a mythical utopia, a place where only a select few can ever hope to visit, and only very briefly.
At SaneBox, we’ve done lots of research and thinking on ways to get better at email, and compiled this list of 100 hacks (i.e. tricks, tips, apps, methods) which will let you get to Inbox Zero every day. Better yet, we’ve asked some of our friends, some of whom get even more email than you (VCs, journalists etc) to share their personal tips. You’ll find their opinions sprinkled throughout this book.
We promise that after reading this book (some might call it a pamphlet), you’ll be able to go back in time, to 1998, when you wished you got more email. Disclaimer alert! We do not guarantee that this guide will win you a date with Meg Ryan.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The 3 Email
Commandments
1
You’re in denial.Get out of it
Email is like Tetris. There’s always more coming, and faster. An average person today gets 110 emails/day (not spam - real emails), and by 2015 it will be 125/day (a 14% increase). Since days in 2015 will still only be 24 hours long, something has to change – you. You need to change the way you think about email, and the way you process it.
2
Don't let email be your # 1 priority
Email is your to-do list that other people can write on. Be proactive and focus on your own to-do list. Scan your Inbox for urgent/important items in the morning, and then work on your top priorities. Dedicate blocks of time to processing email, and treat email processing as one of your priorities - not the default Priority #1. If you’re ever sucked into “doing email”, ask yourself “Is clearing my Inbox really the best use of my time right now?” Eventually it will be - but make a conscious decision about it.
3
Not all emails are created equal
Some need to be dealt with right away (urgent/important). Some can wait (non-urgent/important). And others should be archived/deleted in bulk (unimportant). According to our data the unimportant bucket contains, on average, 58% of emails. We’ll get back to this discussion later.
Chapter #1
THE BASICS: DON'T BE A ROOKIE
Android Gmail:
1. Open your Gmail application
2. Tap your Menu button
3. Tap ‘Settings’
4. Uncheck ‘Email notifications’
iPhone Mail.app:
1. Tap ‘Settings’
2. Tap ‘Notifications’
3. Tap ‘Mail’
4. Turn off all notifications
iPhone Gmail users:
1. Open your Gmail application
2. Tap your Menu button
3. Tap ‘Settings’
4. Uncheck ‘Email notifications’
Outlook:
1. From the Tools menu, ‘Options’
2. On the Preferences tab, click‘E-mail Options’, and then click ‘Advanced E-mail Options’
3. Under ‘When new items arrive in my Inbox’, uncheck the ‘Display’ a New Mail Desktop Alert’ check box
Gmail
1. 1. Click the gear icon toward the upper right of the Gmail window
2. Click on the ‘Settings’ link
3. Check ‘Mail notifications off’ under the Desktop Notifications section
4. Click ‘Save’
Gmail = Canned Responses
Outlook = Email signature
Yahoo Mail = Templates
Apple = Drafts
Thunderbird = Templates
or TextExpander
Chapter #2
SECURITY
ANTI-HACKS
Nowadays, it seems as if one friend’s email account gets hacked every week; and at least once a month a major website gets hacked. Here’s what you can do to stay safe.
Example: “Billy Jean is not my lover, she’s just a girl who claims that I am the one” becomes bjinmlsjagwctiato - a 17 character password that’s impossible to break but ridiculously easy for you to remember. If you’re really smart, replace the O in the end with a 1 (one=1, get it?).
Chapter #3
INBOX ZERO HACKS
Inbox Zero is not just “having no emails in your Inbox”, its’ also a process for how to achieve that state consistently. It’s based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) principles and it takes lots of discipline, but there are some hacks. The main premise of Inbox Zero is to never read the same email twice. There are only 5 possible actions for each email in your Inbox: Delete (or Archive depending on your personal preferences), Delegate, Defer, Respond (if it takes less than 2 minutes) or Do (actual work).
Chapter #4
POWER HACKS
Chapter #5
THE SECRETS OF GMAIL
Inbox Zero is not just “having no emails in your Inbox”, it’s actually a process for how to achieve that state consistently. It’s based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) principles and it takes lots of discipline, but there are some hacks. The main premise of Inbox Zero is to never read the same email twice. There are only 5 possible actions for each email in your Inbox: Delete (or Archive depending on your personal preferences), Delegate, Defer, Respond (if it takes less than 2 minutes) or Do (actual work).
Chapter #6
EMAIL ETIQUETTE
TIPS
Surprisingly, the average time it takes to respond to an email is greater than the time it takes to create an email. So an hour spent sending emails generates over an hour of work for someone else. This is just terrible. The good news is we have the tools to stop this. Follow the tips below to make life better for recipients of your emails, and they’ll do the same for you.
Chapter #7
AWESOME EMAIL APPS
In the recent months there’s been a lot of noise about email being an “outdated medium”, and about the need for another service to replace email. The reality is email is not an end product – it’s a platform for sending and receiving information. And as with any other platform, there are lots applications on top of it that solve a particular problem. Chances are, whatever problem you have with email, it can be solved using a combination of these tools. Here’s a brief overview of our favorite email apps, in no particular order:
Chapter #8
Travel HACKS
When you’re traveling or at a conference the chances of you hitting Inbox Zero are at… well… zero. But it’s even more important to follow the rules outlined in this book – not only so you can stay afloat on the road, but also to make processing the one million emails that will inevitably pile up in your Inbox much less dreadful.