January 21st 2016


Email is fundamental to the way everyone does business, yet so many of us are terrible at keeping up with it.

Most peoples' inboxes are garbage soup, and the only way to know if something needs a followup is that it's marked as unread.

This is literally horrible.

I've seen people:

  • Miss emails because they checked their email during a meeting but couldn't respond
  • Forget about something they looked at while driving home
  • View an email notification on their phone but not answer because they need a computer
  • Respond after a week or more because they "get so many emails it's impossible to keep up"
  • Miss a sales opportunity
  • Make a client wait on a simple answer from another department
  • Miss meeting updates (don't even get me started on calendars)

Dudes. Unacceptable.

There are companies responding to this "problem" (Inbox by GMail organizes email; Slack is trying to make email irrelevant), but it's not an email problem– it's a people problem.

(As a usability/UX professional, I would almost never say something is a people problem, but in this case, it is.)

Email archiving (or marking as done or hidden or whatever) is literally one of the most simple concepts in tech today, yet it's used by only a small fraction of email users. What blows my mind is that there are a bunch of people who know what archiving is and still don't use it.

The way archiving works is this:

  • Emails come in
  • If they're not important, delete them
  • If you may need to reference them in the future but don't need to take action, archive them
  • If you need to address them now or in the next few days, leave them in your inbox (read or unread)

If you keep up with this, you'll have an inbox that only contains emails you need to address. At any given time, you know that whatever's in your inbox is either brand new or needs to be addressed soon.

If you need to reference an email that's been archived, just search for it.

I typically have 3 - 10 emails in my inbox at a time. If I take an afternoon off from email, I'll have 50 or 60 the next morning, but the first thing I do is go through and archive or delete each one.

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If you manage a team or if email is an important part of your job (like a salesperson), there is abolutely no excuse not to take care of this.

If you won't do it for yourself, do it for your coworkers... if you won't do it for your coworkers, do it for your clients... if you won't do it for your clients... do it for me.

I've been waiting patiently for your response on that email I sent last week.