One of the most consistent email productivity tips is that you should ignore e-mail, turn it off, and only check it at specific times during the day. (Otherwise you just become a trained monkey, chained to your inbox.) But how do you do that?
For someone that does a lot of actual work via e-mail, turning it off completely or not looking at it isn’t an option. And while there are extensions that can “pause” new e-mails coming into your inbox (or at least you seeing them), I haven’t seen any that worked well or that I trusted.
But there is a simple, super-magic productivity button in the new Google Inbox that does exactly that, the “pinned” toggle. So when you switch this:
Suddenly the only e-mails you see are the ones that you have selected as action items. Any new e-mail to your inbox is hidden, because you haven’t “pinned” it yet. Each of your pinned e-mails can also have a short description of what the task is, in case the sender wasn’t as explicit as they should have been. Slide that toggle, and you have your e-mail todo list laid out before you. You can also add todo list items (reminders) directly that aren’t attached to any e-mail, but show up in the normal & pinned lists.
When I was at Google, I was a very early tester of a previous version of this new Inbox, absolutely loved it, and am so happy it finally got rolled out. At least for me, e-mail is a todo list, and the new Google Inbox has these simple tools to both treat e-mail as a todo list and become MUCH in dealing with that list. I just keep my e-mail in the “pinned” state for the vast majority of the day, making my way through the todos, and un-pinning/triaging only occasionally.
All of that said, I can’t wait for Spatch to launch. Spatch is a Techstars London ’14 Spring company that’s re-thinking e-mail, and making structural changes to e-mail that can turn e-mail into a real productive tool. (All while keeping it backward-compatible for e-mail users that don’t use Spatch.) If you care about e-mail and productivity you owe it to yourself to also sign up for Spatch.
PS — If you’d like a Google Inbox invite, drop me your details in the comments below. [UPDATE]: It only works for @gmail.com addresses right now, so please share that e-mail address.