Ask anyone how they manage their email, and you’ll get as many different responses. How detailed are labels/tags? How many priority levels? Use stars/flag or no? Inbox zero philosophy? As a to-do list? There may be no absolutely optimal method but I believe there are best practices that work for the large majority of people. Watch the slight widening of the eyes, the gradual look of realization, the slow nod of appreciation as you introduce someone to a new method that can double their productivity. Relish that same feeling yourself as you add that new plugin to your workflow, automating what you’ve been unconsciously struggling through every day. I (re-)discovered RSS feeds a few weeks ago, and I can only shake my head now at how I used to manage my old spammy email inbox. Below, a small collection of workflow wisdom gathered through the years.
I use a simple two tiers for all my emails, Important and Everything else; any more levels and I find it becomes unnecessarily complex. Most personal emails from a real person are marked as Important. I use Starred functionality to indicate emails that require immediate attention, whether it’s a reply or another action.
I treat my email inbox as something of a to-do list, though it does not contain all of my to-dos. Consequently, the more emails I have lingering in my inbox the more tasks I feel like I have to do. The exceptions are travel confirmations or other receipts that require keeping in mind for the near future. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to deal with these.
Like I mentioned above, I dramatically reduced the clutter in my email inbox by moving all my blog and other news subscriptions into an RSS feed, an artifact of the near past that I had shunned years ago.
Any tasks not in email form go into my Any.do list. It comes on most platforms; I use it mainly as an extension in my Chrome browser and on my phone. I find the categories of “Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Upcoming,” and “Someday” to be more intuitive than single-list (like Google Tasks) or calendar view planning.
It may be unintuitive, but it’s a catch-all for anything that I think of or come across that I want to work on in the future. These include books to read, concepts to research, potential projects, and anything else. I may have to find a better organizer as my list grows, but it's currently a convenient access from my Gmail.
Building habits takes time and perseverance, known in grim satisfaction to those who stick to their new year’s resolutions every year. Dubbed the Seinfeld Strategy, if you want to get better at something then you need to do a little bit of it every single day. I track daily habits that promote general wellbeing of mind, body, and spirit through a free mobile app called Lift. It has a simple and sleek interface with a surprisingly engaged community that gives props, asks questions, and answers others. Habits I’m tracking: reading, writing, exercising, meditating, and coming up with new ideas.
I hope everyone has found something new to add to their workflow arsenal, and I would love to get comments and ideas on how I can improve. I am also looking for an efficient way to stay updated on daily news, Twitter and Reddit aside. Any suggestions mightily appreciated. Thanks for reading!