Reclaiming Email

You’ve tried email bankruptcy. You know all about filing. But sometimes you have to ask yourself: How did you fall back into email overload… again?

First things first: It’s not just you. It’s common to live with some sort of anxiety around email and email overload. Where we’re going to focus today is not on some magical list of things you’re supposedly doing wrong, rather we’re gong to ask some questions about the relationship you want to have with your inbox, about how you might be able to focus on simplicity instead of strict organization, and how a few quick keyboard shortcuts and a learning mindset might make all the difference in your approach to electronic mail.

Melissa is our community manager in The ADHD Group. If you’d like to get to know more about her, become a supporter over on Patreon and you’ll have access to her annual members-only series on email management and the Discord ADHD Community!

Links & Notes

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Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Hello, Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Do you know what’s something I noticed?

Pete Wright:
What?

Nikki Kinzer:
Just now?

Pete Wright:
What? What did I do?

Nikki Kinzer:
Are you standing up?

Pete Wright:
I am. It’s exhausting.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because last week you were sitting down.

Pete Wright:
I was.

Nikki Kinzer:
Maybe you need to sit back down.

Pete Wright:
Probably. But we’re here now. Let’s see how it goes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. All right.

Pete Wright:
I’m trying to push myself. This is in reference to be living in post-COVID universe. And I’m not supposed to be standing up, but I’m standing up anyway. [crosstalk 00:00:43]

Nikki Kinzer:
I was going to say, Pete Wright. Pete, Pete, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, we’re doing fine.

Nikki Kinzer:
Is your doctor saying, “Oh, you should push yourself.” Is your doctor saying that?

Pete Wright:
I don’t know. I no longer take her calls.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, I see how you are.

Pete Wright:
I’m a terrible patient.

Nikki Kinzer:
You need to sit down. We can pause this recording and get you seated.

Pete Wright:
I appreciate it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because I worry about you and I’m so glad you’re here, and I would like you to be here next week.

Pete Wright:
I would also like to be here next week. We’re going to plow through. We’re talking about reclaiming email today. Last week we talked about transitions. I feel like after being away for so long, my email got kind of out of hand. It’s interesting and ironic that you already had reclaiming email on the schedule as something that we’re going to talk about this week.

Pete Wright:
Well, it’s a very timely time for me to be talking about this. Before we head into that however, go visit takecontroladhd.com. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @takecontroladhd. And if this show has ever touched you, we invite you to check out patreon.com/theadhdpodcast.

Pete Wright:
Patreon allows us to be a listener supported show. That means your direct donations fund the work that we do on this show. It funds our ability to come back here week after week. It funds hosting. It funds tools, microphones, all those things. It funds all of our interaction in the community. It is an incredibly important way to keep this show running. Also, there’s perks if you are a supporter at the $5 or higher level. You get to join us for live streams of this very show. You can come and watch us do this thing and likely you can watch Pete screw up all the time. He cuts all that stuff. Makes both of us sound really smart.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you, Pete for that. Really thank you.

Pete Wright:
You’re welcome. I drop my hat to you. So you can join us for live streams. You can join the ADHD community, get access to members only channels in our discord server. There’s all kinds of great stuff that goes on through Patreon at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. Those who have already joined our community there, we deeply appreciate you. To those who are still considering, check it out. The water is great. Nikki, we have some news?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. We have some announcements. So I have a coaching group that’s coming up in the fall. It’s a little different than what I’ve done in the past. It is for women only. Not to say that I won’t ever have another coaching group for men too, it’s just this time around. I’m going to do something a little bit different and we’re actually doing almost like a book club where for 10 weeks we get together and we will be covering the book a radical guide for women with ADHD and this is written by Sari Solden and Dr. Michelle Frank who we have had on the show before.

Nikki Kinzer:
Each week we’ll go over a chapter and it is a really great group, it is a group that is very dedicated. So for people who are interested in really diving deep into what it means to accept your ADHD, what it means to embrace your challenges, all of those things, it’s a great opportunity to get together with a group of women and really talk about some good stuff.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is going to begin the week of September 14th. I have two groups that I’m offering and I am only letting eight people into each group. So spaces is very limited. I already have people signed up. So if you are interested in this group, please enroll before it gets filled up or the deadline, whichever comes first is Monday, September 7th which happens to be my birthday.

Pete Wright:
Oh.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know.

Pete Wright:
Happy birthday.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you. Not yet, but you can hold that thought and then you can wish me happy birthday again on September 7th. Okay. But one thing that I do want to offer is I’ve had some questions about the group because it is different and they want to know a little bit more of what to expect. So if you are interested, but you have questions for me, I welcome you to email me directly at Nikki. That’s nikki@takecontroladhd.com. I’m happy to talk with you. I’m happy to get on the call or get on a phone call, chat through email, whatever. So if you have questions, let me know and I can tell you a little bit more about what to expect.

Nikki Kinzer:
The second announcement I have is for study hall. So I have been offering a study hall on Thursday afternoons and the next session that I have for the study hall is going to start on September 17th and it ends, when Pete?

Pete Wright:
November 19th.

Nikki Kinzer:
November 19th.

Pete Wright:
The day before my birthday.

