How I Manage My Email

Evergreen topic when it comes to work, communication, and productivity.

My setup is pretty standard, and perhaps won’t apply to many people, but I thought it could be still a good one to share.

I use an email client

As I manage eight email addresses I really can’t jump from Gmail to Gmail, and importing emails from different account into a single one is just a nightmare.

My client of choice is Airmail, both on macOS and on iOS. I know there are probably better clients out there, but I’ve been using it for years and I have yet to find the time to search and setup a new one.

Inbox Zero is my daily goal

And I normally don’t call it a day if I haven’t reached it. Bear in mind, I’m privileged enough to have to do long replies fairly rarely. So at the end of the day I make sure I have read / replied / deleted / archived all the emails that needed one of those actions. Obviously this doesn’t happen everyday.

I always “Reply all” and “Send & Archive”

I don’t always have my eyes on my email. In fact, I check it during my work day with fairly large time gaps. Every time I put my eyes on my inboxes, I reply immediately to all emails that require a 30 second / 1 sentence answer.

I’m used to “reply all” because it’s the best way to make sure everyone is kept in the loop, and “send and archive” because once the last email in the conversation is mine there’s no reason to keep it in the inbox.

I don’t treat my email like a to-do list.

If something needs to stay in the email as a reminder, the content ends up in a personal Trello board and the email gets archived.

The only reason why an email stays in the inbox is that it requires a reply that can’t be written and sent immediately.

Email notifications

At Human Made we have a bunch of internal websites we use for important discussions (see my 7 Tips to use Slack effectively, second tip). I constantly tweak and optimise what I want to see in my email from those—some sites don’t affect my work, so I don’t get notified. Some do, marginally, so I get notified only for posts. Other sites are important to me, so I get notifications for posts and comments.

Every time I get subscribed to a new GitHub repo I click the unwatch link if it doesn’t affect my work. The link is in the email notification you receive when you get subscribed, so in case you didn’t notice it please consider clicking it straight away otherwise you’ll get flooded with ticket notifications you don’t care about.

Newsletters

I use only one personal email address to aggregate the handful of non-work newsletters I receive—news briefings, which I read in the morning, hobby-related stuff, which I read in the late afternoon.

I don’t filter / label / snooze / use the importance marker.

Too much work. Email for me is simple: it’s all about reading, replying, deleting, archiving.

Curious to see if you have something you could share!

Send better emails with SCRAP

Over the last few months I’ve been talking about writing quite often. One of the main takeaways I normally convey is this: you should (almost) never start from a blank page. Always, always have a clear structure first.

Templates usually help, and I have several of those for all the kinds of write-ups I regularly do. When it’s time to send a business email, whether I know the recipient or not, I usually try structuring the text using the SCRAP model.

What does SCRAP stand for?

A message that’s been put together according to the SCRAP formula has these ingredients, in this exact order:

Situation: where we’re at right now.
Complication: the problem that needs to be dealt with.
Resolution: your proposed way to fix the problem.
Action: the action you want the reader to take (a click, or even a simple answer).
Politeness: the end, on a friendly note.

Here’s a simple example. Alex and Sam are two random people who briefly met at a meetup. In this email, Sam is doing a classic networking follow-up and the SCRAP model fits perfectly:

Hey Alex,

Lovely to meet you yesterday at the Product meetup! Glad we were able to chat before the schedule got underway.  ➡️ SITUATION

I remember you mentioned [CHALLENGE], which is far too common in our industry. ➡️ COMPLICATION

Since that’s exactly what our team does, I’d be really happy to have a chat with you and explore ways to work together. ➡️ RESOLUTION

It would be great to schedule a Skype call earlier next week. Does Monday 10AM work for you? ➡️ ACTION

Looking forward to hearing from you. ➡️ POLITENESS

Cheers!

Sam

Why does it work?

As a template, it works by default—it gives you a framework with five content blocks to fill, so that you can create a first version quickly and painlessly. As a message, it’s short and to the point, and prompts the recipient to perform the intended action.