My Move From Gmail To Inbox Amps Productivity

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I’ve been a Google Gmail user for years. I opened a Google Apps for Work account when I started my consulting business in 2011 and created a legit business email address. I loved working with Gmail and the robust, power-user features. Google rolled out Inbox in October 2014 on an invitation only basis. I decided to wait until the bugs got worked out. My Gmail experience wasn’t broken, so why fix it? Early reviews including Six weeks with Google’s Inbox — and why it’s back to Gmail for me by JR Raphael at Computerworld and others swayed my decision to stay with Gmail. I took another look at Inbox in Fall, 2015 and the stunning reality of what email can be changed my mind. I’ve become a Google Inbox convert. More recent reviews by JR Raphael including 9 months later, how Google’s Inbox finally won me over validated my decision to move to Inbox.

Google’s Inbox is designed for the way people typically do email. By typical, I don’t mean me. I’m a zero inbox guy that processes email in batch from top to bottom, following the principles shared by David Allen of Getting Things Done fame. I take action on an email if it takes less than 2 minutes or add it to my Evernote workspace if I need more time and/or resources. For me, email is never a filing cabinet or a to-do list. Email is a collection point for messages, information and action items.

Many other folks use their inbox as a to-do list and filing system. Inbox has features that fit this work style. Snooze sends an email away and brings it back when you want to see it again in an hour, day, week or whenever. They added reminders and pins to keep stuff top-of-mind. The mobile app is elegant with an intuitive UI and Google’s material design elements. The app is almost game-like in its graphic presentation and controls. Email can be fun! The end goal is for people to get email out of their inbox and take action or act later. It’s a sort of inbox-zero strategy.

What I like and don’t like about Google Inbox

  1. Gmail and Inbox are synced and interchangeable. I can jump to Gmail anytime I want to take advantage of some email power-user features that are not available in Inbox, like the send+archive button, out of office automated reply and email user management.
  2. Some critical keyboard shortcuts work with Inbox, some don’t. I’m a keyboard guy, not a mouse guy, so shortcuts are essential for the way I work. I found archive, delete, compose, send, forward and next/previous keyboard shortcuts that work in Inbox just like in Gmail. Forward has been streamlined by using just the F key instead of Shift +F in Gmail to open a new, forward window. Tab+Enter+E is an extremely valuable keyboard shortcut for the send and archive button. It’s not yet available with Inbox. The keys J and K work for next and previous movement but I don’t find N and P do these functions in Inbox like they do in Gmail.
  3. Bundles are like Gmail folders or labels and are relatively static. I like bundles because you can aggregate similar types of email and easily sweep the whole bundle away until later or forever. I didn’t find an option to change the graphic for standard or custom bundles. I’m stuck with the stacked papers icon for every bundle except for the standard Google Inbox bundles. It’s hard to replicate my amped inbox batch system setup but now I wonder “do I need that?”
  4. Bundles inspired me to delete my custom filters. I deleted my custom Gmail filters as I relied on bundles to group email more and more. Inbox learns what’s important or not and generally puts it in the right place. I like the Low Priority bundle for email interlopers but would like to rename or create a new bundle with a more inspiring name. It’s a work in progress. Email fluff or chaff now goes to Low Priority bundle. You know, the people or groups  that intrude on your email workspace but add little to no value to your life. Move those to the Low Priority bundle and deal with those in one swoop later.
  5. Sweeping is fun! Inbox has a sweep function to delete or archive single or bundled messages. Users have the option in Settings to change the Done function from archive to delete. I made the change to delete when done because I don’t want a bunch of clutter in my email archive, no matter how much storage space I have. Clutter creates stress and deleting chaff makes search easier and more relevant.
  6. Beautiful desktop and mobile app user interface. Google’s material design elements come through in the mobile app as well as the desktop UI. The colors are rich and vibrant. The icons are sleek and inspiring. The whole designs makes you want to engage with your email and do better work. Finger movements to sweep and snooze are fun!
  7. Forward to Evernote email address still works flawlessly. This is one of my most used features in Evernote. To get an email into my Evernote workspace I forward the email (F key), enter my personalized Evernote email address in the To: field (already stored as a unique contact), clean up the subject line with a concise description, add the Evernote notebook name prepended with the @ symbol, and an Evernote tag name (optional) prepended with the # symbol. I can add notes to the message text body if needed. Then, I press enter and the email appears in the designated spot my Evernote workspace. From there I can take the next step to move this email forward, defer action by moving it to my Maybe Later notebook or calendar, or delegate to someone else with my Waiting tag.
  8. I can add hyperlink to text in email but it’s not fully functional like GMail. I have the option in Settings to add my signature to email. I can use plain text and include a simple hyperlink within text by highlighting the desired text, press Ctrl+K and type or past the link URL. Beyond that, there’s little text formatting available for signatures.
  9. Snooze helps people get to an inbox-zero state. I process my email collection points from top to bottom. When I open an email I process it. It doesn’t go back into “in.” But I understand some people don’t want to process an email now but would like to deal with it later. That’s where the snooze feature is great. I can send an email away until a specific date, time, location, random return, or preset times later today, tomorrow or next week. Snooze could be useful for future travel or an event so the email with tickets or itinerary pops to the top of your inbox on the day of your trip or event. I handle all of this in Evernote with notebooks, shortcuts and reminders so it’s not so useful for the way I work. But it might work for you! Users can change the default settings for message return time for morning, afternoon and evening.
  10. Reminders are right there with email. I can set a reminder to call or email someone or read something without ever leaving the Inbox app! I can also snooze it and pin it to the top of my inbox so it’s always top of mind. The steps to create a reminder are simple and intuitive. Users can create a to-do list from within Inbox if that’s how they roll.
  11. Drag and drop file attachment is still available. Google made sure file attachments are quick and easy with drag and drop functionality. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make or break a product.
  12. Trips bundle is unique and useful. Inbox bundles email related to an upcoming or historical trip so you can quickly and easily find airline and hotel confirmation email, maps, and other messages related to that trip.

I’m a big fan of Google Inbox. I finished my test and migration quickly and painlessly. I love the beautiful, almost game-like UI, bundles, trip bundle and keyboard shortcuts. Snooze, reminders and pin functions will fit the way many people already work with email. Inbox can be your message center, calendar, tickler file, personal assistant and to-do list if that’s how you want to work.

What do you like and dislike about Google Inbox? Please add your comments below!

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Michael Shelton helps busy professionals get their life's work done as a productivity consultant and the owner of Shelton Business Services, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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