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No snoozing allowed: Better ways to handle email

Many apps today offer features that are designed to keep you on duty and make sure you do what you want to do an hour ago. Email Snoozing is such a feature that made the news recently when it was incorporated into Gmail after the outdated of the Google Inbox app that first offered it. However, many third party email programs have long offered similar snoozing features.

As part of my book for my book Take control of your productivity I evaluated many such methods to see which ones really were useful. Unfortunately, snoozing falls into the category of ideas that feel productive, but are often harmful to productivity.

You Snooze, You Lose (Your Control)

If you are unfamiliar with the e-snooze feature, and I hope this explanation will not lure you to try it out ̵

1; it gives you control over where many messages waiting for you in your inbox. Click a button while reading a message, and apparently it disappears to a time you specify. In Gmail, the default is at 18:00 today, 8:00 tomorrow, next week or next weekend.

Many people work snoozing in a search for Inbox Zero, which is indicated by an empty inbox at the end of the day. With Inbox Zero, you move messages out of your inbox after you've processed them, or at least after you've triaged each message – maybe in other folders that show priority, category of follow-up or problem area – and given them some rating and planning. Inbox Zero can be a powerful technique because the empty inbox is psychologically soothing that you are busy and ready for what can be shown tomorrow.

But you can also clear the Inbox with Select All followed by a press of the Delete key. The empty inbox is not the point of Inbox Zero, the point is the work you have done to get there. You do not evaluate seven emails associated with a project to have seven fewer messages in your inbox, but instead of creating specific plans to resolve the issues in them and revising the idea of ​​how long the project requires. (The logical extreme of the "Select All, Delete" method is sometimes called bankruptcy when used on thousands of messages. It may feel happy, but it's impossible to make sure none of the deleted messages will prove to be important in the future. I can not recommend it.)

Snoozing is a Band-Aid that makes your inbox empty. When snooze a message, take it off your nearest disc. Depending on the method the app uses to snooze a message, you can still look at what you snoozed; other times you can not. Gmail shows a Snoozed label in the sidelines that group snoozed messages together. Since different apps use different methods to hide snoozed messages, you may see them with some apps, but not others, if you use multiple email applications on multiple devices. Either way, when the snooze time expires, the message appears in your inbox.

Think about the semantic meaning of the snoozed message on the screen because it may vary. For this marketing announcement from Amazon.com, it may be "This is not appropriate now, but I will see it again after work." There is a good reason to set it aside for later, and the snooze button is probably a faster method than other ways you want to do this manually. I have no reason to snoozing this message for that reason.

But if you snoozing the message to say, "I do not have time to cope with this message now, so I'll delay it," you're implicit to say, "I want more time later." That is, you subscribe to the belief that Future You will get fewer messages and less demands. When the snooze expires, the message will blend in with all the new messages that will arrive at that time. You have no idea how important they will be or how many you want, not least because any more messages you snooze are in the future. Future You will be painfully aware of all this. Unless you have a specific reason to believe that you really have less to do at a particular time, it is a remarkable inhumane thing to do for yourself. (And if you're legally less to do because you're planning to "get to work" in your spare time, I'd argue that it's too inhuman.)

Worse than, this particular method takes every snoozed email, packs it together into a wholesale bulk shipment and deliver it to your doorstep a lot . This is only useful in very limited circumstances, for example, to prove that you are Santa Claus. The only way to know how many messages are waiting is to look through the snoozed list, which few people do because the whole point is to forget about these messages. Probably when the email client dumps all these messages on you, use the snooze feature again to make an even bigger problem for an even later future.

Marginal kindness is a snooze method that delays each message of a selected number of hours, rather than for a specified time. Since it takes time between each message you snooze, if you work with your email when the timer goes, you'll see your inbox grow gradually rather than explode.

But there are better ways.

Human Email Handling

The essence of understanding about emails is that what's coming is fundamentally out of your control; Anyone with your e-mail address can choose to add to your inbox at any time. For this reason, I strongly recommend that you do not use your email box as a task list. What you choose to do must be kept separate from what others want you to do, otherwise your task list will also not be in control. Since your inbox is also filled with messages that are not tasks at all, it's a fast track of madness by using it as a task list. There is no way to know how much work is behind a large inbox number, and there is no easy way to separate the pre-mixed wheat from the marketing refinery.

The other main problem is that it takes non-zero time to evaluate an email when you see it, and this review requires a little amount of cognitive work. Snooze an email, and the only future You want to know if you saved it for later. The context of why you delayed it requires the same consideration as it did for the first time. Perhaps this is less than a minute, but multiply it with hundreds of messages a day, and do it repeatedly for each message you snooze. A more human and more productive method retains this context so you pick up where you quit, instead of starting over from scratch.

