A friend recently shared a picture of 2 email inboxes, the right side was with a notification ticker of a couple of thousand unread messages, the left side, zero.

His question was: which one are you?

My two cents on the matter was as follows:

Five (and a bit) Rules for Asynchronous Communication.

In my opinion, Email is a historically excellent, but currently very outdated technology for asynchronous communication.

It lacks many things but mainly:

  • Context (To which of the above 5 questions is she answering Yes to?)
  • Directional time flow (are you really asking me to spend 15 minutes finding which of the badly formatted Hebrew to English and back again from multiple peoples phone email clients is the first discussion item?)
  • Current Progress State (What was the RE. RE. RE. What do you think title even about in the first place and where is it holding now?)

I try as much as possible to avoid communicating via email and use these five rules to determine how to communicate with others outwardly.

The last rule is how I treat my own incoming Email inbox which I try to keep as clear as possible.

  1. Any action item for the other person should be in ticket form: Jira, Monday, Trello which are systems that better manage context and progress.
  2. Any information type email longer than a couple of sentences that can benefit others should be a Wiki page or Confluence article.
  3. Any discussion or brainstorming should be a meeting in person or Zoom/Hangouts/Teams.
  4. Any short answer question or notification should be IM such as Slack/Teams/WhatsApp
  5. Anything not falling into those categories and sent as email, I view my inbox as a personal To Do list!

Then my rules for the email are as follows:

a. Does the email have an action item from me?
If yes it stays in the inbox until I’ve done the task and when done gets archived and removed from view.

b. If not? Archived immediately.

c. If it’s a notification that happens more than once and is from an automatic list, notification system or vendor I will unsubscribe or block that system.

d. If I still need it for some reason, it will get an automatic filter to send it to a folder and skip the inbox altogether.

In a nutshell, Inbox Zero is the best 😜

What’s your email rules?

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