Nikki Kinzer:
The day before your birthday. Oh my gosh. Lots of birthday celebrations here at Take Control ADHD. So the study hall is for four hours on Thursday afternoons and it’s from 1:00 to 5:00 Pacific or 4:00 to 8:00 Eastern. What the study hall is, is it’s basically like a body double but with several people. You can be on camera, you can be off camera. It doesn’t matter, but we do like you to share what you’re working on and let us know how the study hall went for you.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s a great opportunity to get things done. I enjoy it. I depend on it. I know there’s lots of other people that do too. Again, if you have any questions about how study hall works, please let me know. You can again email me individually or you can visit our website. Each session is $10 and if you buy all 10 sessions, you actually get a discount. So check that out too. Those are my announcements, Pete.

Pete Wright:
That concludes the news of the week. We’re talking about email and to do that, I can think of no one better to join us on the show than our very own community manager, discord mom, Melissa Bacheler. Hello, Melissa Bacheler.

Melissa Bacheler:
Hello, Pete Wright. Hello, Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hi, Melissa Bacheler.

Pete Wright:
Oh, weird. She’s here.

Melissa Bacheler:
I know.

Nikki Kinzer:
Welcome. So nice to have you here.

Melissa Bacheler:
It’s nice to be here. It is weird to be here on this side of things. Normally, I’m chatting in the live stream and watching what’s going on and not being the one that’s going on.

Pete Wright:
You are the one that’s going on. That’s for sure. So to set a little bit of context, Melissa and I have been doing some members only series over the last couple of years where Melissa leads us through an email purge. I think it’s now annual email purge that we’ve-

Melissa Bacheler:
It is annual.

Pete Wright:
That’s very cool. So for people who are members of the community, we have a special sort of mini series that we do where we just kind of walk through what are you thinking about each week for four weeks? What are some tools you can use? What are some new tools you may not have explored that have taken hold over the last year? That kind of a thing. So we talk about both sort of methodology and practicality, but also what is it that you’re thinking about and what does email mean for you.

Pete Wright:
It’s certainly been a great tool for me. It is always a useful process to kind of revisit how I approach email and Melissa is here to join us and talk about kind of her experience with email. We’ll talk about some practical things, but also what’s some theory that we’re operating under around our relationship with email today. So where do you-

Nikki Kinzer:
What I’m going to do?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m going to listen.

Pete Wright:
Okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
But I’m also going to ask questions where I see fit sort of in the lens of my clients and some of the issues that I see when they come to me about email. Now, a lot of it, you probably have already written down and are going to talk about it, but just in case, I am looking out for those people as well. I’m going to ask questions.

Pete Wright:
What do you think, Melissa? Where would you like to start?

Melissa Bacheler:
Maybe we’ll start with where I started in all of this and how I kind of came to be a part of this whole email process. I am in no way a technological genius like Pete is. In fact during our yearly purges, I have learned so much about keyboard shortcuts and different email processes. So I don’t want anybody to think that I’m on the tech side so much as I am on more of the organization and the getting control of something unruly like email.

Melissa Bacheler:
We started the annual purge back in 2018 and when I started, I had three email accounts with over 37,000 unread email messages. And that’s just unread. That didn’t account for everything else I had gone through and it was all sitting in inboxes. I merged it into one account where I could kind of see everything. It was overwhelming to see what am I supposed to do with this. I mean, some of my email was going back 10 years and at that point it’s not even worth keeping. But it’s like, “Okay, how do I go through and delete individually 37,000 emails?”

Pete Wright:
I struggle with that too because if I go back to 10-year-old email, the nagging thing in the back of my head is, “Wait a minute. There are things in there that I know I can delete.” But there might be things in there that are financial documents or whatever, things that I’ve been saving that I saved there before I had a better process. I really don’t want to go through everything. I really, really don’t want to go through everything, but there is that nagging anxiety of what if.

Melissa Bacheler:
It’s a very common fear. That was part of my issue too. I had a lot of old documents and things that needed saved, knowing that it’s there but not wanting to go through and put into folders. It would take me a lifetime I think because email doesn’t stop. There’s still new emails coming in. So trying to handle that on top of everything else seemed like it was a challenge that I almost couldn’t even overcome because it seemed insurmountable.

Pete Wright:
This applies to our very own discord chat server that we when we talk to people about it are feeling overwhelmed, it’s because it’s a river, right? It never stops. It’s a river and you just have to jump in wherever you are and search for topics that are important but don’t let the fact that it never stops overwhelm you. Just know that it’s a river. Well, I think the same thing can be said of email now. That may not have been the case 10 years ago or 20 years ago, but now email itself is just as much a river as every other notification stream that we have.

Melissa Bacheler:
Absolutely. And I feel like email is continually rushing. It never seems like it’s coming to a trickle. There’s always something coming in. Everywhere you go, you have to sign up for an email if you want to be a part of a program or get a discount or just find out what’s going on. Some of those you want to get and some of those you don’t really care about, but regardless they all keep coming. It doesn’t stop and that can be really overwhelming. It was for me for sure, but in the end I ended up just doing a kind of a select all archive and moving it into a separate folder all by itself where I can easily search-

Nikki Kinzer:
All 37,000?

Melissa Bacheler:
Pretty much, yes. I mean I think I did go through a time where I was trying to delete in batches where I would have it filter out a certain email address and then just delete all of them available. But even then, I was only deleting 100, 150 at a time. When you’re working on a project that you don’t really want to be working on, knowing that it is getting longer and longer just makes it that more difficult to get started on working on it in the first place.

Pete Wright:
I want to talk just a little bit about merging those accounts into a single email address because I think that’s really important and I think it is. It’s one of the things that shocks people who have multiple email accounts for whom having separate email accounts is the fundamental like differentiator between their blocks of life that I have a personal account and I have a work account and I have this account. Has merging your accounts affected the way you think about incoming email?

