Another guest posting that contemplates the future of email, from my colleague, Scott Voigt...
It dawned on me the other day, that I spend more time with my inbox than I do with... well... anything! Seriously, this is sad, but totally true. Staring at Outlook (or at least having it stare at me) for more hours than I spend with my wife and daughter, what's up with that? Even worse, given the inordinate amount of time that I allocate to the inbox, I still don't feel in control of it. Calgon, take me away!
Unfortunately, I suspect that too many of us suffer from the same symptoms of email overload. The good news is that help may be on the way. As I mentioned last week, there are a number of start-ups that are creatively using technology in an attempt to make life in the inbox more efficient. Of the many inbox tools that I've tried, Xobni (inbox spelled backwards) might be the most interesting thus far.
Xobni (which is pronounced Zahbnee despite the fact that its logo has a macron over the "o"), is an Outlook plug-in that non-intrusively embeds itself at the right side of Outlook and provides a number of nifty inbox productivity tools. (To name a few: email search, quick access to previously received attachments, and a nice view of previous threads that have transpired with specific contacts.) For me, however, one of the most interesting aspects of Xobni is its ability to provide insightful, metric-based views into my personal email habits. Xobni's user-friendly analytics tool let's me slice the data any way I see fit:
- Who do I email the most?
- Who emails me the most on Saturday? (A: Bill Nussey. (Take a weekend every now and then, Bill.))
- When do I spend the most time catching up on email?
- Do I send more than I receive? (A: Yes. I guess I'm part of the problem.)
With this data at my disposal, I've been able to identify ways to take regain a little control over the inbox. For example, I was able to see that one of the folks on my team sent me a steadily increasing stream of emails leading up to our weekly meeting on Friday. By adding a 15-minute check-in meeting on Tuesday, I was able to eliminate a large number of time-consuming back-and-forth email threads.
Xobni has been in beta testing for a few weeks, and, like most beta products, still has a few kinks in the system. (It still doesn't seem to be counting all my incoming messages.) Regardless, if your life revolves around email, I'd recommend that you take it for a spin. Beyond productivity improvements, Xobni will give you a glimpse into factors that are going to play a huge role in the future of the inbox. Next week, I'll dig a little deeper into some of those factors and how they might eventually influence how a consumer views and interacts with messages in the inbox.