Email is Awesome.

Seriously, I’m getting tired of the notion that email is “ripe for disruption”.

Why?  Because email was invented more than 30 years ago?  It’s old, therefore it’s broken?  I don’t follow that logic.  In fact, a 30+ year old technology that is used more today than ever before shows how brilliantly useful it is.

The other common “problem” we hear is that we get too much email and don’t have a way to manage it all. This is essentially saying, everybody loves to send emails but nobody loves receiving them.  I have yet to see an “email-killer” that solves this so-called “problem”.  Seems to me, it comes down making some personal decisions as to when you choose to check email and how soon you choose to reply.  This is what we call, time management.

Is email ripe for disruption?  I don’t think so.  Email works perfectly fine.  No.  Actually…

Email is Awesome.

Here’s why:

  • An email is as short or as long as you want it to be.  Have a quick question?  Shoot off a one sentence email.  Need to explain your side of a story?  Take time to craft a multi-paragraph email, explaining your points with clarity.  Meetings, phone calls, tweets, SMS, and IM’s can’t deliver the versatility that email can.
  • Email is the most reliable way to reach me.  If you call me and I don’t recognize the number, chances are I won’t pick up.  If you leave me a message on Skype, I won’t get it until the next time I log in (not often).  Facebook messages don’t reach me for months.  If you email me, it gets to me.  Period.  I think this is true for most people.
  • Search.  We can search conversations by keyword going back years (if not decades).  This has been a lifesaver for me many times.
  • Email is the glue that integrates our applications into our lives.  Virtually every social application relies on email notifications to keep users updated.  Some find these annoying (that’s why apps have email preferences) and some are critical.
  • Email marketing isn’t dead.  If you think it is, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Advancements like folders, labels, canned responses, priority inbox, threaded conversations, attachment reminders, virtually unlimited cloud storage, push notifications and more.  Email continues to be improved and innovated upon.

Let’s face it.  None of us can imagine our lives without email.

That’s not to say that reading and processing email isn’t a massive time-suck.  It is a necessary part of both business and personal life in the twenty-first century.

Here are a few ways I make email more manageable in my life:

  • Unsubsrcibe.  There’s a reason every newsletter has that button at the bottom.  If you don’t want it, get yourself off the list.
  • I have 5 different email addresses.  One for personal email (I only give this address to friends/family) and the others for each of my separate businesses.  Gmail allows switching between multiple accounts, which I find very useful.
  • Prioritize email accounts.  Of my 5 email accounts, I only check 2 of them (my 2 primary business emails) multiple times per day.  Personal email and my side business emails are lower priorities, so I only check those a handful of times per week.
  • “Show Unread First”.  I haven’t caught on to the “mark as important” feature in Gmail.  But the “Show unread first” feature is perfect for me.  Makes reading and scanning much faster.
  • When necessary, cut the small talk.  I used to feel bad about omitting the “Hi Name,” greeting at the start of every email.  I’ve come to terms with sending quick responses that are just a few words long.  Having the “Sent from iPhone” appended at the end helps smooth things over 🙂
  • Weekends are mine, all mine!  On Saturday and Sundays, I choose which emails deserve my attention.  Basically, if it’s not related to something I enjoy, I probably won’t respond until Monday.  My policy is all email requests receive a response within 1 business day.  Weekend responses are optional.

So yeah.  Email works.  Now let’s go find real problems that need solving.

  • I absolutely agree with you on your points, especially ‘Search’. Keyword/label/filter searching in Gmail is an invaluable tool I use every day. In a few keystrokes, I can do a keyword search on a specific label in the trash or sent or starred buckets. I can’t do that with Twitter and Facebook searching your own posts is an absolute joke in terms of usability.

    I also have 5+ email addresses, though I’m a big fan of pulling in multiple addresses (up to 5 I think) into a single Gmail account. Sure, I have separate Gmail accounts for various purposes, but being able to corral multiple domain emails all together is fantastic.

    My point is really that I heavily rely on email and if somebody is trying to create the “next best thing” to replace it, they have to be able to take what is out there, improve on it and convince me there’s a better way to do it. Haven’t seen one yet.

    • Brian Casel

      Yup, and convince the rest of the world to use it too. Kind of a tough task.

      I’m surprised at how crappy Twitter search is.

  • Your article is awesome, Brian. Now, how do I forward this post to my inbox so that I can bookmark, read later or pass it to someone else? :)- jk.