The way to preserve context is to create groupings that matter to you; for example an email folder called Urgent. I use SmallCubed's MailTags for Apple Mail for this, but folders and Gmail labels also work. Avoid using flags because they require you to remember that a green flag means one thing while a red flag means another. You want contextual information you add to be immediately available without requiring any additional thought from your site. (I recommend MailTags for its multiple methods of handling email and integration with Gmail labels. But the license is currently in the stream, see below for details.)

Here are the steps I use to manage my email , but you should see this more like a menu of techniques than a recommended procedure. You can find some steps useful and some not; You can have more methods that work for you that do not work for me. What is important is that you develop a root procedure for fast email review and handling; It is not necessary to be so accurate.

Step 1: Delete Irrelevant

If a message is not particularly engaging and you're thinking of snoozing it to get it from your disc right away, consider whether you're better off erasing it completely. If it's not important to you now, you do not think it will be more important later just because you underestimate your future time.

Step 2: Deal with the most important; Expose the rest

Email programs say blue dots and bold means "unread messages", but they mean something different to me. A blue dot in Mail or a daring topic in Gmail means a new message I have not even looked at. When I check the inbox, I only look at Subject Lines and Transmitters to see if something needs immediate attention. These are the only messages I read carefully and handle in one way or another.

Then, and I realize this may seem unintentionally, I notice the remaining messages as read, even though I have not opened them. All that remains in the inbox is by definition unread and non-urgent; I do not need more indicators than that. Blue dots and bold letters indicate what's new next time I scan. Everything else I do with my inbox, can I do when I have time; This scan ensures that what's waiting for me does not have any landmines that can ruin my day.

Step 3: Triage What Remaines In Inbox By Priority

When I choose to spend time to send email later, everything in my Inbox will need some handling. Messages that have valuable reference value, but no necessary follow-up, are immediately submitted. An example: Confirmation messages for future travel with codes you need. Mark them as Reference and retrieve them from your inbox.

 Snoozed email in Gmail. (When I say "mark," I mean which method you organize you use. If you use folders, drag them to a suitable named folder. If you use tags or labels, put these and save the message so it no longer is in your inbox.)

The purpose of the reference tag is to provide a quick place to look for things you know you need. It's generally faster than searching for an entire archive. Review regular reference emails, because when an email loses its specific relevance, there is no need to keep it longer here. This technique works best when you regularly protect the reference folder to keep it small.

If you have a message you may want in the future, but are not sure when, continue and archive it. I trust search features to overfill them for me later. It may be too optimistic because when a search from Spotlight or Gmail fails in this situation, it may be time consuming and painful to find the required message. Follow this advice only if your search skills are generally sufficient to bring messages back quickly. (If you know you need this message later for an unplanned project you have not started, write down some words on the Subject line along with the dashboard or notes for the project. You will definitely find it when you need it.) [19659002] In most cases, the common method uses to create a bunch of nested folders and archive each email by topic for much time, with limited value later. Valuable search by subject line, sender and date will usually surface the information whenever you need it. Data search and ordering is more powerful than most people realize, as your brain chaves itself in messages in your own memory chronologically. A close hit can give you enough context to scroll a bit to find the message you're looking for.

Messages that need some follow-up on my part – and I can not dash off immediately – are being triaged. I currently mark them as Urgent, High, or Later, but I'm careful not to think of urgency as "very high priority." The only messages in Urgent are those I need to see in the next few hours, and I work from where it is needed all day. Messages labeled High may well be more important, just not in today's deadlines.

I used to have more levels of prioritization, until I realized that high, normal and low efficiently meant that "probably comes to;" and will never look again "respectively. Now, messages in step 1 are deleted, which I once saw low. Why pretend I ever have time? Meanwhile, too high and later, if something is important in what I do not get in time, I need better categories or I have to plan more time in the future to handle these messages. (This is an example of a feedback loop . The problems I follow with my methods provide raw data indicating where I need to improve my methods.)

Step 3.5: Categorize Specific Messages Judiciously [19659019] Sometimes you should use more specific categories than broad priority labels. The only brand I'm currently using is a Need-Answer tag for personal conversations when a message deserves an answer on time, but it's not particularly urgent or high priority. Depending on your login and mood, this category can be prioritized later, between high and later, or sometimes even higher than high. To break such messages apart from my Urgent and High priorities lets me record them as I want. But do not create too many specific categories. If you have dozen brands of this type, you need a checklist to manage your workflow, which is more structured than most prefer.

