Inbox Vigilance

Shortly before I left my last job, my company switched from corporate Gmail to Outlook for its email. I was really upset about it, and even (sort-of jokingly) said that I might quit over it (and when I was laid off a few weeks later, knowing that I wouldn’t have to use Outlook for a while was very consoling). But of course, my current contract job, along with most other companies, also uses Outlook. My last job in Indianapolis used Lotus Notes (don’t even get me started on that….).
 
This may be a major understatement, but – I’m kind of weird about email. And by “weird,” I mean that I think I might have OCD. I hate having tons of emails in my inbox. Absolutely hate it. Right now, there are six emails in my personal inbox. If something is in my inbox, it means I need to either read it, respond or take some other action with it. If I see someone who has hundreds of unread emails in their inbox, I start to have a mini panic attack. I’m sure my hatred for full inboxes stems from my first “real” job out of college, where I was CCed on hundreds of emails a week (whether I needed to be or not), and it was never possible to get my inbox down to below 1500 emails, because they were all things I would need to be able to reference at a moment’s notice when my crazy boss asked me about any given project that may or may not have been completed 5 weeks ago. I think I had managed to get it to around 500 when I left the job, but I’m sure it quickly grew back while they found my replacement.
 
I really, really detest Outlook. The folder organizational system isn’t very logical. If you have a folder and then subfolder, you can only put an email in one of them. So, if I have a folder named “Customers” and subfolders with the customers’ company names, and I get an email from a customer- which folder do I put the email in? If you said the company name one, fine- but then what’s the point of the “Customers” folder, other than providing context to all the customer name folders? And if you say “Kristin, just don’t have a Customers folder,” how would I (or my boss after I leave the company) know that those are all customers, and not, say, vendors or prospects or companies that fall under some other category?
 
When I was in college, Gmail was just starting out, and it was love at first login. I set up forwarding for my college account (which seemed to constantly be full) to my Gmail account, and I’ve used the same Gmail account since them. And it’s never full. I like Gmail because:
 
1) It’s searchable
2) It has an infinite amount of space
3) You can cross-label things, instead of having to choose one specific folder when multiple categories are appropriate
4) Conversation format for email chains (this makes it look like there are LESS emails in the inbox, and the emails all about one subject are nicely grouped together).
 
So, um, here’s where my email OCD comes in. I have 28 labels set up in my account, and a lot of emails automatically filter to certain labels and never even go to my inbox. There’s a label for Daily Deals (Groupon, Living Social, Gilt City, Daily Candy, etc), Travel (Priceline, Southwest, Delta, etc), Clothing Discounts (Gap, Piperlime, etc),  and Jobs (LinkedIn, plus any job related emails)- to name the most logical labels. There are also labels I use more as archives, for old emails from college, “How To Do Stuff,” “I want that,” and other things like that.

The only emails that actually make it to my inbox (and, more importantly, phone inbox) are actual emails from actual people. Not brands.
 
The result?
1) I look at my phone way, way, less than the average person
2) It’s a lot more exciting to see the little Gmail logo on my phone indicating that I have a new email, because it’s not going to be someone trying to sell me something. It’s almost as good as getting an actual letter. And despite what this post may indicate- I really do like getting (and sending) emails.
 
I’ll probably eventually read the emails in the labels- when I’m damn well ready. I absolutely hate having unread messages, so I usually end up clearing them out every day (or at least marking them as read if I don’t plan on ever reading them). For example, I only check the “clothing discounts” folder if I’m planning on shopping. If I know I won’t be shopping before the discounts expire, I just mark them as read.
 
If you’re wondering how I stay on top of all these emails- I’ve also unsubscribed from a LOT of emails that I used to get, and it’s really liberating. I only get emails from brands/companies that I actually want. I’ve updated my settings on Facebook and Twitter so that I don’t receive ANY emails from either of them ever. Guess what? I still go to both sites every day, even without email notifications telling me that someone has commented on my wall post. And it makes it more fun to see the little red notification box when I log in to Facebook.
 
