What's Your Email Personality?

We all use email, but we don't all use it the same way. Here Dharmesh Mehta, senior director of Outlook.com, gives us the lowdown on the three types of email users--and what it means for your Inbox.

Not all email users are created equal.

According to Dharmesh Mehta, senior director of Outlook.com, email users can be separated into three distinct categories, based on their daily interactions with their inboxes.

"There's no one rule for email," he says. "There's just different styles."

Dharmesh Mehta

So: Which one are you?

Deleters

Deleters spend the start of their day simply cleaning out their Inboxes in an attempt to restore order. According to Mehta, roughly 50% of people "take about a third of their Inbox and, before they even read the mail, they delete it."

Filers

Filers keep their Inboxes running like a well-oiled machine. They're organized and have mastered a system of tricks for keeping their mail in recognizable order.

"They have a lot of power tools to get through their Inbox and keep things where they want them," Mehta says.

Pilers

"Someone with 30 or 40 thousand things sitting in their Inbox is someone we'll call a 'piler,' " Mehta says.

A piler's Inbox is a dangerous place for important emails and reminders. As messages arrive, they risk being lost in the swamp of neglected emails.

"Pilers will tell you, 'there's something really important that I missed," he says. "'Like an important email, or something I forgot about, or something I was supposed to do.'"

What is a piler to do?

After all, once your Inbox is truly out of hand, it's not easy to restore order. Mehta's advice: You've got to start somewhere, even if it's just changing one thing.

"You're probably not going to want to stop piling," he says. "While theoretically you might say 'I'd like to get my inbox to zero,' you probably never will."

"So I kind of just try and get them to change just one thing and make sure those important things get flagged, get filed, right to the top."

If you're a Deleter, Filer, or Piler (or you're just having trouble with your Inbox), check out another chat with Mehta, where he shares three fast ways to tame an unruly Inbox.

And if you think you aren't any of these three email personalities, tell us in the comments what kind you are--and why.

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5 Comments

  • Jamiel Cotman

    I use ymail for piling

    I use gmail for more important stuff.

    I use my business email for professional stuff. 

  • Rough Web

    It's much worse when you have multiple email accounts and you don't keep up with them daily. Things can easily get out of control.

    Personally, I think I am all three types: I pile emails for a while, then go through them at once filing and deleting.

  • Paul H. Burton

    The irony is that Metha has identified all of the activities that people need to engage in to be productive users of email. Like physical mail, there's Trash, Archive/Reference, and Work. Trash needs to be deleted, the archive/reference needs to be filed. (Note, if you're a Piler, you're essentially not removing the Trash and Archive/Reference from your inbox.)

    What's left is the Work - that which needs be done. Work needs to be queued, which can be somewhat accomplished by flagging in Outlook (or via various plugins for Gmail). More effective is to use the Start Date part of the Flag for Follow-up and add that column (Start Date) to your inbox. That way, you can queue everything by a specific date, which makes the inbox a chronologically sorted to-do list.

    What I just summarized is the QuietSpacing productivity method as applied to Outlook. It's my time management system that's now eight years old and very robust. You can get a copy of the QuietSpacing book at Amazon.

    In addition, if you want to see how you're actually using email, check out www.reprisemail.com. It's a new diagnostic tool that measures how people use email and helps them improve their habits through Rx-style suggestions.

  • ξL.мΛкняΛz

    I am Filer!
    With GMail power tools...it's a life saver and today it has become better than a personal assistant!
    With filters, archives, labellers, colored tags, reminders, boomerangs, rapportive, etc... life is much easier and in order.