Are those hopes misplaced?
Certainly there have been management solutions that have been grabbing a lot of attention lately. For example, SaneBox.
SaneBox uses a massive email filter that learns what’s important to you and tosses what’s not into a separate folder.
To learn what’s important to you, SaneBox analyzes what you keep in your inbox, as well as your social networking accounts, to determine what should be allowed into your inbox and what shouldn’t.
You can check the messages in the separate folder to see how effectively SaneBox is working and to further tweak the filter.
According to SaneBox, it can save an average employee 100 hours a year in email time.
Another email wonder app is Mailbox. Mailbox is an iPhone app that’s impressing the Zero Inbox crowd with its simplicity.
With the program, which, for now, only works with Gmail, you’re given three options. An email can be deleted, archived or saved for later action.
How much later is up to you. It can be later in the day, week or month. Accessing those items later can be easily done through the app’s main menu.
Essentially, the app treats your inbox as a to-do list. That’s a good idea, according to venture capitalist Paul Graham.
“Email was not designed to be used the way we use it now,” he wrote in an essay titled “Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas.”
“Email is not a messaging protocol,” he continued. “It’s a todo list. Or rather, my inbox is a todo list, and email is the way things get onto it. But it is a disastrously bad todo list.”
Graham’s view contrasts with Mr. Zero Inbox himself Merlin Mann, who attributes email’s inadequacies to a lack of a cohesive system of managing it.
“Clearly,” he wrote in a blog, “the problem of email overload is taking a toll on all our time, productivity, and sanity, mainly because most of us lack a cohesive system for processing our messages and converting them into appropriate actions as quickly as possible.”
There are those, though, who believe no amount of management will address the email problem. Management only treats a symptom of a larger problem, according to Trey Griffith, CTO and co-founder of Endorse.me.
What that larger problem is isn’t entirely clear to Griffith but he does know what the problem isn’t. “Every new email management app, and every new email management system seems to be treating a symptom of the disease rather than the disease itself,” he wrote in an online essay.
“I’m not sure if the disease is the increasing amount of email,” he continued, “but I can be fairly certain that the disease is not the lack of a management system, nor a to-do list communicated through messages.”
There’s also another school of thought that posits the proposition that what makes email stressful is its nagging demand for attention.
The Slow Web manifesto, formulated by a group advocating that people “should have a life” outside the Web, call for the disruption of unhealthy feedback loops, of which email could be one.
“Habits form by virtue of feedback loops,” the manifesto explained. “Upon forming habits that hooks one to an intravenous drip of constant feedback from the Internet, one would eventually be incapacitated by the sheer amount of information flowing through.”
“As such,” it continued, “we feel that the fast web is creating unhealthy feedback loops which will lower one’s efficiency and productivity in the long run.”