Melissa Bacheler:
It is less steps rather than I have to go to Outlook and to Gmail and to Hotmail wherever your email sits. It’s all in one place and I can just scroll and archive or take care of whatever I’m going to do with my email all in one place in one process. And reducing the amount of steps reduces the amount of brain function that I have to put into taking care of my email at any given time rather than having to go here and take care of it and then open up another browser and go here and take care of it. It’s so much easier to have it all in one place.

Pete Wright:
Well, and that simplicity, I think is the thing that people who haven’t gone down that road. They haven’t experienced that yet, right? For me, I switched to one main email account and I live through filters. I live through aliases that I’ve created in that email account that deliver email and are filtered out of my inbox based on sort of their utility for me.

Pete Wright:
So I might have a separate email address that I use or that is an alias in my main Gmail account that I only sign up for services with, right? I have one that’s only for bill services that I do and then all of those get filtered into their own Gmail folders, their little labels and immediately removed from my inbox. So those new messages get filtered to a different place, so that I know that’s like my step one that I know my inbox only contains the things that were sent directly to me, Pete not things that were sent to me as a subscriber of a service.

Pete Wright:
That is step one of freeing myself from having to maintain multiple email addresses to manage that same function. It’s all in one place. I can search in one place and find exactly what I need when I need it and that has been an incredibly powerful sort of step one, right?

Melissa Bacheler:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
That it allows me that freedom.

Melissa Bacheler:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
And you don’t have to worry about that 500 emails coming in on any given day because most of them are going to get filtered out at any given point, right? That’s a big transition. Well, I want to just talk a little bit about this idea of reclaiming email before we dig into more practicalities because I think that insinuates its own sort of part of email living with email that we need to address, that we know already and we’ve talked extensively on this show and in the community about the value of a well-manicured email system.

Pete Wright:
Do you personally value inbox zero, getting down to zero email in your inbox at the end of every day? Great. Do you value the Workbox where you’re sending your email into some sort of task management system? Great. Do you manage your work in your inbox? Do you use your inbox as a to do management system? If the email still lives in your inbox, it means you haven’t acted on it. Well, great. That’s great.

Pete Wright:
All of those are fine, but we should address the real question here. If you’re listening to this and you’ve heard us talk time and again about email bankruptcy and starting over and all of that stuff, but you find you’re in a position to reclaim your email, again, the fact that you have thousands of email messages in your inbox is stressing you out, again, ask yourself how you got back into this position? That’s the reclaiming part of this subject that we know all of the rules that we have set up in our minds to manage our email, but somehow we have not made the emotional leap to sustainability to sustain those rules on those incoming email signals that continue to get us.

Pete Wright:
So let me just say as a caveat, it should go without saying that it is completely okay that wherever you are in this process, you may have 50,000 unread emails in your inbox. There is no shame about that. No one is judging you for email performance because that would be perverse and pathological. Even if you get the sense that somebody might be judging you somehow about how you run your email. That person is not us because we would not cast those stones.

Pete Wright:
I like thinking about email now, but I think this is maybe a mark to how I’ve changed in my thinking about email. As most things, you start out sort of methodologically hard line and get softer as time goes by. And I think had you asked me and probably did five years ago how to handle email, I was aggressively pro Workbox and pro Inbox Zero. It is so easy to give advice from a platform of that kind of rigidity. It’s like, dude-

Nikki Kinzer:
Do not follow it.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, exactly. Do this. Don’t do that or even if you do follow it, it’s like the one true way to manage email is…

Melissa Bacheler:
Right.

Pete Wright:
We soften with age and experience, and I care so much less about that kind of rigidity. The only thing that I know, the only thing that is truth and fact is that email continues to come and you just have to make peace with it and figure out what it is. So the first thing is I don’t want to start talking about inbox management, right? I would rather talk about email goals and objectives. What is important to you about how you use email? What do you want to accomplish with your email? What utility is it to you/ What do you want your email inbox to do for you?

Pete Wright:
Do you want it to become a searchable resource of all communication that has ever crossed your path or do you want it to be a lean kind of inbox signal that you can then use to migrate to other services and tools. And finally, what external constraints do you have on your work and life that impact how you relate to your email? I’ll say this specifically. Some work situations require email response inertia and we get this all the time or people say, “Will it work?”

Pete Wright:
None of what you say will help me because I have a boss that requires me to answer email, et cetera and do this, and do that, and do this. I get it replies per hour, et cetera. We are not talking to you here, right? So feel free to gate this conversation and know that we’re talking to the part of you that has a personal email address. We’re not talking to you about your work email if you have those kinds of constraints and I hope that’s clear because I recognize that there are rules that you have put upon you by your organization or your manager that we do not understand.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, I do have a question because everything you’re saying here makes complete sense to me. I’m still thinking though what if I still have 37,000 emails that I’m looking at. Just to be clear then, do we say archive those and start over and then start looking at these questions that we’re going to be going over? What do I do with those emails?

Pete Wright:
I’m not going to say that because I don’t think you can actually come to terms with what you want to do with those emails until you come to terms with what you want your inbox to do for you. You might be somebody who says, “You know what, I really, really love having all those emails in my inbox. I love it so much because I can just scan down. I know where the last subject was. I have a real sense of spatial memory of my inbox. I know where in the list certain like keywords are just because I live there all the live long day, right?”