If you want to share your email based on what you sit down to do, it's an argument for separate email addresses for different types of work. If all your emails are displayed in the same location, you must split the different email streams manually during the triage. Separate email addresses will do this automatically for you, as long as you are careful about using the correct address for each purpose. For my work, where I have many hats, I literally hold a dozen separate email accounts, which can push the limits for the benefit of this technique. It's great to focus on a particular work area, but it's a pain to manage across multiple devices. I recommend trying one or two additional accounts for specific areas – an address dedicated to volunteer work, or one for family members and other VIPs, separated from the home address, as everyone else gets – and see if it works for you. (You can also use email rules to categorize your messages by sender or keyword, but thanks to everyone who checks email in multiple places these days, and in my experience, this workflow is far more difficult to maintain than multiple addresses. yours may vary.)

Step 4: Consider putting a few messages aside for later

Finally, we come to something that corresponds to snoozing. There are some messages you can not handle instantly, and other messages that are better treated later when you have more information. There can be good reasons to snooze. "I do not have time right now".

I prefer the MailTags method to create dated reminders to snooze, because when time comes, the fact that it was marked for today is part of the context. In my case, it marks it as an unfortunate thing, when I picked the day it turned out to be a reason.

Step 5: Manage Your Messages

Of course, the purpose of all the above is to allow you to handle your messages quickly on first pass and approach them effectively later. Now it's later. Your priorities and categories provide an order for approaching the messages you've triaged over the time you have, so now you include the time in these messages from most to least important. Generally, this means: Begin with messages marked Urgent, proceed to those marked High or Need-Answer, and come to those who are Later Later when you have time.

It is your choice to approach this part of the process. The only requirement is that you must have at least enough time to handle all of the marked Urgent. Then you can continue through the other categories until you run out of time. I prefer a bit more structure, because my task lists tell me to "respond to Urgent Email" twice a day, with more tasks for High, Later, and Needs Response that occur less often.

You can also change your strategy and results by changing which mailboxes you use. I have a task that points to my later priority, because I can overlook it for long periods of time – but it means paradoxically that I can work with messages marked later while there are still messages waiting High. So I also have a smart mailbox that shows me "Later and Higher Priority Messages", and I want to use one or the other based on anything that needs the most attention.

Evaluating Your Results

The goal of the above steps is to match your email to free time, rather than vice versa. The only time you want to make conscious changes in approaching your email is in response to a feedback loop (for example, "I need more time to keep up with High priority messages"). For the remainder of time, this system is broken gracefully when the available time does not keep pace with the influx. As long as you have time to scan your new messages to alarms that flash red, you do not need anything that is urgent. As long as you have extra time to trim high priority messages, all that remains is waiting until you get to it. The result is that while your e-mail may be "preferred" hours to be fully captured, it will only take the time it takes for the two steps.

You can further reduce that time by using a few automatic procedures. I do not recommend hundreds of email rules for processing your messages, but there's nothing wrong with highlighting everything from certain VIPs as high priority. Just do not move these messages automatically from your inbox unless you are fully aware of all the places where new messages can land. You may have noticed that in my Gmail screenshot above I have 1490 unscanned messages that are still marked unread. That's because it shows my least important account that receives all my mass mail. It's the last account I'm scanning and the first account that comes behind when I do not have enough time to go on because there are few landmines there when I'm not.

I'd like to train Inbox Zero, but it does not work for me. The steps here are effective "Inbox recently." Capture on your unread (but scanned) messages anytime, but when you can not continue, someone will remain in your inbox. Newer messages will push them to the center of the hill. Effectively, your inbox contains the latest messages, followed by a space (created by the days you were updated), followed by a number of messages that went through, and so forth. I consider myself to be minimally busy when I have processed all new messages fast and I'm "really on top of things" when I have extra time to clean up some of the feedback. But there is no need to "complete", and it's no worry to let the demand grow when I have no choice.

(If you wish, you can handle older messages as a separate project from "Keep up with email." Sort by date is rarely the best way to do this. Instead, try using one smart mailbox with messages older than 60 days sorted by sender. This allows you to delete or archive large messages while giving them a quick review to make sure that any issues they contain are resolved, or are too old to make something.)

In an ideal world I would have enough time to comply with Inbox Zero and my email would always be completely triaged. In my real world, this process does not optimize for perfect email management, but instead of satisfaction and lowered stress, and that's what I recommend for you too. If you can find a way to do snoozing work for you in this regard, better than I have, be my guest. The rule of productivity is to find out what works for you. However, for most people, mostly snoozing, only the inevitable delay delays and the inevitable will be a avalanche of work that is almost guaranteed to come in an inconvenient time.

Talking about the software that works for me: MailTags is one of four SmallCubed e-mail plugs that increase Mail Management in Mail, with thoughtful methods to work well with other email programs. Unfortunately, as I write this, SmallCubed has removed the individual licenses from the store for MailSuite, an all-in-one package that provides all four in tighter integrated ways – but still in beta and not yet complete for Mojave. High Sierra and previous users can either try the beta, or download the older plug-ins, which will work with a new MailSuite license. MailSuite costs $ 60 or $ 30 for users who upgrade from newer versions of the older plugins.

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