Double the Value of the Email You Send

Here’s an easy way to double your email value: Wait 5 minutes before sending.

That’s it.

That’s enough time to come up with one more idea that you could include in your original email. Time enough to fix a typo. And time enough to see if someone else has already responded to the same question (in cases of multiple cc’d emails).

How does this double your efficiency? By making the emails people receive from you twice as valuable. If you could cut the number of emails you sent in half, but make the ones you do send more valuable, the people who receive email from you will find your emails twice as valuable.

Also, within that 5-minute time window, think to yourself, “Will everyone receiving this email find it valuable?” If not, remove people from the cc field or don’t send the email at all.

Respecting your reader’s time makes your email (and you) more valuable.

Gmail Archive – The Least Understood Button

Gmail’s archive feature is likely the least understood button found on Gmail’s navigation. What exactly does archive mean?

Archive does not mean “backup” or some other form off off-site storage. It also doesn’t mean that it files things away in hard to reach areas.

What Archive does to: It moves email out of your inbox. That’s it.

Archived email is still immediately available using Gmail’s search function or by clicking the All Mail button. The beauty of Archive is that it hides emails that you have processed. Once you’re read an email, or read & responded to an email, clicking the archive button will save the email (or conversation) OUTSIDE of your inbox.

Once you’re done with emails, stop looking at them. Turn your inbox into a place for pending issues ONLY.

My persona workflow: Read, Reply, Archive. Process, then hide.

Checking Email While on Vacation

Randy Salas’ latest Technobabble column for the Minneapolis StarTribune called Technobabble takes a look at disconnecting while on vacation. It includes a few quotes from some guy named Ed Kohler who hops on his email from cyber cafes while in foreign countries:

Can we take a vacation from e-mail?

The first time I tried to contact Ed Kohler, the Twin Cities tech guru was traveling in Argentina over the winter holidays. My communiqué concerned business matters — his expertise as the executive producer of Eden Prairie-based TechnologyEvangelist.com — but he dutifully replied within two days of my e-mailing him to let me know he was on vacation.

Like many Americans, Kohler can’t seem to get away from work while he’s on vacation. Technology won’t let him, not when anyone can be reached by cell phone or when laptop computers can access the Internet from hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide.

Read on for more on my take on this issue.

What’s your position on checking email while on vacation? Do you check your work email? Personal email?

What about cell phones? The last two international vacations I took solved my cell phone addiction while I was there since my CDMA phone didn’t work in Croatia or Argentina. Do you keep your ringer on for all-important calls while supposedly getting away from it all?

Xobni is One Impressive Email Tool

TechCrunch20 (or 40) had tons of impressive companies present, but the one the really jumped off the page for me was Xobni. They have created a new email platform that creates significant value without asking anything more from users. That’s a killer combination.

VentureBeat has a great write-up where this snippet that got me interested:

The sidebar profile gives you an overview a person’s email habits (for example, when they are most likely up and doing their most correspondence, according to past usage), their phone numbers, how they rank in terms of frequency of correspondence, past conversations (in threaded form), and files exchanged.

When I read that, I thought about Google Reader’s Trends reporting where I can learn about where my time is being spent reading RSS feeds. The Trends reporting has been extraordinarily valuable for me by pointing out feeds that were taking up a disproportionate amount of my time without providing equivalent value. After purging a few of those, I made room for some new feeds that have more than made up for the loss.

The power in Trends is I didn’t have to do anything to create the data. Simply using the application generated the trends that became actionable in aggregate.

So, how can this be done with email? First of all, why hasn’t it been done already? I can’t think of an email program to date that allows me to view reports on who’s sending me the most emails, who sends me the most email I delete without reading? Who sends me the most email that I respond to?

This is the type of reporting that would help me make better use of email. For example, if I noticed that I never bother to read frequent flier updates from airlines, maybe I’d get around to unsubscribing from them? It would probably become glaringly obvious that I should if I saw a report showing that I’ve deleted 90%+ or them without opening them.

Enter Xobni, a Boston based Y Combinator funded company that appears to be tackling this very problem. They’ve figured out a way to provide trend reporting, rank your email relationships, generate threaded conversations, pull data such as phone numbers form email signatures so you don’t have to actively update your address book, among other giant leaps in email management.

The software currently runs as a sidebar within Outlook, providing a much needed enhancement to the popular email client. I’m not an Outlook user, but for that crowd, this should be a hugely popular add-on.

My hope is that Xobni raised the bar for all email providers with the launch of this new form of email processing. Surely Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft will add similar features to their web based email platforms over time.