• Inbox Zero

    I suggested in another post that you go away to a desert island for a week and come back to face the barbarian horde that is your weekly email delivery.

    Gettting-To-Zero

    Add this horde to the mass of missives that you already have kept, and soon your inbox is so big that it is actually slowing your computer down.

    The instinctive answer to this is to delete all the mail on the basis that any important ones will probably get sent again.

    I do believe that this approach has its merits, but some of the downsides can be severe – all of my bosses would have taken a dim view of it for a start.

    The accepted measure to demonstrate one’s brilliance and mastery of email is “inbox zero”.

    Inbox zero is what it sounds like, it is the state of having an empty inbox.

    When you assess the inbox is up to you, but the aim is to have a time each day where you reach the point that your inbox is completely empty.

    A point where every piece of correspondence that has been sent to you has been ‘actioned’.

    _40916095_allen_cigarette203bbcThis approach is often credited to David Allen.

    I admit to being amazed the Irish TV wit who sat on a stool, cigarette in hand making people laugh in the 70s and 80s had time to write books on productivity.

    Turns out to be a different Dave Allen.

    This one designed the Get Things Done (GTD) approach to productivity.

    The theory is that I look at my Inbox and act on every mail.

    I reply, delegate, delete or schedule. Each choice moves the message out of the inbox.

    GTD is alarmingly trendy.

    But that notwithstanding, there is something to it. If you feel that you are working for email rather than the other way around, have a look at “Get Things Done”.

    I am now pretty much perpetually at Inbox zero.

    How?

    1. I use Gmail. In my experience, Google have been the most competent provider at keeping spam out of my inbox.

    2. I use Gmail. When in doubt, don’t delete – archive. That way, you can always find the mail with a google search of your ‘All Mail’ folder.

    It works. It makes the decision making process faster. Knowing that if I ditch a mail too hastily, I can recover it simply and easily.

    3. Once at my desk, I take a few minutes to unsubscribe from email lists.

    4. I manage mail from all my devices. I can therefore triage my inbox from anywhere.

    Waiting for a meeting/bus/coffee? Whip the phone out, and go through the inbox…delete, archive, delete, snooze, reply, add to list and so on. I use a client called Mailbox that gives me these options.

    I might not get through the whole inbox in one go – but through the day, I will have dealt with most unimportant email during spare minutes.

    5. Turn notifications off. I look at email when I want to. I am not at its command. We all have enough to do without responding to beeps and whistles.

    Are you the boss of your Inbox?

  • Email. Friend or Foe?

    MailboxLogo+Wordmark_Vertical_BLUEEmail. It’s all about making things easier and more efficient.

    Isn’t it?

    Incidentally, I am talking with some smart people. They will redesign this blog to separate the various flavours of nonsense that I write.

    More on that another time, but if you have no interest in productivity or IT, stop reading now.

    I have posted, well, whinged about Email clients in a couple of other posts. Here and here.

    The essence is this: I want to have an email client that sits on my Mac, my iPad and my iPhone and that plays nice with my Gmail and syncs perfectly.

    Why?

    Over the last 10 years, far from making me more efficient, email has become the biggest single drag on my time and productivity.

    Email has become a barbarian horde. Honestly. It has.

    Go away to a desert island for a week.

    Come back and turn your computer on; instantly there are hundreds, thousands even, of emails waiting for your attention.

    How I am trying to manage this, I am going to put into a separate post, as this one is getting longer and longer.

    I have tried a lot of different clients and come across some brilliant apps. There are literally thousands of email clients. Many of them however are designed for specific devices.

    Handle for example is a cracking wee app for the iPhone. However, it doesn’t have a big brother for the Mac and it wants to be in charge of the calendar, which is a whole new kettle of fish.

    Inbox by Google is great on iPhone and iPad. Again, there is no version for the Mac.

    I thought that I had found the answer with Mail Pilot, but alas the apps were not syncing; so mails kept reappearing. The exact opposite of what I am trying to achieve.

    I wrote here before that Mail Pilot had not responded to my anguished request for help. I was hasty. I received this;

    Hi Stuart,

    Sorry for the delayed reply. Sometimes after initially installing, the apps can take some time to synchronize. Has this issue resolved?
    Thanks!
    -Josh

    Co-founder + COO

    I have gone back explaining that it got resolved after three days by my not using it anymore – but as yet, no further reply.

    I have now settled on a mail client that I had used for a while a year ago. Mailbox

    The app on the iPad and iPhone is simply brilliant.

    The one for the Mac is strictly speaking still a ‘Beta’ which is a version in testing. It is pretty good too, if a little prone to the occasional ‘moment’ or crash, as I believe a ‘moment’ should properly be called.

    Firstly, I should point out that if you want to manage email from work; that probably comes off an Exchange server and Mailbox is not for you (at the moment). Exchange is not supported.

    Mailbox allows me to defer mails, so that they disappear from my inbox and return at appointed times. It allows me to archive or delete instantly, or to add a mail to a ‘list’.

    The app syncs across my devices seamlessly. It is a joy to use, on touch screens in particular. Swipe here, swipe there – all done.

    It is a really intuitive piece of kit, that for now at least, lives on all of my machines.

    The company behind Mailbox was snapped up by DropBox before the app was on the market.

