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VidBITS: Email Strategies of the TidBITS Staff

While we were having the internal discussions that led to two articles in last week’s issue of TidBITS — “Mailbox for iPhone Eases Email Triage but Lacks Key Features” (22 February 2013) by Josh Centers and “It’s Not Email That’s Broken, It’s You” (23 February 2013) by Joe Kissell — I started wondering about how my TidBITS colleagues actually deal with their email. It was an odd thought, since I exchange email with these people daily, sometimes hourly, but I see only their replies, not how they handle my incoming messages, much less the vast quantity of other messages that arrive every day.

So in this week’s staff roundtable, I asked Joe Kissell, Jeff Carlson, Michael Cohen, and Tonya Engst if they found email stressful, what their basic email strategy was, and how they integrated iOS devices into that strategy (and I shared my approach as well). Some interesting takeaways:

  • No one, with the possible exception of Tonya, is particularly stressed out by email, and Tonya was careful to qualify her answer by noting that it wasn’t email in particular that caused her stress, but there simply being too much to read, watch, and do in general. As the bearer of ever more information, email sometimes becomes the focus of that stress.

  • We spanned the gamut of how many email messages remain in our inboxes. Though he doesn’t subscribe to the approach of Inbox Zero, Joe had only a single message in his inbox, whereas Jeff had nearly 200, Michael’s inbox held over 900, Tonya bested him slightly with about 1,100, and I “won” by having tens of thousands of messages in my inbox (but that’s because I see no reason to remove Gmail’s Inbox label from messages and instead mark messages as unread when they still need to be dealt with).

  • I was intrigued to see just how differently we all approached email, with some people doing a lot of filtering and attempting to keep a clean inbox, and others of us dealing with email more as a stream of information that doesn’t need to be filed away to be found later.

  • Several of us read email on an iPhone or iPad first thing in the morning, sometimes while even still in bed or while eating breakfast. Although it’s not possible to deal with everything while not at the Mac, it can be a nice way to cruise through the easy stuff quickly.

In the end, I came away with the realization that no app or technique that promises to solve email overload can possibly help everyone, since we all have different needs and proclivities. Nevertheless, tune in, and perhaps you can pick up some tips that will help you take control of your email! And if you have an email strategy that works well for you, please share it in the comments.

(Remember, you don’t have to watch the video; you can click the Listen link at the top of the article’s Web page to listen to the audio, or subscribe to the TidBITS podcast to have it downloaded to iTunes or your favorite podcast app automatically.)

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