Making email the proper center again

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What a mess this quarantine lifestyle is. I have literally half a dozen channels I have to monitor from email to Slack to iMessage to Whatsapp to Signal to Teams. Then I have notifications from a host of products from Mac Calendar to Github to Trello.

So one thing about this exploration of different mailers is how important it is to have a good mail centered workflow. There really needs to be a universal place to look at everything and triage it. That means a few key things. There was a great Medium article about this, but to summarize. There are big areas for collaboration and you have to be able to push things from one place to another:

  1. Inbound communications (aka Mail, Slack,…) . Although people say it is going away, it remains as big as ever as the last resort communications mechanism. So you can think of this as getting inputs and processing them in a read, defer or complete. With the idea to limit defer as much as possible. This is the read it once then do something. For me, these big vehicles are in order: Mail, Slack, Whatsapp and Signal.
  2. Publishing (aka reforwarding). The main thing here is to create WordPress which then automatically posts to Facebook, Twitter, etc and then to get it back out to the communication channels
  3. Calendaring. Events and things that are a complete mess as there is no simple way to schedule anything. Right now that events through mail and then I’m experimenting with direct scheduling using Calendly (and for big group meetings am tempted by Doodly).
  4. Contacts. You need a place to remember everything. The challenge is that every application has it’s own version of contacts and every email account. I was using Apple Mail as the universal client and then iCloud Contacts as the single database. But with Superhuman, they don’t have this, every account has it’s own contact list, so this is going to be a nightmare
  5. Projects Tracking. I use Trello for non-technical and Github issues for technical. So the need is to take inbound stuff and sort it into action items. The simplest and niftiest thing is the h in Superhuman that allows send and then a notification if you don’t get a reply.
  6. Reading List. This was a great point, that you need somewhere that is like a magazine rack for reading stuff. I’ve been stuffing into Apple Books for now as the place to put it and have it sync everywhere. I’ve tried.
  7. Enterprise backend stuff. Things that are legal and need to be signed. This is actually getting to be a huge category thanks to Docusign, Expensify and Bill.com that let you enter things remotely via magic email addresses.

So the question is how to set it all up so it is easy and function and not frustrating

From Email to Anywhere

How to look at all the different notifications and easily push them somewhere else. You can go many to many as the most convenient way which means you have to fill in the matrix of from any channel to any channel. So here is quick list.

The good news is that on a mobile device, this is relative easy because of the universal share feature:

  1. Mail to Enterprise Apps. This is much trickier. While some services have email addresses like receipts@expensify.com many of these require setup.
  2. Mail to Projects. OK this is a little painful, but with Trello, you can use their mail to board feature that let’s you send mail to Trello and it knows. You have to do for every project board but it is very convenient, the subject is the card name, the body is the description, you can use @richtong to refer other team members and labels with #home
  3. Mail to Slack. This is probably my biggest reforwarding need right now. Fortunately, slack makes that pretty simple, but require configuration. They make you pay for a direct Mail integration, but you can email to a magic address and it appears in Slackbot. They also have direct clients for Outlook and Gmail. The free forwarding address is pretty buried, but in Preferences > Messages and Media all the way at the bottom is Bring Emails into Slack this is unfortunately two step, the stuff appears in Slackbot and then you have to remember what it is and manually forward it.
  4. You can also try Zapier actions which is free but require more configuration to do this as well which is more specific but requires more setup, for instance you can send email that is starred to a specific slack channel. This is way better than wading through the Slackbot reforwarding. Also the way Superhuman works with the underlying label is a little wierd. Not to mention that I can’t figure out how to add new splits from the Mac client, but it works fine with iOS one.
  5. Mail to Github Issues. Well it looks like there is a service that does this called Fire. I tried this but this hung.

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