Like many of you I get a lot of email, and like many of you I often struggle to keep up with it in the context of everything else that is going on. Recently I have been trying a few little experiments in adjusting my email workflow to see if I can be more productive. I am seeing some good results and just wanted to share a few small changes I have made that have impacted my workflow in the interests of them possibly being useful for you too:

  • Using the GMail web interface – I back-end all my mail in GMail and traditionally use IMAP to access it via the default email client in Ubuntu (e.g. Thunderbird). While I love Thunderbird and Evolution, unfortunately GMail IMAP access is a touch slower than I would like (I have talked to Chris Coulson about this issue in Thunderbird who has looked into it) and the small delay in loading messages makes the email experience feel a little less sleek. Using GMail directly removes this slight lag, and it has made the email experience feel more satisfying (obviously for those of you who don’t have this lag, such as POP users, should be fine). Importantly, if you use GMail too, check out the GMail labs split pane view which makes GMail act like a traditional email client; I find that it makes GMail useful for me as opposed to the traditional view.
  • Top posting – I realized recently how anal I am about laying out my messages and replies. I hit reply, say hi to the person, respond inline, make sure there is space between my response and the quoted text, add my name etc. For most 1-on-1 conversations this level of layout is not really needed (although on mailing lists I still bottom post), and just hitting reply and typing without all this laying out makes email feel so much more efficient.
  • Don’t star mails to reply to – my traditional email workflow is that I wake up in the morning, grab my tablet, and while I wake up I read my email and star all the mails I need to respond to. I then grab breakfast, do all my calls, and then get to the starred emails to respond to. Instead of starring I experimented by marking emails unread that I need to reply to. For some reason this makes the urgency of replying more amplified in my head. I think that I just don’t like seeing unread emails, and it flips a psychological bit that makes me want to reply to them quicker as opposed to starring and my email just being another list of things to tend to. I know sounds a little strange, but this small change also affects how I handle my email.

Of course, while these things work for me, many of these won’t be of interest or work for you folks, but some may, and I just wanted to share them. I am sure there are lots of little tweaks to your own email workflow that you have found useful, and I would love to hear them in the comments. Happy emailing!

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