How to find and send emails (without going into your email inbox):

“I’m having trouble keeping up with my inbox,” a friend wrote on Facebook, asking for email tricks and tools people loved.

I use a ton of email productivity measures, and I always forget that we all have vastly different habits and routines. Here are a few philosophies, notes, and scripts that are worth bookmarking to make your life easier.

Slow down and send less

I find the less email I send, the less I get. I also don’t mind if it takes 2–3 weeks (or longer) to respond to things. As I train people to know that email is a slow way to get ahold of me, it works out well.

Email is other people putting urgent things on your to-do list.

Time batch

I use Pomodoros to cycle through emails and either do 25 minutes or 50 minutes in the morning a few days a week. The goal of a session is to cycle through all the messages and identify the urgent and important ones and delete the rest.

It took a while, but I have no problem actively deleting anything that isn’t on my list or agenda right now (especially if it doesn’t come with an introduction, or the request isn’t a thoughtful consideration of time).

Then I star things according to urgency: red is now, yellow is soon, blue needs information. I make tasks for things in my Asana that need more lengthy follow-up, and I use a chrome tablet or links to search specifically for that message so I don’t drown inside of an inbox unnecessarily.

If you’re a Gmail user, try these scripts:

Also, I have two scripts I LOVE to use when I need to use my inbox during in the day, but don’t want to get lost in it. They’re fairly easy to implement (all you have to do is copy the code and save it as a bookmark), so you don’t need any fancy tools to make these awesome changes to your browser:

#1: Search for a message without opening your inbox

For the dorks among us, here is the script for a gmail ‘search’ button. To make it work, add it as a bookmark in your browser — just copy this code below (no spaces before/after) and add it as a bookmark for running a distraction-free search:

javascript:var search=prompt(“Search Gmail for…”);window.open(“https://mail.google.com/mail/#search/”+search);

For best results, add a label called “Search” and add it to your bookmark bar. Then, when you click, it’ll pop up a distraction-free window that lets you search for the message you need without seeing any new messages in your inbox.

#2: Compose a gmail message without opening your inbox

You can do the same thing with composing an email without going directly to your inbox. I use this script:

https://mail.google.com/mail/?view=cm&fs=1&tf=1

Which pulls up a full-screen compose window without any information about my inbox. Freedom! No distraction! Add it as a bookmark and use these instead of navigating to an inbox for every message you need to find or send a message.

Lastly, my go-to response:

Also, my go-to response that’s unbeatable is

Thanks so much, now’s not a good time for me. If you want to circle back in a few months, we can try again then.”

This keeps my next 2–3 months very clear of unnecessary clutter, and 90% of the time people (sadly) don’t follow up. If I’m not that important anymore, great.

Sigh.

Email peace.

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Huge kudos to Mattan Griffel for teaching me these email tricks (and more!) about productivity and pomodoros. Our work together at One Month this past year has been like an MBA in the making. Also, thanks to Victor Mathieux for prompting the conversation in the first place.


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