Melissa Bacheler:
Right.

Pete Wright:
And that’s just how I like living. If that’s the case, bully for you, right?

Melissa Bacheler:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
That’s great. I’m not going to judge you for living that way. I couldn’t do it. I would be wildly ineffective if that were me. And if living like that actually causes you stress, well then let’s go on. If it does not cause you stress, there is nothing wrong about it, right?

Melissa Bacheler:
Right.

Pete Wright:
If you’re not missing bills, if you’re not missing notifications, if you’re answering the right things for your employer or contracts, whatever, then go ahead and skip to next week’s episode. That’s fine, we’re done. You have graduated.

Melissa Bacheler:
You’ve already cleaned your email at that point.

Pete Wright:
That’s right, that’s right. You have a badge.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. But I’m still wondering though about the people that do want to claim their email, but they still have the 37,000 but they do want to do something different.

Pete Wright:
Okay. If that’s the case, then I recommend we continue on to step two because the second thing that I like to think about after you’ve thought about how you want to interact with your inbox, do you want it to be this resource archive? Do you want to just get really good at search. And I know Melissa can’t wait to talk about search. What is it that you want to do with your email? Then you talk about workflow after you’ve decided here’s how I want to live with my email, then I have to decide how I want to interact with it like a workflow and mechanics with an eye toward what makes most sense for you.

Pete Wright:
And I would add simplicity. It all comes back to Walden, right? Simplify, simplify. The more complicated you make your email flow in the interest of organization, the more mysterious and tangled your email flow will be, the more rules, the more folders, the more likely your system will fall into process decay and entropy, right? Our goal here is to find the minimal system possible to meet your needs and this is with an eye toward ADHD.

Pete Wright:
I find, and Melissa, I deeply want your thoughts on this, that when I was operating in a rigorous folder-based mentality where every time an email came in, I was like, "Oh, well that’s from Nikki. I better put that in the Nikki folder. Well, that’s from Nikki, but it’s also related to this project. I better put that in the Nikki/Project folder. Living that way caused me to get more behind over time, not less. It caused me to be less organized, not more. What’s your experience?

Melissa Bacheler:
I completely agree. I think in that instance, you;re focusing on the tool itself and the organization aspect that you’re wanting to accomplish and not actually accomplishing it. And you’re spending all of your time hoping that it’s going to be in the right place and that you’ll remember where you put it. Putting all of the round pegs into the round holes and not actually focusing on the work that needs to be done, and that shouldn’t be the point of the processes you put in place, they should fall into the background to easily help you get your work done, which is the whole point of being in your email in the first place.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, I agree with both of you and I think when Melissa was just speaking, I was thinking it’s that whole sort of trap that we fall into that organizing feels like it’s work, but you’re not doing the work. It’s just making it way too complicated and you’re not actually getting to whatever the email is asking you to do. I totally agree, simplify.

Pete Wright:
I mean it feels like you’ve checked something off your list, right?

Melissa Bacheler:
Yeah, right.

Pete Wright:
So it feels like you’re being productive. It also feels like you’ve finished something and that’s a dopamine push. So the act of being overly organized can actually feel emotionally satisfying in a way that is totally unproductive. You haven’t shipped anything. You haven’t changed a relationship. You haven’t moved anything forward. All you’ve done is file.

Pete Wright:
So in the interests of minimizing system bloat, you’ve got to figure out the easiest way to grease the skids to actually get work done. Well, that has been transformative in my interaction with email. And I still get people who don’t trust my system. I’ll get an email from somebody at 10:00 and they’ll say, “Here’s a project I need you to work on real quick.” Then by 4:00, they’ll write me again, “Just making sure you got that email.”

Pete Wright:
Well, I did get that email and I’ve actively been working and I haven’t checked my email yet, but believe me, my process, my email is pretty bulletproof now because there is no clutter. There’s no clutter in my inbox anymore. That has changed my reality in a pretty significant way. So the last thing that I want to think about in terms of these sort of my mindset around email. We focus on what I want my inbox to do for me, focus on the mechanics with an eye toward how I work and three, only learn what I need to move forward, right?

Pete Wright:
Most of these email apps and tools and systems allow you to do a lot. I can’t imagine what it would be like to carry around the size of head that I would have if I learned everything about Gmail and Spark my mail app like all at once. It would be physically larger, it’s so deep like those apps. You can do so much.

Pete Wright:
But I really have mastered the tools that I need to do the job quickly and sort of chew my food before I swallow. You don’t have to learn 100% of everything. You have to learn the one next thing that’s going to change the way you interact with your email that will impact your overall well-being, and happiness, and joy, and help you feel in control. So those are kind of my big three. Melissa, what do you think?

Melissa Bacheler:
I agree obviously with all of what you said. I think that to begin with we need to realize what kind of relationship we have with our email. I like to say that a lot of us have almost like a negative relationship, almost like a bad boyfriend, girlfriend relationship where you just need to kind of break up with your email and say, “This isn’t working anymore.” And just reframe how you look and interact with something that’s ultimately just a piece of software that sends information to you.

Melissa Bacheler:
And yet, I think a lot of times we get bogged down by the sheer volume that comes in and the amount of work that we may have that is coming in or our bills and not being able to see kind of the tree through the forest, because it’s so overwhelming. And it’s all about learning how to make your email work for you and not make it feel like you are working for your email. So I agree that it really starts with changing how you interact with email and taking time to learn what you want out of your email, because it’ll do what you tell it to do.

