How to Plan Anything by Email Alone — and why it’s Faster

Aside from professional project management, planning and collaborating on personal things – like trips and vacations, family reunions, summer camp options for the kids, or even advice – is best done by email, not specialized collaborative software tools online.

Thousands of SaaS businesses want to convince you to use their system to “share and create”, to “plan and strategize”, or to “post and update” others with whatever you’re working on. Many of them are merely misguided. Some are outright hostile to email.

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Email Love Links – March 2023

It’s been some time since I’ve posted links by others extolling email or its underlying virtues. Sometimes folks inadvertently promote concepts or ideals of email, even though they might not be discussing email directly.

I will be trying to do this more frequently. So stay tuned for more, or subscribe to the Just Use Email RSS feed.

Let’s start with one I disagree with, despite my great admiration and appreciation for its author, Cal Newport.

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Email Is a Good Fence

The proverb “good fences make good neighbors”, often attributed to poet Robert Frost, is the perfect metaphor for the beauty of email as the primary, if not sole, asynchronous communication method in the digital age.

The origin of the phrase is not entirely clear. Interesting Literature states an earlier reference in 1640 from E. Rogers, who wrote “A good fence helpeth to keepe peace between neighbours; but let vs take heed that we make not a high stone wall, to keepe vs from meeting.”

That high stone wall might today by postal mail. For some, it might be a little too much friction, although I would argue that postal mail is the most classic and perfect of all written communication among friends (and neighbors). But for many, if we waited for that inevitable letter in the mail, we might never get one.

This, however, is the pedantic excuse of all text messengers. Those wired to their phone each day, pinging and tapping, sending and receiving, draining their dopamine to the point of fatigue, would argue that should they try instead to live by email alone, they would never hear back from their friends, families, and neighbors.

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Why Virtual Meetings may be the Death of Email

Some have been hoping, perhaps praying, for the death of email. Every “solution” has been tried, but none have prevailed.

Some claim email has even “brought them to tears” and that receiving email “is like getting stabbed”.

But despite the many doomed “save the world from email” companies that keep cropping up, there may be a more insidious threat to the 50-year legacy of email: virtual meetings.

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Slack is Disliked

Just when you thought it was safe to go into group messaging again, just when remote work seemingly guaranteed Slack a permanent fixture on the internet, just when Salesforce threw their weight and $27.7 billion dollars at Slack, now seems like the perfect time to reflect upon Slack and if it really is the savior of digital workplace communication.

Email is the all-time champion, and even today, would beat up Slack in the ring. After all, email has superpowers that Slack can only dream about.

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Gen Z will not ‘free’ us from email: A response to the NY Times article

Sigh. Here we go again. The New York Times used a slow news day to vent about email and hint that Generation Z will one day free us from email.

A fan of ‘Just Use Email’ told me about this article knowing it would ‘trigger’ me (to use a Gen Z word). It worked (ha). Thusly triggered, I’m now firing back. Pew-pew.

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One Sentence Email Tips

Writer Josh Spector published yesterday a collection of 40 one-sentence email tips. It’s worth your time to peruse if you’re a fan of just using email.

Normally, when I see articles giving ‘tips’ on how to use email better, I roll my eyes and start reading only to discover the same ol’ trite. The problem with most of those articles is that they subscribe to the notion that email is the bomb or that email is a time bomb.

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Email Newsletters are not the Savior of Email

In the past few years, there has been a resurgence of interest in email newsletters. Some are touting email newsletters as the great savior of email.

One theory is that it was related to the pandemic lockdowns and people simply wanting more information to absorb. With standard newsstands shutdown in big cities, email newsletters seemed to fill a void.

Another theory is that with Big Tech ‘cancelling’ certain types of information found on their websites, email newsletters were the way to get information that might be otherwise removed from social media sites. Email newsletters could be the counter-revolution.

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Basecamp’s Hey Email Service with Apple Mail (for free?)

Can’t Apple’s email do almost all of Basecamp’s new Hey email’s top 20 features?

The reason Hey’s email service caught my attention is that Basecamp specifically calls out Apple (among the other big email providers). I was a bit surprised when I read Hey’s Top 20 features.

The Hey Email service was started by long-time internet developers Jason Fried, a co-founder of project planning software Basecamp. He and his business partner, David Heinemeier Hansson (frequently referred to as DHH) have been in the news lately for some rather loud missteps about how they handled some workplace controversies. That’s not the point of this article; running a business is hard. The reason they get noticed is because they’ve written loudly themselves for many years on the “proper” way to do business, remote work, and other initiatives. They have contributed some good things to the conversation and, for such a small company, have a rather broad reach.

However, when I saw that they started a new company called “Hey” and that their main premise, much like Slack’s, is that “Email is broken” and that, of course, they were the latest ones to claim they had a fix for it (for your hard-earned dollars, of course), I started following their new service closely.

To be fair, a few features are unique to Hey. But are they worth $100/year?

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Instant Messaging is no longer ‘instant’

The concept of instant messaging, in its various forms, has been around since dialup days. Recall the scene in the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail when the two characters, Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, respectively played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, suddenly realize they are both “online” at the same time and begin to use instant messaging.

In the early scenes, the two characters are pen pals, using America Online’s email to communicate under pseudonyms. Their emails are filled with thoughtful prose, captivating observations on their daily lives, and underneath the plain text, a hint of flirtation, despite them both being in committed relationships at the time.

However, a moment comes when Joe decides to breach protocol and, noticing Kathleen is also online at the same time, sends her an instant message. The look on Meg Ryan’s character says it all. She’s initially taken aback.

Suddenly, she can no longer write contemplatively and asyncronously, but is required to muster the courage to reply “in the moment”. He can see she is online! To ignore him, after all the emails have gone back and forth, would be rude.

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Dislikes about email are Questionable

Blogger Lars Wirzenius asked followers last year what they liked and disliked about email. He then summarized those email likes and dislikes here.

The dislikes about email were typical and, in my opinion, represent several myths about email that disgorge into modern discussions about productivity and communication.

These knee-jerk prima facie reactions to using email are not invalid entirely, but misunderstandings must be clarified. I’m not covering all of the dislikes people mentioned in his post as some were extreme edge cases or didn’t apply to the average Joe.

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Welcome to Just Use Email

If you haven’t already, read the About page to get a sense of what this website is about and what my purpose is in sharing it with you.

We have much to look forward to, but first let me say a hearty welcome for just stopping by.

I don’t have all the answers. But I hope to be able to inspire and motivate many to more purpose-filled and focused work (and leisure) by just using email for an increasing amount of communication and tasks related to our digital lives and businesses.

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