I absolutely do not want the ability to read new email during that time. In fact, I would really like to set up GMail so email only arrives on a fixed schedule, say 2-4 times a day.
I would love to use a search like before:2012/08/29 OR circle:"vip"  unfortunately doesn't seem to work. circle:"vip" alone works great but fails with "OR".
 GMail Search parmaters http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answe...
Unless you're counting on the incoming links' context to inform people what it's about (if you do, fair enough), I'd suggest a bit more info to the potential users.
And if it really is urgent, they can call me. Unless you're the kind of person who both sends an email and then immediately calls me about it. If you're that kind of person you quickly will be informed of how much I dislike that. If you persist, I'll take advantage of my freedom as a contractor to choose my own projects, and you'll soon not be a person that has any reason to interact with me.
Anything else risks wasting a bunch of people's time going back and forth which if it's genuinely urgent (it usually isn't) everyone should want to avoid.
The problem with the call-me-with-only-urgent-stuff approach is the Boy Who Cried Wolf problem: if people are constantly calling you (because they know they're not going to get a reply until later in the day, and they need it <whine>noowwwwwwwww</whine>, you'll put your phone on DND/silent. But now you can't respond to actual emergencies.
Maybe we should go back to pagers...
In the second case, they aren't able to distinguish what they consider to be emergencies from what are actual emergencies; this, too, is out of your control.
I honestly don't know how to deal with these. Thoughts?
This is not a feasible solution for everyone.
When I open my email client, it shows all "old" mail to me, and allows me to write new emails. It only fetches new emails when I explicitly tell it to do that.
I'm using Mutt, but I think this should work with any other email client such as Thunderbird. All you have to do is disabling the auto-fetching of new emails. And if you still feel the urge to hit the "Get Mail" button, then just configure it away from the toolbar.
tl;dr: It's all there - you just need a tiny configuration change in your email client.
If you're a commandline junkie, Sup and Notmuch both come pretty close to a gmail-style "search everything / tags everywhere" philosophy.
why not do it then? it's pretty simple to do?
I think the real reason is that you like the idea of doing that, but not the reality.
Cultural atavism might sound like a good idea, but the reality is the positive benefits of email and smartphones way outweighs the negatives.
On a vacation a few months ago I turned off automatic email fetching on my phone to try and eke out a few more hours of battery, and just kind of left it there to see what would happen.
On an average day I hit the "get my email" button twice. Once when I wake up in the morning to see if there's anything pressing, and once on my way home from work as I'm walking towards the train.
I have absolutely not missed the disruption that having a constantly-up-to-date email client in your pocket creates.
I have also yet to miss a single email due to this - people have better sense than that. If they need a quick response they know to call me or to text.
From this I've started pruning the apps and services that can interrupt me pretty hard. At this point I'm down to my calendar, my SMS client, FB direct messages, and the NYTimes (they seem to be pretty responsible, but they are on a short leash). It's worked out. I'm very much enjoying this pull lifestyle, instead of push.
In fact, you've even come across the magic number for email checking frequency. Checking it 4 times a day provides the best trade-off between reply speed and productivity gain, as seen in research by Gupta et. al.
 Gupta, A., Sharda, R., & Greve, R. a. (2010). You’ve got email! Does it really matter to process emails now or later? Information Systems Frontiers
Then, when you want to check your new email, search for that tag, and un-archive the messages you actually want in your inbox.
It would be even better on smartphones; constantly having the new mail icon pop up on is so distracting that I have turned off automatic email checking on my phone, and just check manually every couple hours when not near a computer. This was after being surprised not to be able to find an option to control gmail's polling interval.
Your "smartphone" doesn't sound very smart.
[Edit] I use sieve filters on the server side to route email into various folders on delivery.
[Edit2] I just double checked, and the "per folder settings" are not quite as granular as I thought. You can only set up one poll interval and add that to a selection of folders, and then set other folders to push or nothing. You can't have multiple poll intervals. Eg, Could set two folders to push, three folders to poll hourly, and the rest to manual only polls.
The app scans your inbox(es) for ~200 domain names from services such as Github, Basecamp etc and groups all emails in boxes (pigeonholes), depicted by the service's icon.
You can tap each pigeonhole, scan the subjects and decide to 'archive all' or tap individual emails and mark them for 'follow up'.
That's all you can do. I'm personally not much distracted by reading emails, it's the writing part which pulls me out of my concentration and Pigeonal just about offers enough functionality to create follow-up tasks. Moreover, since the app only shows emails from a small list of domains the number of emails I have to process is relatively low.
The app is an experiment, your mileage may vary. We've developed it to see whether there is an alternative to the email inbox archetype. So far it's working for us, but it's far from perfect and I'm not as brave as the OP to completely ditch email from my iPhone.
I currently use SaneBox, to keep my inbox under control, and has been exceptionally well. Would it be compatible with Pigeonal?
Should the need arise, I generally carry my netbook with me everywhere I go - and it only comes out if there is an emergency. At least then I have internet access and all the tools to actually make a difference as opposed to just being able to respond to an email. If it isn't an emergency, then it can wait.