Pete Wright:
So we should talk about that. How do you interact with email today? Today is Monday. What does an email Monday look like for Melissa?

Melissa Bacheler:
So I tend to check my email only a couple times a day and one thing that I did a long time ago, I think it was during our first purge is I turned off notifications. That was a huge step towards staying focused during the work day. And because you’ll constantly get pop-up notifications, I pretty much turn off all notifications if I can help it because-

Pete Wright:
That is mind-blowing I know for a lot of people. So just do that the way it is.

Melissa Bacheler:
They’re not necessary. And nine times out of 10, no notification you receive is going to require an immediate response.

Pete Wright:
And I would throw into that because I’m sure there are people listening to us who are like, “No notifications? But you guys are all about alerts and alarms.” And I want to say yes, hallelujah. The problem is if you leave your device or your computer, or whatever on by default with all of its default notification settings, you are notified for everything, which means the notifications you set for your alarms and such, actually mean nothing because it’s always buzzing.

Pete Wright:
If you turn off notifications for your email, but set one alarm that says, “You know what, at 9:00 I need to check my email.” That alarm will mean something. That will be a higher value alert.

Melissa Bacheler:
Exactly right.

Pete Wright:
I’m sorry to interrupt you.

Melissa Bacheler:
No.

Pete Wright:
But that’s in there.

Melissa Bacheler:
I agree. It’s all about notifications with purpose. You need to have made the conscious effort to require a notification for yourself rather than your system telling you when you should be notified. When you have ADHD, it’s all too easy to get distracted and a shiny little pop-up box that says, “Hey, you got an email that there’s a sale.” Honestly, it makes no difference in the moment that you got a new email. But the ability to be easily distracted can take you over to your email inbox and soon you’re scrolling through a sale at a store that you had no intention of buying out to begin with.

Melissa Bacheler:
And you wonder, “How did I get here?” Well, a lot of times it starts with those little notification pop-ups. So unless you purposefully set your notifications and alarms, you really don’t need the other notifications.

Nikki Kinzer:
With stores and things that you’ve ordered from, they’ll put you on their mailing list and then they’ll send you an email every single day, sometimes twice a day, right? But you can actually go in and change your preferences. So if you still want that email that you want it once a week or even, whatever choice they give you, you can decrease the amount of emails you get that way too. So just letting people know that there is an option to change your preferences, they just put you at the highest one right off the bat.

Pete Wright:
So that’s Monday’s Melissa notification settings. What’s next?

Melissa Bacheler:
I will normally start the workday with checking email. I get a little news app, so I’ll check the news. I will archive anything that I don’t need in the moment and the rest, I will move into my Workbox of choice which happens to be Todoist and that sets up the tasks for me to accomplish whatever in the emails that I need to take care of. And then I can archive the email because I’ve already moved it to where it needs to go so that I know as I work through my day that I need to go work on a certain email and I can actually link it right back to my email provider from Todoist or whatever program that you choose. You can use a pad and a pen and it works just as well. It’s all really about whatever system works for you. And then-

Pete Wright:
That’s transformational for me just being able to send with a keyboard shortcut. For me, I’ve set it up in Spark. So an email comes in, I hit shift command T. It opens up a new task in Todoist with the link back to the email in Spark so that I can… Once it’s in Todoist, when I’m finished with the work, I click on the link in Todoist. It opens up a new email that I can then reply to and say, “Hey, this job is done.” But it’s already cleared out of my inbox. It’s deep in the Gmail archive just kept as reference.

Melissa Bacheler:
Yeah. I see the inbox as work that still needs to be done. So if I don’t move it, then I think that it’s still a task that I need to take care of. So moving it out of my inbox and into the space where I actually take care of my tasks every day keeps me organized and make sure that I’m not missing anything. I love when my email inbox is clean and it’s at zero and says, “There’s no work to do.” And that feels really, really good.

Nikki Kinzer:
I just want to point this out. You at one point had 37,000 emails and you transformed or changed that whole process and came to a point that you just explained now. So it’s very, very possible. My question is how long did it take for you to have this be a routine where you could daily know to go in and move those inboxes, right? Because that’s a routine, that’s something that you have to pay attention to. So I’m curious how long that took you to do?

Melissa Bacheler:
It’s still a work in progress. I think there are days that I’m really good about it and I can go a full week with making sure that I’m up on my email and maybe there’s an illness or I take a break from technology for a little bit and come back and there’s 150 emails to go through, and it may take a little bit to get back on track. So I would not say that I have mastered it or that it’s something that I have constantly going for me.

Melissa Bacheler:
Most of the time, it stays pretty clean and I keep up on all of the email coming in, but it’s a daily challenge to make sure that I’m keeping up on it, just because it is such a… I almost want to say it’s alive. It just keeps growing. It doesn’t stop. The emails are still going to constantly be coming in every day and so it’s a constant… I have to constantly be aware of it and make sure that I’m keeping up on it, making sure that I keep the numbers or the schedule in my list of things to do to check that email at the times that I designate and take care of what’s in there so that you don’t get behind.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think that’s such a great answer for people to hear too that this isn’t something that’s just going to be like magic. It is a process and it’s always a work in progress, right? So there’s going to be a great week and then there’s going to be a week that you fall behind. As Pete had mentioned earlier, he fell behind from having an illness. So I appreciate you sharing that.

