This was a busy month for me. My company is going through a transition, I just hired a bunch of key people, put my team through V2MOM creation process, organized our team's yearly get-together in Barcelona and launched a cool Nozbe summer promo and refined Nozbe tutorial. We also set up ground work for Nozbe 2.0 to be launched later this Fall. Everything was a team effort but required a lot of focus from me. So I started skipping on email...
It all started a month ago...
...when I needed to focus on what's best for my company. Started creating V2MOMs, strategy, tactics, talking to my team, analyzing our marketing activities, revenue, everything... and testing our product... and wanted to make sure we'd do a great job for our customers this Fall. This all required long stretches of focus so at the end of the day I was so tired that I just started not opening the email app at all. Every day as I focused on my work I continued postponing checking email... and limited to communicating with my team only, through Nozbe tasks and chat (Facetime, Skype)...
Email really just sucks for collaboration
As I felt connected to my team through our shared projects in Nozbe, I didn't feel the need of checking email as it'd mean only communicating with "external people" and I just didn't want that (yes I know, I wasn't nice...). I'd sometimes cheat and go to Gmail, search for an email from a particular person, reply and shut down the Gmail tab. I wasn't even tempted to see what's more in there.
What I discovered is that Nozbe really rocks when it comes to collaboration. Yeah, I know, it's my product, so I shouldn't be surprised... but exchanging comments with my team, adding tasks, getting them done... it was a lot better than sending emails to and fro.
And I got great ideas in the process. In October we'll move Nozbe's collaboration to the next level thanks to the ideas I got when using solely Nozbe for communication. You'll be blown away.
Anyway, I'm going off topic. So there I was not checking my email and every day knowing that the emails keep piling up and I keep procrastinating "going there".
We get too many emails
Even though I had lots of social notifications turned off and many filters in place, after almost a month I had 1500 messages in my inbox. Way too many. Finally, I just had to deal with it all:
Social/Promotions tabs in Gmail - I started with new Gmail tabs: Social and Promotions. I scanned through them, read a few emails, archived the rest. After doing that I went down to ~500 emails. It took me around 2 hours. Wow, 1K emails just in the Promotions/Social tabs. Crazy.
More filters - I scanned through the email subject lines and "from" fields for the next 100 emails in my inbox and found a few I could create a filter for. Did it. Now I was down at 400 emails in 1 hour. Still an improvement, but now I needed to go through these 400 emails one by one.
As I was going through all the rest of the emails...
... I figured out several things:
- I needed to create more filters (why does creating filters still take so much time!?)
- I needed to apologize to many people for taking so much time to respond. Yep, I felt bad.
- As a result I created more keyboard shortcuts on my iPad (like "tfs" for "Thanks for your email and really sorry for my late reply!"). Yeah, it's cheating. I know.
- I felt like being my own secretary and I didn't like it.
- There were a few emails that I should have replied earlier really... sorry to all of you...
- I had to learn even more to say NO and thank for the opportunities that just didn't align with my personal and/or business goals.
- I really hated email at this moment...
- It took me around 8 hours to go back to Inbox Zero - a full day's work.
- I changed one important habit: I stopped marking emails as "Starred" when these required my lengthy response. I'd just reply saying thank you and I'd forward the email as a task to Nozbe. I'd review it upon doing my weekly review and going through Nozbe Inbox
One month without email experiment - takeaways
Well, now I'm back to using email every day again but I think I know how to solve several problems I had with email and I'm going to implement these in the months to come. Here are my takeaways and my solutions for the future:
First. Remove any collaboration from email
I've already started the habit. When an email requires more than 2 minutes, it becomes a task, so I thank the person who sent me the email and forward it to my Nozbe's email address so that it converts the email to task with the email body being the comment of the task.
This way I finally stop using email as an alternative task management system. My tasks belong in Nozbe and nowhere else. And they won't get lost as I'll review them weekly during my weekly review.
Now, this is just the beginning. Nozbe is famous for its collaboration features but as mentioned above, we're taking them to the next level this Fall. We've got some great features in the pipeline that will finally make all of us keep tasks separate from email. You'll love it.
Second. Develop an Inbox Zero app for the rest of us.
People still ask me how to do Inbox zero. Lesson 9 of my 10-step course deals with it. Now we've developed an internal tool in Nozbe we keep tweaking and we'll likely publish for everyone to use. It's a fast email app that teaches good email principles and the "Inbox zero" technique. And quickly adds emails as tasks do Nozbe if needed. And does lots of other magical things to help you answer emails quicker and filter out the emails you don't want to read. Something like a Mailbox app, but with a different, more "inbox zero" approach and Nozbe integration. Coming this Fall, too.
Third. Hire an assistant.
I was reluctant to hiring an assistant as I didn't want her to have access to my personal email. After all, it's so personal and again so ... personal.
Well, it ain't. Most of my personal communication (with my wife, family, etc) goes through iMessage, Whatsapp or FaceTime... and the things that go through email are not that personal. I haven't checked email for a month and now that I have it at zero I see what's coming in there and I can see an assistant going through it, adding tasks for me in Nozbe etc. This would be a huge help. I don't want to become my personal secretary anymore. I think as my roles as CEO of this company grow I will finally need to hire an assistant, but first I need to make sure we implement solutions 1 & 2 I mentioned earlier.
Email is hard but we'll deal with it finally. I believe we can.
After one month of hardly using Email I've learned my lessons. I know how important it is to keep the email and task management separate. How email can suck the life out of us and make us our own secretaries and how badly we need focus to get things done. In this one month I accomplished many great things when I didn't have to do email every day, but I know it can't be my long term strategy. The good thing is that now I think I know how to make it better. And not only for me, but for all of us. Are you with me?
Question: What's your biggest problem with email? How would you solve it? Do my takeaways resonate with you?
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