Mail has become the rallying cry amongst those who use computers and are buried in the stuff. Once viewed as the team behind the chef in the kitchen to ensure things get down, the opposite has occurred. Mail has become this overwhelming if not chaotic caldron of the witches brew wreaking havoc on things we’re trying to do.
No Wonder Solutions are Marching to the door in What seems like Armies
There is no lack for solutions to help us with this mess. The mess is made up of unnecessary mail, advertising, promotions and in the odd case that which really helps to produce something of value.
Value can be found in that personal email looked for to relay how we’re doing. Or it can be found in critical business email that tells us where something stands. Rarely though, does it come from the slew of junk mail that makes its way to our inbox.
Some solutions to help with this mess are as bad as the problem. As an example, I’ve recently questioned a product that I’ve questioned more than once in the past realizing that it cannot help. I turn back to it at times hoping for that magic potion that will fix the problem. That product is Sandbox. The problem with Sanebox though, is it only defers dealing with that inevitable mix of mail in some fashion or another. I’ve found the delete key of particular value.
There are Better Ways to Handle that which is burning in the Kitchen
Email is actually a fabulous tool when used correctly. It is a quick way to get us useful information that can inform and in some cases delight. The original metaphor for handling our email wasn’t bad either. It’s just it was never meant for out of control, receive everything and anything someone can throw at you email.
Even in the original products, there were tools that would assist with the processing of mail. Filters, macros and operators were available that could apply logic to incoming mail sorting it so that the relevancy of the mail to us could be increased.
However, the enemy too had tools to thwart the tools and a standoff was in the making. The enemy seemed to be winning. This is why the Sanebox’s of the world stood a chance in our succumbing to the message of “inbox zero”.
Tools in the Making
A slew of email programs have been heading our way now for quite some time but the speed with which they are arriving is increasing as the demand for solutions to deal with mail in a more effective manner increases. There are a lot of IOS tools and seemingly fewer OSX solutions.
Three Approaches all meant to get control of our Mail
There are three programs that I particularly like for handling mail all defined as software products and although each one has a different slant they’re all meant to aid you in getting your mail done and arriving at that almost impossible goal of inbox zero.
Two Stand on their Own Mail Programs and one Add-on Solution
Of all the mail programs beyond Apple’s mail that I particularly like they are Dispatch and Mail Pilot. The third approach comes from Indev and Dervish software and they are both add-on products to OSX’s mail which are highly effective.
I would though, like to give a nod to Microsoft’s Office which runs on absolutely everything. In particular, I’m talking about Outlook which is an incredible client on OSX or IOS, Android and you name it.
Dispatch a way Of Triaging your Mail
The first program I would like to draw attention to and which has been recognized by some as the best email program for IOS by others is Dispatch. This is a GTD style program which for some is where they love to do their email.
It first started out as a client solely for the iPhone and has now moved to the iPad. Although the program has been around for a while it’s capabilities do not seem to whither. It is a powerful yet fun application to use when doing your mail.
It takes a very driven approach to mail in the sense that the goal is mail needs an action taken on it even if it is only to delete or archive it. The goal though is to do something with your mail or get it out of the inbox. They refer to this as triaging the mail and it is probably a very apt way of looking at how Dispatch works.
Action the Mail into Something
Dispatch helps you from numerous little angles to save time. Using Swipes you can quickly move the mail to the trash or archive. It also supports you with Snippets that are textual in nature but speed up your writing speed in say answering an email.
The most fascinating thing Dispatch does though is send your mail off to a program to create some kind of action such as a task. So Dispatch might actually send the email to your task manager, such as the Hit List or Omnifocus creating a task immediately with supporting documentation.
Dispatch supports 25 different applications and actions that can be created from those applications. It is an ingenious method for dealing with important email quickly yet with relevance.
For the most annoying of email, such as ads etc, the delete key remains your greatest friend. Dispatch though allows you to rapidly send stuff to either the trash or the archive making quick work of getting towards inbox zero.
Of all the solutions, this is the only one that works on both OSX and IOS in tandem. This program you could probably describe as the most GTD like of the bunch.
Mail Pilot views mail as either in a complete or incomplete status. The goal is to get the mail into a complete status. The idea in Mail Pilot is mail is simply items that need action taken on them. The idea is to get the mail out of the inbox in an acted on fashion.
Mail Pilot supports numerous methods of being able to act on your mail. If you don’t know what to do with a piece of mail immediately, don’t leave it in the inbox but move it to the Set Aside box. If mail is part of say a project and needs to be grouped with other mail to help make sense of that project you can create a list and put mail in the list from any source. This is much more powerful than it at first appears.
If you’ve looked at the mail and say just given a response and that’s it, tap the space bar and the mail will now be considered complete and put there. This process of simply using the space bar to go through your mail can be incredibly powerful in the speed with which you “act” on the mail.
If mail is actually more like a task, it can be treated as such. You might not want to do anything now or are not ready to do anything right here and now. In this case, assign it a reminder to reappear in your inbox in three days as an example.
Mail out of sight is out of mind cleared to allow you to think about that which is important and as David Allen says what the mind does best: create. Mail Pilot’s integration at the OSX and IOS level cannot be underestimated for the aligned flow it creates.
Dispatch or Mail Pilot
I do not believe this is an either/or nor that which is best scenario but rather which works best for you. Both solutions are excellent. In the decision as to which to use, if you were to choose one of these, you would already be ahead of the game.
The choice then boils down to your work style and that which you enjoy the most yet find to be effective. Either of these solutions will improve your interaction with mail. They both approach the problem similarly yet differently. In this case I do not believe there is a better than; just you and what works for you the best.
For the sake of brevity, I am going to touch on this one briefly. Apple’s mail has two companies that build add-on products that enhance the function of mail itself. Dervish software has a single solution piece of software called Mailhub that has some smarts built into it. This is a powerful yet simple program to use that greatly speeds up the way you act on your email. In the link provided, there is a great deal more information that explains the product and what it does
Indev, the other company I was referring to, has three highly acclaimed pieces of software that are all add-ins which greatly improve how you handle mail. They are:
- [MailTags](http://www.indev.ca/MailTags.html) - [Mail Act-On](http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/17808/mail-act-on) - [Perspectives](http://indev.ca/MailPerspectives.html)
You could go with either one of these solutions or both if you were so inclined. In the case of the Indev solution, I would get the three products. They not only improve upon the way you deal with mail they help with the organization of the mail.
Three Solutions to help keep Your Mail at Bay
email is a wonderful invention until it starts taking over your life. Then it’s not so wonderful and it can do this very easily. Merchants get your email address and suddenly your flooded with their flyers. People tend to cc you items that you don’t need to be cc’d on. Then there is legitimate email that has the answer you’ve been looking for or for the better or worse a work assignment. Regardless, much of the way we interact and exchange information is through email.
However, it is neither useful nor effective if it’s out of control and running your life. You need to be in control, ascertaining what you need or hearing from that long lost buddy you haven’t heard from in ages.
The solutions I’ve presented here are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of the need for an assist to keep order in the House of Mail. Done properly, it can be extremely rewarding and not feel so draining. Choosing any of the solutions above though are exceptional in the way they work and certainly assist in bringing order to what can feel quite chaotic. I would not worry about the approach or product you choose but rather that you use something that will help. Any cost associated with the product will be fulfilled many times over in what can essentially be referred to as your “return on your investment”.