Melissa Bacheler:
Yeah, absolutely. I think that the part about when you fall behind, when you’ve put those practices in place and the different filters and things like that, it makes it a whole lot easier to get back on track once you have those routines and those different filters and things in place. It’s not as hard to come back to where you want to be as it was when you first started with 40,000 emails.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Yeah, great point.

Pete Wright:
Well, and I can say I ended up with over the course of July, I get 2 or 300 email messages a day. So that’s thousands and thousands of messages that have dropped into my email. But thanks to just a couple of quick filters and this alternate alias email address, I only ended up with maybe 60 that were in my main inbox that hadn’t been filtered out that I needed to deal with on some personal level. That is a much more manageable kind of interaction than just having to filter through all of those things manually.

Pete Wright:
So letting the system think for you through filters or any sort of automation can go miles toward reclaiming sanity around your email. And to do that it’s pretty easy. We’re talking specifically about Gmail because we use Google apps for business, but it’s the same for any just regular Gmail account. I believe it works the same way in Yahoo. You can just perform a search and create a rule, right? It is that easy. They want you to create rules around these things.

Pete Wright:
You can also go into settings and then folders and put labels, and you can create labels that allow you to filter directly into certain labels, which end up looking like folders or buckets depending on what email application you use. It is incredibly easy to create these sort of automations. I want to introduce a different tool that is really, really new and I don’t have a lot of experience with it yet. Have you guys heard of Hey.com?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-mm (negative).

Melissa Bacheler:
No, but I like it already. Hey.

Pete Wright:
Hey.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hey.

Pete Wright:
So Hey is an interesting thing. It’s from the company behind Basecamp and they went about trying to reinvent email, right? They tried to see like what if we put all of our smarts toward email stress mitigation and they start with this whole model where you sign up for a new email address. You pay 99 bucks a year. So it is a paid service. But listen to how it works.

Pete Wright:
The first thing that happens is you set up your new email address. Then when you log in, email starts coming in. And you can migrate your other email to it. You can just point your Gmail or yahoo or Outlook accounts directly to your Hey.com account so you can get email coming in. And then you start with what they call the screener. All your email is listed as it comes in and there’s a little yes and no button. A little thumbs up, thumbs down and you just have to answer, “Hey, do you want to get email from these people?” If you say no, they go away.

Pete Wright:
They just disappear. Hey we’ll never show you those people again. They’re just gone. If you say yes, you have some options. The first is this is what they call important so it goes in the Imbox, I-M-B-O-X. The important mail is in the Imbox, right? But you could also put mail in what they call the feed and that’s like your evening briefing from the New York Times. It’s the stuff you want to read maybe, but you scan it, it’s not store emails, it’s not coupons. It’s just-

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s like Take Control ADHD newsletter.

Pete Wright:
It’s Take Control ADHD newsletter. It’s in your casual reads. Although, I would say Take Control ADHD newsletter is important and should be in your inbox.

Nikki Kinzer:
Important. I agree. Inbox.

Pete Wright:
And then there’s finally the paper trail. And the paper trail is where all your transactions go. So receipts and bookings and airlines that kind of a thing. Then finally there’s a reply later where you just say, “I’m going to get back to this person later.” Then there’s a whole list where you can reply to all of these messages at once. You just hit quick little notifications and that’s it.

Pete Wright:
I mean, it is an incredibly fascinating reinvention of just how you interact with email. It’s one of many frankly. There are a number of apps that allow you to control how you see email. There are apps out there that actually turn your email essentially into a chat app where you get a new message from a sender, but it just looks like bubbles so that you don’t see any subject lines or attachments. It looks like chat apps, but it’s essentially just using email as the back end for that. It’s really fascinating. So if you want to check it out, it’s Hey, H-E-Y like hey, you, check out this new email thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hey, how are you doing?

Pete Wright:
At hey.com, there is a half… The CEO does a 37-minute walkthrough of the entire tool because he wants you to know what you’re getting into if you have to pay 99 bucks for it. There is a free trial. You can check it out there. It’s one in a line of companies trying to do something different with email, but it’s one that looks pretty great. If you are struggling and really need a push to getting your email in order and you feel like you can’t do it yourself, a service like Hey is the ultimate sort of technological accountability buddy.

Nikki Kinzer:
Interesting.

Pete Wright:
Might be.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re always in front of these new trends.

Pete Wright:
Well, I don’t know. [crosstalk 00:44:38] This one’s pretty hot right now. This one is all the the rage in the tech circles. I’m starting to get more email from people who have Hey.com email accounts just over the last couple of weeks. If you need some email help, this could be it for you. Mostly because like it’s a thing we’ve been talking about for years. Your email inbox, it’s like the drunk like joker sitting on your couch behind you, right? You don’t owe that idiot anything. He’s just trying to make your life hard.

Nikki Kinzer:
That is such an interesting vision, a drunk joker.

Pete Wright:
Take the bottle away. Take the bottle away from that guy. Sober him up. Don’t let him control your day.

Nikki Kinzer:
Control you.

Melissa Bacheler:
Exactly.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
So, Melissa, talk about search because I know that that’s something that interests people. Because I know that a lot of times what I will hear is they’ll keep emails because they can search for them.

Melissa Bacheler:
I have one archive folder and everything goes into it. I don’t have multiple folders for different categories. It all goes into one archive folder because the search function for most of your usual email clients is very advanced and can pull out keywords from either subject lines, or emails, or addresses and bring those up for you to easily find what you’re looking for if you have to go back to something that you previously archived. And I use it all the time to just quickly search for something that I need and pull it up and continue on my day. It’s all about the least amount of steps to get to what you need so that you can keep going.

