My email inbox is largely a delightful place filled with people I actually know, friendly strangers offering kind words, enlightening newsletters, important notices, and things worth my time and attention. It’s that way because I’ve spent years making it that way. My precision use of complex filtering rules, marking things as SPAM, and unsubscribing (often from that same SPAM) means only a small manageable amount of things I don’t want or need ever gets seen. I have a separate address (a Gmail one) that I use for signing up for things online, this ensures that advertisements, promotions, those that seek to sell my address, is best handled by the people who are in that very same marketing/advertising business. This all helps to keep my personal email box meaningful.
I love the history of it. I love that it is the earliest of two-way communication protocols on the internet. I love the way that it, mostly, works like actual mail — with senders and receivers and mail boxes and postmasters. I love that it can be used to convey a brief message or a long diatribe. That one can reply above, below, or within the previous message depending on what best fits the need. It’s flexible and ubiquitous.
I’ve never not loved email. Even when I worked in large collegiate and corporate environments where I received a far larger volume of email than I do now as a self-employed person. I’ve always found that if one does not like email, especially due to their work-related email, it’s not a problem with email. It’s a problem with the culture and the expectations of communication therein. In these circumstances, I’ve found it far more effective to teach others —tell them how you use email, set proper expectations for them, and come to some agreements with those you most interact with. Try to shape the culture as a whole or in your immediate, controllable, vicinity.
I’ve also found it very helpful to take the time to really know and use my email client of choice. For me, that is Mail.app — the built in email client on the Mac. I’ve been using it as my main email client since the very first beta versions of Mac OS X. I’ve taken the time over those years to learn every keyboard command for the tasks I use most often such that I can read, reply, process, and file away every message without removing my hands from the keyboard. Knowing your tools makes using them that much more pleasurable. Hosting my own email and using IMAP ensures that my email works the same regardless of the device. I always know what to expect and rarely have an issue with it being down.
Therefore, I’m always a bit perplexed by people who hate email or are compelled to “fix” email. I’m even a bit perplexed why folks hand over control of their email to a big corporate host (i.e. Google). Not saying it is wrong — I just don’t understand it. It doesn’t fit with my experience.
I say all this to suggest that, perhaps, email is not “broken” but the way we are using it is. Perhaps there is a solution that could make things better for you that doesn’t involve a new app or service. Perhaps, if you hate it, in changing the way you approach it you’ll find a way to love it again.