I also find the maps application pretty useful sometimes, but I have uninstalled a bunch of other distracting time wasters from the phone.
> If I happen to be away from my computer for a few hours it’s likely someone else will see the email and reply. If it’s something truly urgent that only I can help with, the other partners have my cell number and can call/text me.
It sounds like you've simply offloaded your compulsive email checking to other people. This system wouldn't work if everyone else at YC also stopped checking their email regularly, because then the urgent things wouldn't be caught in time and you wouldn't be pinged on your cell.
Of course, the sane alternative is just to set up a roster for checking email (say split the day into 2,3 or 4 hour watches -- and just share them around in a way that makes sense. Then everyone would be free to concentrate on other stuff outside their "email watch".
Whether that makes sense or not would be highly dependent on the internal structure of the organization and the internal business processes, of course.
The next natural step is to manage such group emails with a bug tracker or equivalent, so that when someone takes responsibility for an email, it is obvious to everyone else that the email is being taken care of. This avoid two people doing the same work.
I suppose an imap shared folder could be used for this (move mail before you read/answer it) -- but I've never used imap shared folders, so I'm not sure if that would work (well).
You did it by intent, while I only did it by circumstance. As such,
we've probably learned different lessons from the experience.
For me it was my health. Those little things like walking and typing are
often taken for granted until you can no longer do them. Not feeling
well enough to accept invitations to go have fun with friends can wear
on you. The same is true for not feeling well enough to answer emails or
Could you leave your voicemail full for six months so no one else can
With your YC involvement, probably not, but I had to do it, and it
taught me a lot about interaction and contribution. Interacting with
others is a choice. Similarly, making a contribution of your time and
effort is also a choice. When you know you'll be in more pain after
typing an email, or driving to see friends, your perspective changes
since you finally realize there will be consequences, or better said,
there's always a cost to the choice of interacting and contributing.
Making a conscious decision on your own needs and opinions of whether or
not interacting is worthwhile is far better than merely reacting out of
impulsive habits and social pressures to be polite. When you know it
will cost you something and you still feel it's worthwhile, then you are
consciously investing your time rather than mindlessly spending it.
I know I've posted this before, but...
Treebeard: "You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to
say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth
taking a long time to say." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
I made a simple "word monitor" for my emails that can make assumptions about gender, social status etc based on words that are considered 1st person singular, 1st person plural, articles, emotion, cognitive, and social. Works ok but really needs a lengthy email to make heads or tails of any hidden information/agendas embodied within.
Every day a cronjob starts up the client at 4pm, which starts minimized (thank you, KDE), proceeds to fetch new mail, apply various filters (e.g. CCs marked read and archived), and maximizes the window 2 minutes later.
Half an hour later another cronjob does a 'killall' on it - that way if I wasn't at my desk at 4, I wouldn't have to come back to be greeted by unanswered e-mails.
And, as the article says, there is always a mobile phone for anything truly urgent.
What happens if you're writing a reply at 16:32? Do you start over the next day?
And I am guessing that if the process's main window is already maximized, the 16:32 job has no effect.
If I knew how to set up the same sequence of scheduled jobs around Mail.app on OS X, I would.
And then come up with excuse after excuse why you didn't answer. I got tired of it and got a phone that works... almost. It does allow me to read and send texts and to hear what the person on the other end is speaking when I pick up a call. But the microphone is broken and there is no way for me to give them an answer, which causes them to call really rarely if at all. And if they ask I can truthfully say that, well, my phone is broken, sorry... I'll call you from home or from office, or wherever, but generally later, when I feel like it.
1) Separation of work and personal e-mail into two accounts (which is good for a whole number of reasons).
2) Work e-mail is configured on my phone but disabled. It means that if I have to access it it's relatively painless but there's no notifications and not even any ability to manually check without re-enabling it (which is a mental barrier which I know I shouldn't be crossing - like the HN noprocrast thing - you can override it easily but you know you shouldn't so you don't).
3) Personal e-mail isn't set to notify in any way except through the badge (I find personal e-mail is rarely urgent enough for me to feel any strong compulsion).
I find that the barriers you have to put up are actually very small, just enough to stop the habitual, quick checking. As soon as it takes more than a second or two to do, you stop doing it pretty quickly.
Now if only I could find similarly successful mechanisms for Twitter, RSS and the news.
My Bold is still my daily device. Sure, the other two phones are better in almost all ways, but e-mail and unified messaging is one thing RIM knows how to do. At a quick glance, I can see incoming e-mails, SMS, twitter or Facebook, and know if I need to respond. I can set up different audible alerts for each and/or different coloured LEDs.
I rarely have my desktop e-mail client open, since my BlackBerry helps me filter out messages as needed while I work.
You can rally against me if you like, but I like my BlackBerry better than my other devices. It simply works for me. And I think this aversion to e-mail/distractions is a by-product of the devices being used.
Could someone unwilling to pay for a wireless data plan but willing to pay for a BlackBerry Bold 9900 benefit from this unified messaging you speak of?
I ask because the Bold does have Wifi.
To benefit from this unified messaging, it looks like I would need access to BlackBerry's servers. Is it even possible to get access or buy this access without buying a wireless data plan?