Nikki Kinzer:
I always use it to get email addresses. So if there’s somebody that I need to email and I don’t have it in my inbox for whatever reason, I’ll search for it. I use it quite a bit too.

Pete Wright:
Well, we’ll put in the show notes the search operators, the terms and tools that you can use in Gmail for example? And I would encourage you to look for, whatever your platform is, what are the search operators you can use with Outlook? What are the search operators you can use with Yahoo? An example, if you want to find all messages from a specific sender, this is very basic. Just type From: and then the name. Like From: Nikki will show me everything Nikki has ever sent me. You can use just a name or a full email address, whatever you want, you can find it that way.

Pete Wright:
Same with CC:, BCC:, Subject:, all of those allow you to search those specific fields in Gmail straight from the little search box right at the top. You can also have search multiple terms, right? So if you want to search for everything from Melissa or Nikki, all you have to do is use curly quotes, right? The little decorative brackets, not quotes. Put in brackets From: Melissa space From: Nikki and it will show me a results list of every email that has been sent to me from Melissa or Nikki, right? Both of them.

Pete Wright:
So that’s a quick way to find something. If you’re not quite sure who sent it to you, but you know who it might have been, that’s super easy. You can remove messages from the search result, right? So I can say, I want to search for dinner space minus ADHD. So then I will find all the messages that are about dinner, but not ADHD related dinners. If there’s an event around an ADHD event, then I can remove that from the search results which is super fun.

Pete Wright:
You can use all kinds of different search operators from mailing lists, exact words or phrases like if you’re at all experienced in sort of… I think you can actually use RegEx search in Gmail because it’s designed by engineers and they actually know how that works. If you know what that term means, you know who you are. You should try it and see what you can get out of Gmail search.

Nikki Kinzer:
Can I do just a little bit of a summary?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because I’m just thinking, all right, I’ve got a client that comes to me and says, “I want to talk about email. I have 20,000 emails in my inbox. I have three different accounts.” So from what I’m hearing you guys say, one of the things that we would want to do or one of the very first things to do is to get those accounts into one place, and that’s where you use like Spark or Airmail, right?

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
Those are the type of services that you would adopt and get everything into one place. Then we’re looking at these different questions about how you want your inbox to work for you, what do you want to accomplish? I think it’s probably also looking at like what’s valuable, what’s not, right? An email from your professor or an email from your boss is very different than an email from Wayfair, right?

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So trying to also kind of figure out where your value of email is. At that point, then you know sort of what the workflow is going to look like going forward. I’m still stuck on if I’ve gone through the questions, I’ve got everything in one place, then do I archive or do I go through and delete or can I pick things out? Could I pick out my boss’s emails like you were talking about with the search and keep those or put them in a file? What would I do? Does that make sense?

Pete Wright:
Well, I’ll tell. If you’re asking me, I archive. I like archive. And let’s just talk a little bit what archive is in the Gmail, Yahoo kind of universe. iCloud also has an archive mentality. It was really started by Gmail when Gmail came out because it was unique, right? Before then, email came in and it was folder based. It was just, if it lived in the inbox, that was kind of the one version of that email and if you deleted, it was gone.

Pete Wright:
If you moved it to another folder, that was the copy of the email that lived in that folder. If you delete it from that folder, it’s gone. Well, then Gmail comes along and they have this archive. In Gmail, it’s called all mail. And you have to imagine a giant bucket and that is where all of your email lives. If you go into all mail, you’ll see a disorganized just descending date list of all email that you’ve ever received and then it’s grouped by messages that you have sent back to it.

Pete Wright:
They call them discussions in Gmail. So you’ll see a message from Nikki and then if you click on it, it will show you the list of all the messages. I came back to Nikki, she wrote back to me. I wrote back to Nikki. They’re all there. But all the messages are in all mail. Inbox is just a fancy filter of new messages that have arrived into all mail. When you remove a message from the inbox, it still lives in all mail unless you actually kind of right click on it or click the specific trash can icon. If you just-

Nikki Kinzer:
To delete it.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, to delete it, right. What it’s really doing is just removing that message from the all mail inbox filter. All of your other labels that are folders down the side, those little tags down the side of your sidebar in Gmail, those are just more labels just like the inbox. That means you can have an email and put it in a label that’s receipts and have that same email be represented in a list from United Airlines and that would be in separate emails, but it’s still just one email.

Pete Wright:
Those two labels are just reflections of emails filtered out of all mail, right? So what I like to do in my inbox is if I’m declaring sort of email bankruptcy, I select everything in my inbox and I select archive. I don’t delete, I archive because all that’s doing is removing it from my inbox and creating this sort of clean slate for me to start without deleting the messages. Nothing is going to trash. It’s all living exactly where it’s been living all along, which is in the bucket that read all mail.

Nikki Kinzer:
You know how you have so much storage space. Does that affect your email buckets too? Let’s say you archived everything. At some point, does that start to get deleted just because you are so full?

Pete Wright:
Not without them telling you’re running out of space, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay.

Pete Wright:
Gmail in particular, there is a limit and you can buy additional space, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
More space if you want.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, absolutely. You can subscribe to more space. For a buck 99 a month, you can get enough space that most people will never have to question their email again, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
But remember, everything is tied into that storage that comes into email. So if you are somebody who sends and receives large attachments, then those attachments count toward your file storage, to your email storage. And so you can use up your storage pretty quickly if you use email essentially as a file manager. So be aware of that. There are some things you might want to delete just because it ends up taking up a lot of space. I’m one of those people who I just pay up for the storage. Just pay up. I don’t want to think about it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, right. I don’t want to think about it either.

