We all use email differently so here’s my context: I run Inbox Zero + a simple Getting Things Done policy to my email and task list. I’ve been using Mailbox to triage and smash through my inbox, both on mobile and with the new desktop beta.

I’m a firm believer that if you read an email and don’t take some kind of action with it, it festers in your unconscious.

Inbox by Gmail appears to be made for me -- and indeed anyone who appreciates that improving your most common processes pays dividends every day.

So what’s it like day-to-day?

Break the umbilical

To get the most from Inbox, and email in general, we need to get used to leaving it for an hour or two at a time.

Most industries are fast-moving enough now that this can sound a painful suggestion and to make it work, you have to have other ways of communicating.

At Augur, we use Asana for everything, so most discussion takes place in line with tasks, project management and documents. Others find great success with Slack or Yammer. Either way, email is left as a tool to mop up the dregs and overflow.

Most interesting features

Bundles

One of the big issues with email is timing. On one side, it’s a constant potential distraction and on the other it barely offers a natural hierarchy of which emails are important and which aren’t.

With Inbox, you can tell it to gather emails of a certain type or from certain senders and only show them once a day or once each week.

Maybe you don’t want to see marketing emails except for at 1900 each day on your commute. Maybe you tell it to gather all your interesting link-filled newsletters for Sunday mornings.

Surfacing attachments

With an ‘action-first’ attitude, the way attachments are stored in emails is a pain. You have to enter the message, skip all the way through it then select.

Inbox shows the attachment just below the subject line -- often this is going to mean you don’t even have to enter the message, you can interpret the intention. I just received my ticket for an event tonight. Now I can boomerang it to show up at the end of my work day, pin it in my inbox or tell it to surface when I arrive at the venue.

Attachments with action may be the most important thing here, for the following reason.

Finding things

Regardless of anything else it offers, Inbox is the best search app for email.

I just looked up “flight” and the very first thing it shows is the details about my upcoming flight. Airports, departure times, even terminal and gate. An Amazon search brings up little cards for my recently shipped items including shipping status, “track package” option and more.

When I need to find a ticket, booking or anything I know is hidden in email, this is where I’m heading first.

Keep it Google, Stupid

Is it overreaching? Mailbox delights through simplicity. Google has a track record of providing utilities that are very “Googly”, that is to say, very engineered and rational. They make sense and technically provide improvements -- but normal people don’t really want them.

Think Google Wave (which I loved, I’d like to declare) and Google Glass.

What are your issues with email? Is it sheer volume? Can tools like Inbox and Unroll.me solve it or should we be training new hires on email strategy?

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Published 27 October, 2014 by Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is Founding Director of Augur, and writes about what's next in the world of technology, marketing and startups. He is a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

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