How I work: Email

09 Sep 2023 in Odds and Ends

Depending on who you ask, I’m excellent with email, or terrible with email. I don’t let it run my life, and process my (work) inbox every 2-3 days.

My review process has four steps: triage, unsubscribe, respond and prioritise.

  1. Triage: Read all unread emails in my inbox with the search is:unread in:inbox.
  2. If there are emails that I don’t want to receive (e.g. cold outreach) I create a filter based on the sender so that it doesn’t land in my inbox
  3. Things that take 2 minutes to answer are responded to immediately. Otherwise they’re labelled (not starred - more on this later) for action later
  4. Finally, I go through my labelled items and import them in to Sunsama to be scheduled alongside my other work.

The Klinger email method

I’ve been using a multiple inbox setup from Andreas Klinger for years. Having a main inbox, then separate inboxes for high/medium priority emails allowed me to keep on top of things that I needed to do.

Go and read the Klinger email method now

However, since I started using Sunsama my inbox is no longer the source of truth for what I need to do. Instead, it’s an input in to my Sunsama plan.

Pain Points

The Klinger method is great, but it isn’t perfect. I have two big complaints, and they both have to do with the use of custom stars.

  1. The mobile gmail app only supports star/unstar, not custom stars
  2. Sunsama only support starred/unstarred, which meant I lost my high/medium priority differentiation

To work around this issue, I created two labels: priority/high and priority/medium. I use these for my custom inboxes instead of the red and yellow bang stars from the Klinger method. This allows me to set priorities on mobile, and filter to specific priorities within Sunsama.

The real game changer for me was when I learned that you can customise label colours. Click on the three dots next to the label name in the sidebar and choose a label colour. I chose red for high priority and yellow for medium priority. The colours help these emails stand out when I’m scrolling through my inbox.

Sunsama Integration

Finally, it’s time to look at my Sunsama workflow for emails. I review emails tagged with priority/high or priority/medium on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I start with priority/high and schedule work on those emails until the list is empty. Once there are no more remaining, I start working through priority/medium emails. When the email is imported in to Sunsama, the priority label is removed automatically which makes Sunsama the source of truth.

Email is one of my lowest priority task sources. I’ll always pull from Slack and GitHub before working through my email task backlog. However, everything that comes in via email does eventually need doing so pulling them in to Sunsama is important.