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Cognition

The Best Email in the World

The Best Email in the World is the one that needs your attention. On any given day, the rules or definition of what that email is will change. Today, it’s an email from my car salesman with all of the numbers related to the lease buyout I’m about to do. Tomorrow, it might be an email from my wife with some photos she took of our daughter playing in her sandbox while I am away visiting a Happy Cog client.

On Saturday, it might be an email from Greg Storey or Greg Hoy asking me why our website is down.

The most important thing about The Best Email in the World is that I know when it arrives so I can give it my attention.

But let me back up a little.

My default approach to email is that it is a distraction when I am not checking or reading email. Pretty basic stuff, right? All other times I have my email client closed. The problem is, I won’t know when The Best Email in the World arrives.

My method for handling this was to check email at regular intervals throughout the day; at 10 AM, 1 PM, and 4 PM. Sometimes, however, I would miss emails that were time sensitive or relevant to an upcoming meeting (like related documents, an agenda, a meeting time change or cancellation).

This caused problems in the past because I would miss emails that needed my attention or impacted my schedule. There has to be a better way to handle this.

The Tools For Change

Over the last few months, I’ve looked into ways to not waste time constantly checking email while also knowing when The Best Email in the World drops into my inbox. Here are some tools that help me and might help you.

AwayFind

My tool of choice is AwayFind. It is both a mobile app and web service that hooks into your email account and monitors your email for The Best Email in the World. Through the web or mobile app you can set different rules for when you want to be alerted via push notifications about an email.

There is a My Important People list, where I add email addresses of people whose emails will probably always be important to me. I am notified whenever someone on the list emails me. Occassionally, I am waiting for an email from someone but don’t want them on my permanent My Important People list. For these situations I use a special list that alerts me if someone I add to the list emails me in the next, let’s say, 4 hours.

I can also get alerted if I get an email about a certain topic. I enter a word or exact phrase that I expect will be in the email subject and AwayFind alerts me when an email comes in that matches.

The third way to set email alerts is by who I am meeting today. AwayFind looks at my calendar and alerts me if someone I’m supposed to meet with emails me within an hour of our meeting. This is the most useful notification for me because it alerts me when a meeting time changes, someone sends me an agenda or other document to read over before a phone call.

VIP in iOS 6

In Apple’s iOS 6, which is due out later this year, they have added a VIP feature in the mail client. There isn’t a lot of public information about VIP but their site says that the feature will let you “set up a VIP list so you’ll never miss an important message from your accountant, your boss, or your BFF. “ This looks promising.

Mail Client Filters

Your email client may also have filters or rules you can set that will alert you when you get an email from a certain email address. I use Apple Mail and it is simple to set up a rule that will play a certain sound when an email comes in from someone important to me. There are two disadvantages to this solution: your email client has to be open and you wont’ be notified when you’re away from your computer. But in a pinch, it might just work.

Boxcar

Boxcar is a web service that makes it easy to send your mobile phone push notifcations based on information and events from many different websites and web services.

You can configure the Mail service they offer to alert you when an email comes in. Boxcar’s mail notification service requires that you forward your email to a private Boxcar email address. If you use a service like Gmail you will want to create filters first so you can specify which email is forwarded and control when you are alerted. This is more useful than just using your rules or mail filters in your email client because it sends push notifications to your iPhone via their iOS app.

With one of these services, you should now always know when The Best Email in the World arrives and needs your attention. Now go quit your email client and get back to work.

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