    Online support is thus far excellent and I have had no crash problems.

    As this post sat in my drafts folder awaiting my approval, the developers issued new releases of the Mac client. Three in quick succession.

    Crashes left, right and centre.

    However, it is encouraging to see the app improving and becoming more stable.

    I am hopeful that it will soon be a full blown version. Check it out here.

  • Wow! Google listened.

    Alphabet Logo

    Only a few short weeks ago, I implored the IT Giants to Grow UP and suddenly Google is setting up a new top company.

    What power I now wield.

    Alas, I suspect that my little rant went unnoticed as Google was planning its next stage of global conquest.

    Even though Google have been busy with other things, here, my quest for efficiency and productivity has continued.

    I seek an email client that works across all of my devices, in the same fashion, so that I can seamlessly transition from one device to another and thereby be truly mobile.

    Productive – checking email, even while trying to avoid my nose being pressed into the raised armpit of the man next to me by the crush of a rush-hour tube. Geek Nirvana.

    Since my last update – I have been through several more configurations trying to get Apple and Google to play nice.

    I won’t bore you with all of the permutations that I tried – suffice it to say that I probably funded the legal costs of Google’s latest move through the purchase of apps.

    One particularly exciting setup was with a little thing called Mail Pilot.

    There it was – an email client that is G-mail-friendly (YES!), that would work on a Mac, on an iPad and on an iPhone (YES! YES!), that would seamlessly sync (YES! YES! YES!) and was designed to operate an Inbox zero approach. (YES! YES! YES! I daresay that you get the idea)

    I installed the app on the Mac – and played around with it. Encouraging.

    I put it onto the iPad and iPhone. All right. Pretty good too.

    After a couple of days, I became more convinced that mails that I had dealt with on the phone or iPad were reappearing on the computer.

    In the tried and tested method held sacred by all IT folk – I uninstalled everything, turned all the hardware off, had a cup of tea, turned the hardware back on again, reinstalled the software and had another look. The only thing that I did not do, was send myself a hefty invoice.

    Despite the employment of high powered IT consultancy as described above, the applications were not synchronising correctly. Not good news.

    I decided to bring out the big guns. I looked for written instructions.

    Shocking.

    I know.

    But still no progress.

    Time for the nuclear option.

    I contacted the developer.

    Yes. I can confirm. I am a male and I did ask for directions.

    Humbling and humiliating.

    However, to my immense satisfaction – I can report that I was right all along. There is never any point in asking for directions.

    The slimy little toe-rags have not replied.

    So, I am doing the IT equivalent of driving around and around until I fall upon the required destination through a process of dogged determination.

  • IT Giants. Grow Up!

    imac27_imac21_photos_print-100595823-gallery

    (Image taken from MacWorld)

    I love IT. I love technology. I love gadgets.

    The problem is, that generally I only have a vague idea of how to use any of them.

    To my wife’s constant annoyance, the house is littered with IT kit that is rarely or poorly used.

    We have thousands of TV channels in multiple languages, On Demand, and a very swish Blueray player. All completely unnecessary to watch the BBC News.

    I am writing this post on my IPad mini. Later, I might revisit it on my MacBook Air, or possibly on my IMac. Should any of you call me, I will answer on my IPhone 6.

    Really.

    I need to find a support group.

    It turns out that there is one. There are more of us. IT ‘early adopters’ with the technical know-how of a turnip.

    We are the main readership of several prominent blogs like LifeHacker, T3 and Imore to name a few of my favourites.

    We voraciously consume post after post on how to be more efficient, or on what fantastic new app is going to revolutionise our workflow (whatever a workflow might be).

    We read in awe as proper ‘techies’ exchange views on the relative merits of IFTTT versus Pushbullet.

    In the tech world, there are three IT Giants that control pretty much everything. Apple, Google and Microsoft.

    In a gross over-simplification, Apple make amazing hardware, Google is king of the Internet and Microsoft keeps big business running.

    About five years ago, I became an Apple ‘Fanboi’. The IPhone was my gateway hardware, and apart from a brief dalliance with a Dell – I have been an Apple junkie ever since.

    Then I discovered that for email – the real deal comes from the mighty Google. I can get all of the amazing functionality of G-mail but in my own imaginatively named domain (stuartlennon.com).

    gmail

    The drawback of Gmail is that really smart people at Google cannot, for the life of them, work out why I would want to keep my email anywhere, other than on their servers.

    So, Gmail doesn’t play nice with email clients that look to organise email on your own machine. Clients like Outlook for example.

    Microsoft have done OK with software.

    There’s a thing called Windows that has kind of done OK and their office suite (including Outlook) is almost universal.

    MS Outlook Logo

    So, right now – my dream team would be G-mail integrated with Outlook on Apple Hardware.

    Microsoft have now released a Microsoft Outlook that plays nice with Apple.

    Hurrah!

    But Microsoft and Google?

    No. We are not playing nice with them on computers. On tablets, Yes. On phones, Yes.

    But on computers?

    No.

    Outlook won’t play nice with Gmail on a Mac and I want something that works across all my devices.

    I still can’t have it.

    The IT company that comes out on top is not going to be the smartest or the most aggressive.

    It is going to be the one that listens to consumers.