Pete Wright:
The cost of not thinking about it is important.

Nikki Kinzer:
So there’s a question here in the live feed that says why archive versus just letting it sit in the inbox? Can I try to answer that from what you just said?

Pete Wright:
Yes, I can’t wait.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, right? I know. Me too. I’m very excited about this. So my guess is that we don’t want to keep it in the inbox because the inbox is supposed to be for really working current email that you need to reference to. So if you don’t need it, archive it, because it’s just cluttering the inbox. It’s just getting you into this whole cycle of having 20, 30,000 emails if you’re keeping everything in the inbox. It’s not working.

Pete Wright:
Right. Well, and I would add a caveat to that because I don’t want it to sound prescriptive. There are people who are not overwhelmed by that experience. And so I would say if you’re in a position where your inbox is causing you stress and you don’t know what to do, then select all and archive, right? And then you have a clean slate just like Nikki said, and that can free you up.

Nikki Kinzer:
But if it doesn’t stress you out and you’re totally fine and you can use the search button and get what you need, then that’s what we’re saying is that that’s okay. That’s fine too. It’s your system.

Pete Wright:
And remember, the beauty of this sort of modern email management is that you can have an email that lives in all mail. It’s rooted in all mail, but you can live in as many labels as many folders as you want because all those labels are just showing you essentially a saved search that says, “Hey, Pete has associated this email with travel and with receipts and with upcoming trips and with visiting the grandparents.” Those are all labels that I would use and then I would be able to click on those labels and see them all in one place.

Nikki Kinzer:
When you say labels, is that the same thing as folders?

Pete Wright:
It is. If you’re operating inside of Gmail, it’s called labels. They don’t use the word folders, but many email applications like Spark like Airmail, I think they use the word folders and it’s just the same thing. It’s the same thing. I’m pretty sure, Outlook and Yahoo, they use the word folders. I’m not sure. But I know Gmail has really been sticky with the term labels.

Nikki Kinzer:
So I’m going to try to answer another question.

Pete Wright:
Do it.

Nikki Kinzer:
The difference between archive folders and just leaving the inbox.

Pete Wright:
Go ahead.

Nikki Kinzer:
So archive, you’re just putting it all away where you can’t see it, but you still have access to it.

Pete Wright:
Yes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Folders are labels depending on what you’re using are those little things on the side of your email where you may be moving email. So like I have a folder for bills. So anything that’s a bill or a receipt, I slip into that what I call folder. But you could also say a label, right?

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So it is the same thing as the inbox, it’s just that you’re separating it from the inbox and you’re putting it somewhere else. But it’s still in your all mail.

Pete Wright:
It’s still in your all mail.

Nikki Kinzer:
All mail is where everything goes. And then the inbox is where all the new stuff goes and you have to decide if you want to keep it in the inbox, put it in a label, archive it or delete it. Do I have it?

Pete Wright:
You do.

Melissa Bacheler:
I’m so proud.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I know.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yay!

Pete Wright:
I am so proud. One more thing on deleting though and this is kind of important. You have a little bit of runway on deleting. If you click the little trash can… Now, if you’re in all mail and you see a message and you’re like, “I never want to see that again,” and you select the little check box and you click the trash can at the top of it, it will send that to the trash. The trash is on a rolling 30-day purge. So anything you drop in there today will not actually be deleted until 30 days from now. So anything that you deleted 29 days ago will delete tomorrow. Does that make sense?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
So that rolling 30 days gives you a chance to say, “Oh, wait a minute. I put something in the trash two weeks ago that I need to make sure I have.” Once it’s out and purged from your trash, it’s gone forever. You can always go in and manually purge your trash at any time and say, “I want to purge everything even if it’s not 30 days.” But it is generally a 30-day rolling trash.

Pete Wright:
The other question that has come up is when you archive it, does it make it smaller like a ZIP archive? And that’s an important question because I know the ZIP has and compression has already kind of got the language of archive down. It does not. There is no compression going on in your email at all. Nothing is being made smaller. It doesn’t take up less space, because all you’re doing is removing the email from your inbox. You’re not doing anything to the main version of that email that lives in your all mail bucket. Does that make sense?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
All right. That’s email. Did we win email? This is an epic email.

Nikki Kinzer:
This was very helpful. And I feel like as a coach, I have a better idea of like what questions to ask and how to get them started and to feel more comfortable about the process. Melissa is a great example of how that can happen. And Pete, you’ve always been a great example.

Pete Wright:
I live to serve. I think that’s it. Melissa, thank you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Awesome. Thank you, guys. Thank you, Melissa for being here.

Melissa Bacheler:
Thank you guys for having me. It’s really weird to be saying that. But it was fun.

Pete Wright:
It’s so fun. It’s always fun to have you around and in these shows. I can’t wait for our next members only series. We were supposed to have done that in July and then I got sick so we need to regroup.

Melissa Bacheler:
That darn Pete. Well, we’re glad to have you back.

Pete Wright:
That darn Pete.

Melissa Bacheler:
And healthy, and being your Pete self.

Pete Wright:
Thank you.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
I’m glad to be there too. So thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. We appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Melissa Bacheler and Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next time right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.