Email gets a bad rap. I’ve attacked it myself. The thing is, the more I’ve thought about it and experimented the more I still think that email has a big part to play in working life and in any organization or freelancer’s digital toolkit. One big question is exactly what platform / app to use and how to to organize yourself.
Email gets a bad rap because it’s used badly, not really because it’s a terrible means of communication. If you use a hammer to beat eggs it isn’t going to end well, is it?
In terms of what email can offer, it is hub for communication. It’s usually thought of as an in tray. But it’s for all sorts of things, not just communication from colleagues or clients, so not really like that plastic stack of trays on your desk at all.
Using a digital to analogue metaphor, it’s a letter box. But not just for letters, for magazines, newspapers and leaflets through the door.
In a digital format, these can be daily or weekly summaries from other tools such as Twitter or Pocket and a space for notifications if you don’t want them to intrude when you aren’t working or just want to focus on something.
I have gradually been organizing my working toolkit so that nothing bothers me unless I am prepared to be interrupted. I filter a lot of things to email and then I will process, sort and filter. There’s lots of advice out there.
Get a strategy: Go inbox zero. Or just don’t worry about it.
Email can easily be ignored for a bit, just turn off notifications, log out, switch off or whatever. And don’t check it first thing in the morning. Get something else done first.
I actually miss the days when I had a Google dashboard, or whatever it was called, on which I had a widget for email, an RSS feed reader (Google Reader) and other feeds coming into that space. Despite spending a lot of time messing around with apps and tools for PKM and general online activity and productivity, I haven’t managed to find anything that works in a similar way, in one place. If you know of something, let me know.
As for e-newsletters, I enjoy having an email pop into my inbox a few times a week which lets me skim through and look for links to interesting articles or links to products, digital or otherwise, that I’m seeing for the first time or being reminded of .
The thing is, these newsletters are curated by someone carefully so that they are offering a good experience. I follow these people because I trust that a lot of the time their newsletter will be interesting and they will share things that I want to be made aware of.
Try some out.
I think that many people are of the opinion, perhaps from previous experience, that newsletters can be spammy and too focused on selling you something. But not all of them are at all. In general, most people will be directly or indirectly using the newsletter to promote something, but you don’t have to pay or sign up for anything else and can opt out easily enough if you end up finding a particular newsletter unsatisfactory.
If after a couple of weeks you find that there isn’t much content in there that interests you, then unsubscribe. It’s easy to stay on top of this, because you will get a weekly email and can simply open it, scroll to the bottom and click ‘unsubscribe’. Job done.
So while you’re reading or browsing, watch out for opportunities to sign up for newsletters and give it a go.
Some that I’m currently subscribed to are:
“devoted to helping you develop an understanding of how the world really works, make better decisions, and live a better life.”
“a hand-picked selection of apps, accessories, and thought-provoking stuff to read, watch, and listen, but also mix in other compelling, inspirational, and fun material.”
“…thoughtful ideas on how to find more creativity and meaning in your daily work. It’s smart, actionable, and useful.”
For mac users interested in productivity apps and tools, tips and tricks: “an email with a few of the highlights from the site. These include any new app reviews, workflow articles, interviews, quick tips, and other things that we’ve posted.”
US-based site for freelancers, but useful tips regardless of where you are.