In a recent First Round Review article, former Google President of Enterprise Apps Dave Girouard voiced the importance of speed in making decisions. “Deciding on when a decision will be made from the start is a profound, powerful change that will speed everything up.” I believe this statement is broadly true, and no where else is it more tangible for me than in managing daily email. After all, what is responding to email other than a thousand decisions?
Our inboxes aren’t in our control. Which emails arrive, when they arrive, we can’t determine. We do control how we engage with email, but I find it’s easy for me to fall into the abyss of treating emails as a task list. Without a good discipline, email overruns my day.
There’s a concept from computer engineering called LIFO which stands for last in, first out. LIFO captures this mentality beautifully. Most email UIs frame the situation in a LIFO queue: the last message received is the first one to receive a response, even if it may not merit the priority. For years, I treated email as a LIFO queue. With this workflow, I found it impossible to get to the bottom of my inbox and be effective.
Until I found the email snooze button.
Like its alarm clock cousin, the email snooze button delays the interruption. Email snooze removes an email from the inbox until a later date and time.
When opening an email, the first question I ask myself is “when do I need to answer this?” If immediately, then I reply. Otherwise, I snooze the email until I need to respond. And then my inbox is clear. So is my mind, because I’m focusing on the things that matter now.