Having signed up the wait list for Hey, I received my invite and subsequently undertook a two-week trial. What happened next has changed how I interact with email forever. Although I may be repeating information that is already out there, I’m going to focus on a small number of features that let you change your relationship with email. These features ultimately convinced me to part with £100 and sign up for my first year. This article is not an “influencer” article. I’m not being paid to write it. There are no kick-backs or discounts. It’s my celebration of a problem solved.
The Really Important Stuff
Here’s the really important stuff. Just like this blog post, all of the really important stuff is right here at the top. In Hey, it’s called your “Imbox”, and you have tools to prevent anything getting into your Imbox unless you really want it there. When you open normal email, your inbox is jammed full of stuff from everyone who you ever gave your mail address to. Plus those they sold it or leaked it to. When you open Hey, you very often get an empty mailbox (which is a new experience for me). Mail you don’t want just never arrives, and stuff that isn’t important can be redirected into The Feed (newsletters and stuff that you can read whenever) or the Paper Trail (order confirmations and receipts).
On top of this, just because an email makes it into your Imbox doesn’t mean you get disturbed. You can limit which contacts will generate a notification and let the rest wait until you are ready to deal with it.
I expand on these points below, comparing my old workflow to my new one.
Before: I open up my inbox and tick everything that is obviously spam. I then mark it as spam so it leaves my inbox. I wonder whether marking this stuff as spam actually does anything because most of the spam has the same title related to property investments. I then scroll past my newsletters. I want to keep these because they are from InfoQ, or Microsoft, or Autumn Christian, or TSConf. They aren’t urgent, but I’ll read them later. I’m scrolling and looking for emails from humans. I select these out and read them. If I’m responding now, I’ll reply. If I need to respond later, or do something with the email later, I mark the email as unread so it will still be bold when I come back later on. For emails I’m done with, I’ll archive them to move them out of my inbox. Repeat.
Hey: I open my Imbox and it’s either empty, or has one or two emails from humans. I read the mail and either reply, or hit the “reply later” button, or hit the “aside” button. Reply later is for stuff I’ll respond to when I have the information I need. Aside is for stuff I need to read later, like the shopping list someone emailed me. If I don’t need to take action, the email drops into my “seen before” pile and I can forget about it.
My inbox was a perpetual collection of 100 emails in various states. My Imbox is one or two emails I’ve not seen before.
Before: I leave newsletters unread until I get to them. Most of my unread inbox is newsletters because they aren’t terribly time-sensitive or important. I enjoy reading them, when I’m in the mood to read them. They clog up my mailbox and make it hard to find real email.
Hey: All of my newsletters drop straight into The Feed. I can scroll through this when I want to. It’s a bit like a social feed, I can scroll past stuff that’s less interesting to me. I don’t need to mark them as read, or archive them. They are just there. I can read them, or not.
The Paper Trail
Before: I tend to keep my order confirmations and dispatch notifications as unread emails until I get the thing I ordered. Then I archive them. I rarely need to refer to them, unless someone sends me a pizza with no cheese on it (you know who you are Dominos). Later on I might need to find them.
Hey: My receipts and order emails land in The Paper Trail. It’s the automatic version of what I did before.
Before: I get a notification each time an email arrives in my inbox, until I get so frustrated I disable notifications. Then I get no notifications for any emails ever.
Hey: I get a notification each time my wife emails me. The rest of you can wait.
Before: People sending me emails tracked when I opened and interacted with the email. While I’m not shocked they do this, they definitely don’t have my consent to record whether I opened their email, what time of day it was, or whether I opened it multiple times.
Hey: I get a little notification telling me that tracking was prevented.
Converting into a Paying Customer
It’s literally economics. An hour a day of email management has been eliminated. That’s probably 300+ hours a year saved. That’s ten weeks of unpaid life overtime working as spam and email administrator gone from my life per year. But it’s more than “is my time worth the money”. Email had become a real drag. Now it’s a joy. The difference now is that email is once again something that connects me to other humans. All the automated trash is gone and only the people remain (er, I mean this respectfully… as I do kinda want the newsletters… just on different terms to how I want to communicate with individuals).
With Hey, I can once again imagine using email to get back in touch with people. The annual cost feels more like a donation to an organisation that will make lives better. Genuinely. If they make money out of it, all the better. A company making money by being on my side isn’t going to be tempted to look inside my emails for advertising opportunities or other nefarious activities.