Being a wildly popular TED speaker, and top behavioral scientist has its perks, but a sane inbox isn't one of them. Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, regularly gets hundreds of emails a day, he told The Atlantic recently, so he can sympathize with all the office denizens who see their productivity torpedoed by an endless barrage of email.
But while most of us just moan about the constant interruptions of arriving messages, Ariely took matters into his own hands by helping to develop two apps that actually might prevent you from losing your mind over your perpetually overflowing inbox.
Not all messages are created equal.
The first of these is called Filtr, and it's predicated on a simple, self-evident premise: not all emails are created equal. Some, like that urgent request from your boss, are worth breaking your concentration to attend to. Others, like your third favorite e-commerce site announcing a new sale on shoes, can wait.
How many emails are actually urgent? To find out, Ariely, "posted a survey on his blog asking respondents to review the last 40 emails they'd received, saying for each one how long they could've waited to read it: Right away? Two hours later? A week later? Never?" reports The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker. Just one-in-ten emails, it turns out, need immediate attention.
From this data, Filtr was born. The app aims to separate one type of email from the other and make sure that if your inbox chimes, it's actually for something important. Other messages are bundled and delivered at a convenient later time.
Making email easier to scan
Another big issue with email is that it's often hard to quickly identify the main gist of an email. Is the sender just offering information? Do they want a reply? And if so, when?
Having that data to hand makes processing email quicker. Shortwale, another app in which Ariely had a hand, aims to provide it. "Sending a message to someone who uses Shortwhale means being directed to a webpage with a few questions such as 'How urgent is this?' and 'Do you need a reply?'" explains Pinsker. Senders are also encouraged to create emails in the form of a multiple choice question whenever possible.
Might this annoy some senders? Sure, Ariely concedes, and that's so far held back its adoption. But should the tool catch on, "just imagine how much sense it would make if the person who sent you an email had a way to very quickly tell you that for this email, they need a response within a week, or 'no response necessary,'" he tells Pinsker.
Do you think these tools could make tending your own inbox less annoying?