Google's new way to think about email took a while to fully hook me, but now there's no other way to email for me.
When Inbox was first announced, I quickly jumped to grab an invite to the service. Gmail had been my default email client for years now, and I didn't have any problems with how it worked, but I loved the ideas behind Inbox. The notion that my email account could be more than just a communication and advertising dumpster, but also a task list and a functional goal system, was more than a little appealing.
In the early days I switched back and forth between Gmail and Inbox, not quite ready to fully hand my email over to this new system, but just about a year ago I finally made the switch to full time Inbox use and haven't looked back.
Every once in a while you'll see someone publish a screed about how emails are basically the worst thing they have to do every day. It's the lowest form of communication for those of us connected to everything all the time, and largely that's because it's a time suck. You have to triage your email box every day, sifting through promotional emails and reminder emails and shipment tracking emails. You know, the things you'd love to mark as spam but can't because it's either vaguely work related or you might need to track it down later. We don't so much mind sending email when we have to, but the idea of dealing with the inbox is a mostly pointless chore. You've either trained yourself to triage it quickly, or your inbox is a dumpster and you only bother with new message and the search function.
On average I snooze 2-3 emails a week, and the number of emails I interact with has increased dramatically as a result.
I was happily in the latter group before Inbox. As email came in, I'd check the notification and move on. No folders, no tags, just a dumping ground for everything I thought I might one day maybe care about. Google's threaded conversations meant I could quickly find a conversation when I needed it, and that was all that really mattered to me. Friends who relied on email as this tidy thing they kept organized would look in horror as I thumbed through in search of something. It was a mess, but it was a necessary evil and I gave it as little thought as I could afford.
Inbox introduced a new way to use email for me, and the first step was making it incredibly easy to sort through all the crap. For starters, search results for a ton of things often ends in better card-styled results. There's a bundle of 30 promotion emails organized in this bundle, and while one of them might have a coupon for Papa John's pizza you might want to use this weekend I know I can search for it later if I want. Tap a button, sweep all of those messages into Archive, and be done with it. If I see something that I know will be important later, but want it to pop up as a reminder, I snooze the message. On average I snooze 2-3 emails a week, and the number of emails I interact with has increased dramatically as a result. I'm way less likely to forget about those messages, and while I rarely use anything other than the snooze to a certain date feature, the snooze by location feature is amazing when travelling for work.
The real MVP for me in Inbox is pinning. I pin everything I think might be important that day, and snooze or sweep everything else. The last thing I do on my phone each night is either deal with the remaining pins or snooze those messages if I know I'm going to deal with them tomorrow. At the end of every work week, I clear out the remaining pins in the same way I deal with a ToDo list. I don't actively hunt for Inbox Zero, but it is often the result of my current workflow as I head into the weekend.
Nothing Inbox does is particularly special or new, but because I was able to make it a part of my workflow I now have a much better relationship with my personal email. I've considered trying to migrate other accounts, particularly my work account, to Inbox as well. It's a system that I don't really have to think about in order to enjoy it, and that to me is the biggest part of the experience. I don't have to stop and think about how to address these emails, but I'm still able to actively manage my inbox. I'm not receiving more or less email, but I think about it less and am somehow accomplishing more through it.
There aren't many software changes in my day to day that have had such a meaningful impact, and in many ways I am reminded of when I first moved to Gmail in the first place. It feels like the software handling my email is doing a lot of the work for me, and that is incredibly valuable to someone like me.