And no, I do own a smartphone, I just have to be very bored (or anticipating something, preferably romantic) to be checking email with it. The constant blackberry-like push email thing always seemed a bit odd to me (and I do have a biff running on my desktops), especially when it's exacerbated by a whole boatload of additional bleeps and bloops (twitter mentions, SMS, whatsapp, etc.). Recently I didn't have access to my iPhone for two weeks (left it in a friend's car) and "had to cope" with my old 6310i. I did feel a bit liberated, but mostly because it freed me from charging that device all the time…
Is it my "forever alone" nature and everyone else is getting that many apparently immediately actionable emails all the time? Or is it an age thing, as I'm not quite old enough for constant SMS-ing at a formative age, but do remember FIDOnet/UUCP access to news/email in once-daily batched form?
Perhaps these mostly behavioral based solutions feel good (they make us feel as if we taking back control) but are they really the we can do at solving the problem of out of control email? Or are we just shifting the problem into text messages & calls or onto other people?
I'm working with a team now on re-architecting email to give us control over our email. We've started on a related but simpler problem - when I give a website my email I give them control. You can check it out at https://leemail.me
Soon we will be expanding this control to all email communications. If this sounds interesting, get in touch.
Not everyone needs to completely remove email from their phones, but doing simple things like turning off push notifications and trying to push one's self to only check at certain intervals has been shown by research (and substantiated by experiences like this) to have huge upsides to productivity, lower stress levels, and creativity.
I'm learning a huge amount in this arena, it's a fascinating topic. If anyone wants to see a very cursory summary of what I've assembled so far, check out a small deck at http://www.slideshare.net/jlyman/email-overload-13506201
For my sanity, I have email notifications turned off on my phone, so I only get new messages when I explicitly open the app (which I still find I do much too often). Definitely helps.
The pendulum seems to have shifted in recent times and I think we're all going through something analogous to the drinkers/smokers in the 60's/70's. Those were feel-good times of indulgence and merriness. We realized the consequences though and learned moderation as a society. I have a feeling we're about 10-20 years from coming to terms with a healthy technology lifestyle.
We'll increasingly be defined by what we say no to
The issue is the cognitive load introduced by task switching. You may not realize it on the surface, but breaking away each time to write a reply (or even to a lesser extent just the mere fact that you are now notified there's a message waiting) is causing a huge distraction for your brain, and slowing down your "real" work.
 Paul Hemp. 2009. "Death by information overload," Harvard Business Review 87(9).
If you get interrupted a lot it helps to take notes on a pad, kind of use it as your "stack" and just list out what you're doing so when you're done you can go back to that frame of mind more easily.
Plus composing a reply is time-consuming in itself- you often need to look up something, check a document, etc. etc.
I would like a client that allows me to read in a browsey (flipboard?) way - no replies or forwarding allowed.
Separately I want the client to semi-automatically create emails from my to-do list - I get to edit and send.
This way I am able to understand what other's want me to know but I remain productive by focussing on my own agenda.
A lot of the problems discussed in the article and the thread here were solved many many years ago.
But yes, as a friend of mine put it: "The interesting thing about email is that it gives us the impression that we're actually working, while we really are not."
Now, I can keep email at an arm's distance, so it doesn't bother me when I need to do anything, but still at my fingertips, so I can access it quickly, spend as little time as possible taking care of what I need to do, and then closing it and forgetting about it.
 Gmail's implemenation of IMAP, on the other hand, is horribly, horribly broken, but it's possible to get it to work with mutt regardless.
It's trivial to work around if you want to, but having the "blocked" page pop up is a good reminder that I didn't want to be wasting my time and should get back to work.
Hope this helps!
It might not work if the internet is way fast like it is in the US. I am in the DR which might make a difference...
Harsh but the boy who cried wolf and all.
If most of your emails are customers who always want service right now then it is going to be a bit different.
It pains me to see friends receiving emails on their BB whilst at the pub after work and fretting over the email they've just been 'pushed'.
I just ignore them all now; pretty similar to ads on web. And I have them available everywhere if I actually need them.
Going well so far. It's so much more productive to only do email on a desktop, and it definitely frees up my thoughts.
That's the problem.
Well it kind of started that way and after a few months of agony (unable to connect smoothly) and joy (better concentration) I am now with something interesting that you should see: http://bubbleideas.com
There's already an app to do that, it's called SMTP, just don't use POP. After a few weeks you'll be so unpopular with your friends that you wont even need to switch off POP.
Strangers and people outside my network can also approach me somewhat, but they cannot not send me direct mails until I am hooked to them somehow - which is, like 'to be in the solicited network'. It is something like Twitter's DM & Tweet model except here we write mails instead of tweets.
In my head I try to keep it as "If it is an email, it can wait until tomorrow".
The author un-synced his email from the phone? Big deal. It is not that smartphones do not let you think (which is also true), but that they are just yet another consumer good made to keep you disconnected from reality.
As usual, it just depends how you use them. Think of it as a laptop, do you program on it or just surf facebook?
Smartphones could be the ultimate hacker device, if used properly.