Email the Greatest Social Network When You Use the Latest Tools

NEWS ANALYSIS: In the past year, much maligned, old fashioned email has been gaining some amazing abilities that help reduce inbox clutter, increase productivity.

Modern Email Tools 2

People trash-talk email a lot these days. If you accept the conventional wisdom, email is old, bloated, full of spam and yesterday's way to communicate. Instead, we all have better alternatives like Slack, WhatsApp, Snapchat and a hundred others.

But this favoritism is misguided. Worse, email's bad reputation exists for one spectacularly bad reason.

Based on my own informal poll, and also scanning the Web for email complaints, I've come to the conclusion that the anti-email animus stems from the fact that people lose control of their inboxes.

We can't keep up with the overwhelming and constant influx of emails and so it becomes a source of pain and suffering. Worse, because people fear that important messages will be lost in an inbox black hole, they check email frequently, which further raises anxiety, according to a scientific study.

As a result, people avoid email, and go off into walled-garden communication platforms that are massively inferior. For example, Slack fans brag that everybody's on Slack. Some 2.3 million people now use Slack. That's impressive -- until you consider that 2.5 billion people still use email.

That's like a thousand Slacks. Snapchat messages go away, so it doesn't make you feel overwhelmed. But that's a terrible solution to the problem. You can’t search for data in your Snapchat history. It's not integrated into anything. And hardly anybody over the age of 30 uses it.

A bloated inbox makes us feel bad. But that’s not a good reason to hate it. It's a good reason to embrace the "zero inbox" movement, where you have nothing in your inbox at least once a day. And zero inbox has never been easier to achieve. If everyone could only solve that one problem, we could all enjoy the myriad benefits of the world's greatest social network.

So let's solve the problem right now and understand the awesome benefits of doing email right. I'm going to tell you exactly how to achieve zero inbox every day, and also review some of the fantastic new skills and abilities email has acquired in recent months.

Three rules for achieving zero inbox

Achieving zero inbox is about the journey, not the destination. Three simple daily practices result in zero inbox.

1. Treat every email as a problem to solve. Every email you send or receive should be based if possible on the intention of reducing email. Think about how you might craft every email to prevent a time-wasting back-and-forth. Telling people they don't need to reply is one good trick

When you receive an email, it's easy to just click or swipe it away. Instead, try to prevent that email from recurring. If it's spam, mark it as spam. If it's a newsletter, unsubscribe or use your rules or filters to auto-file into a designated folder.

I'll tell you below about a powerful service for easy unsubscribing. Also use rules or filters to make some email types skip the inbox. Some messages contain information you might need later but don't need to see now and those are perfect for skipping the inbox.

This rule consumes more time in the short run but saves a lot of time in the long run.

2. Use Google Inbox if you can. Google Inbox is the best email app or site out there, in my opinion. It's a smarter, better front end for Google's Gmail. Most people don't like Google Inbox at first, but stick with it and you'll probably end up loving it.

Google Inbox lets you procrastinate with email, which is necessary for achieving zero inbox status and which is really handy for giving yourself easy reminders. You can tell messages to come back at a specific time and date, or something like "next week" or "tomorrow." You can set up the times of day to which it defaults. And you can even snooze email to come back when you're in a specific location. I even set up stores as snooze locations, so I can have a shopping list when I get there.