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Zeroing in on Email

So I’ve been working within a new email system for almost a week and have hit the coveted #InboxZero at least once a day which is awesome. I’m sure someone will read this and say, “The real problem is you’re using email.” And that’s definitely true to a degree. Email is definitely not my preferred communication method, but I’ve seen my email die down over the last year in favor of texting, Slack, and Twitter. To be honest, I get exhausted with the amount of ways in which I can be contacted. I identified a lot with Roger Sterling’s quote from last night’s Mad Men episode:

That said, I don’t see us shutting the doors on email any time soon, so if email is the preferred communication for others for now, then I’m going to try to enjoy my email experience :wink:.

I started working at OU in 2011, two years after finishing school here. The problem (or the benefit was… depending on your position) was that my OU email never actually got deactivated. I fell into the dark matter of the university servers, slowly taking up more and more space bit by bit. Email by email. Here’s the oldest email in my inbox. My financial aid award notification from April 6, 2005. And every email since then still sits in my very, very bloated inbox which currently tops 34,320.

Needless to say, I’ve been needing an effective email solution for quite some time. OU is an Exchange campus and we rely heavily on the calendar integration so it appeared my options were limited. About two and half years ago, I deleted every possible remnants of Outlook desktop and moved over to using the online version of Exchange because having all my email stored on my hard drive was really slowing the machine.

But last week I got severely backed up on emails and didn’t know up from down, so I figured it was time to rethink the email solution. I’ve decided to move to using Mailbox and adopt the Inbox Zero mentality. My main issue with the web view of Outlook Exchange is that you can never get to “zero” because your only views are essentially “All Files” or various folders so I can’t even sort my way to zero. So I’ve put together a bit of a hack that allows me to run my Exchange email with Gmail which is integrates nicely with an application I’m using called Mailbox. Here’s my step-by-step guide:

1. Setup an Outlook rule to redirect your emails to a Gmail address.

Exchange Rule

Exchange rule: All items sent to Adam Croom are marked as read and then redirect to Gmail.

 

Although we are technically allowed to forward emails, as a state employee, it’s frowned upon that we directly forward our email to another server since emails are considered official records. So what I’ve done instead is simply setup an Inbox rule. This allows the email to still hit OU’s servers (and spam filters!) creating the record and then forwards it on. This is not a perfect solution as not all emails I receive are directed at me (for instance list-servs) but this is 98% effective.

2. Add your external email address as an alias to Gmail.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.32.30 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.33.31 PM

Google got really smart when it integrated the option to allow you to send any email from your Gmail address via aliases. You just have to simply verify that you own it.

3. Download and Install Mailbox

I’m using Mailbox OS X beta.

4. Setup Mailbox with your Gmail account

Mailbox Add Account Dialogue Box

Mailbox Add Account Dialogue Box

 

5. Edit your account to use the alias.

Mailbox Edit Google Account Dialogue Box

Mailbox Edit Google Account Dialogue Box

 

This is a bit redundant, and its unfortunate that Mailbox doesn’t automatically pull in your aliases, but you got to do this again.

6. Set your default address to be your Exchange email.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.37.15 PM

Last, copy over your email signature and viola! You’re good to go. The process isn’t pretty, but the result definitely is!

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 3.50.32 PM

#InboxZero

So far I’m really enjoying Mailbox. I still have to login to Outlook occasionally but mostly to dig through the archives for an old email.

Here are the top things I’m currently diggin with Mailbox:

Archive feature

This is native to Gmail, but–holy cow–it’s nice to finally have. Reply to email (or don’t), archive it. Simple.

Clean design

Mailbox is really good at the email experience and has no frills. There is no advanced formatting panel, but I, for one, am very okay with that.

New Message Box

Mailbox “New Message” dialogue box. Simple and clean.

 

Here’s a screenshot of Outlook 2016 for Mac.

Outlook 2016 for Mac. New year, same bulk.

Outlook 2016 for Mac. New year, same bulk.

 

Just look at all those buttons. Flags, colors, folders, oh my. As organized as this may make you feel, it doesn’t scream efficiency to me.

Gestures

Mailbox gestures function similar to a mobile app. Archive > Swipe right. Schedule > Swipe left. That means spam gets archived without a click. Anyone who has ever accidentally marked something as spam in Outlook and then routed through a decision tree of adding that address to your address block to be blocked gets how convenient this is.

I’m now looking at the various mobile solutions (which–ironically–Outlook seems to be strong in since their purchase of Accompli). I’m going to continue to evaluate this to see if I find anything that would pull me back to simply using Outlook for Web, but I honestly don’t think it’ll happen this time around. Zero is the new black!

Featured image is a Creative Commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by ConanTheLibrarian

  • I am so glad you wrote this up, Adam! Your comment at the end there made me laugh because it made me remember when email was fun… and it was: back in the 90s, ha ha. Now, Twitter is fun, and email is a chore. Anyway, this is great; I have the luxury of being able to “just say no,” but that’s because I’m out here on the margins of OU. Still, you know I wish email conversations were more PULL than push. I know there are probably about a thousand or more emails that have circulated on the (rumored?) Gen. Ed. reform happening at OU, but I have yet to find public convo of any kind about it anywhere. And surely for something like that, the more voices the better! :-)
  • Stacy Zemke
    Adam,
    Great post, thanks for sharing!!! I would like to chat with you about Slack – I want to twist it to fit my evil plans if possible…
    • Adam
      Yeah let’s definitely chat about it. We’ve had discussion about how it could be potentially used within a class or program. Pretty cool tool!