As an email marketer, I’m really aware of the CAN-SPAM Act. If you don’t know what that is- it basically means that in the US, it is illegal for someone to send you promotional emails without your consent. Companies get around it by requiring that you enter your email address when you register for something on their sites (which could be as simple as registering to vote for something), and having the “Yes, Please send me stuff!” box automatically checked. But the laws don’t stop there. Promotional emails also have to have a simple, one-click unsubscribe option. If you have to log in to an account to unsubscribe, it doesn’t count. (I occasionally get emails like that, and I just click on the nifty little “report spam” button to make them go away). There are other rules involved, but those are the most commonly violated, and most annoying.
 
On the flip side- I have a special label in my email for “Good Email Marketing.” This label has companies that are doing it well and that have sent me emails that have immediately made me make a purchase or at least visit the company’s website. One time, Gap sent me an “It’s your Lucky day!” email on a Saturday morning right when the season was starting to change (= a time when people are usually thinking about shopping) with a 40% off coupon and an offer for a free subscription to Lucky Magazine if I spent more than $60 (after the discount). I went right into the store and happily used it. Awesome, Gap! Another company that’s consistently doing a great job is 1-800-Pet-Meds. I buy Tinker’s flea medicine from this company. When I made my first purchase from them, on the form I had to put what kind of pet I had and what breed. I didn’t think anything of it, until I got this email:
 
 
At first glance, I thought they had somehow found a picture of my dog. Of course, they hadn’t (he’s much cuter), but it definitely was impressive to me. I know how they built the email- using dynamic content (it’s similar to a mail merge). Dynamic Content email programs take longer to build (for this one, they would have had to find and upload images of every breed listed, as well as a backup image for a default for people who didn’t put the dog breed or used a mixed breed) but I think it was worth it in this case. Very cool.
 
Does anyone else manage their email like I do? Anyone actually like Outlook and have a good reason for it? (I’m curious, and want to find ways to tolerate it since it seems it will forever be a part of my professional life).

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13 Responses to Inbox Vigilance

  1. Jess says:

    LOVE IT! (You had to know I’d love this post!)

    • Kristin says:

      Just so you know, right after I published the post, I got “By The Way,” and it still goes to my inbox. 🙂

  2. Greg says:

    Kristin,
    Currently 4,459 e-mails in my G-mail inbox. Plus, I have separate folders as well. I tried to use Outlook, but it imploded on me, although its the only program that my accounting software will use to send invoices, p.o’s, etc. directly out of. Help….

    • Kristin says:

      I can help you with it if you want! If you have a type of email that you get a lot (like any kind of daily report or alert), it’s really easy to set up the auto filter.

      Select the email, then click on “More Actions” at the top, and click on “Filter Messages Like these.” It’ll walk you through a wizard, but be sure to select “Skip the Inbox” and “Apply label.” There will be a checkbox at the bottom that will say “Apply to #### conversations below,” and if you select that, it’ll automatically archive all emails like that.

      If you don’t have the time to do that, or just want help, I can help you organize your email. I like this sort of thing.

  3. Seashell says:

    Love Gmail, hate Outlook. Like you, I hate the full inbox. If it only has one or two messages in it, I’m happy. Now, I’m off to Facebook to turn off those mail notifications….

  4. Pingback: How do you communicate to an interviewer that his company sounds shady? | The Settlers Give it Passion

  5. Lisa says:

    Wow, I had no idea Gmail filtered… Thanks so much! I’m just now catching up on my blog posts… hence the super delayed comment. I am going to whip my Gmail into shape!

  6. Casting says:

    I am one of the creepy people who is not one of your family and friends. 🙂 I ended up over here after seeing your comment on Ask A Manager today. I also HATE Outlook! The folders are done so poorly. I also wish that after I file something in a subfolder, the umbrella folder would suck all the subfolders back up, rather than leaving them dangling and cluttering my folder list(my Mac Mail one does that). And my office is still running the 2003 version – I wonder if it got any better in 2007 or 2010?

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  10. With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems
    of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any methods to help stop content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

  11. Pingback: On my honor, I will try… | Email Snarketing

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