No seriously, hayyyyyy.
I’m talking about the buzzy new productivity tool hey.com.
Superhuman? Nah, that was like 2 years ago.
Notion? Come on, that was soooooo 2019.
But this week, hey.com dropped. It’s an invite-only email service that aims to disrupt the venerable Gmail. And if you’re like me and not cool enough to get past the velvet ropes, here’s how you can get 80% of the benefits of any fancy software tool… without the tool itself.
|Hey.com’s Imbox = “Important box”|
The hey manifesto (the HEY WAY) promises elusive email mastery: Finally cracking the code and getting good at something you’ve been struggling with forever.
But this promise sets off a major trip-wire:
?? SHINY NEW TOY SYNDROME (SNTS) ??
We’ve all seen how these flashy apps often end up in the pricey app graveyard. And to explain why, I want to reintroduce you to the RadOS: A framework for purposeful productivity.
80% of the gains from any tool don’t actually come from the tool itself. Instead they come from Self-Awareness and Behavior Change. Let us dig in:
Step 1: Self-Awareness
Purchasing a new tool is typically driven by the desire to lesser a pain (i.e. I waste too much time on email) or boost pleasure (I want to delight in a beautiful email experience). When it comes to productivity, it’s usually the former.
With any tool, we must introspect on the following questions:
- What is the pebble in my shoe?
- Does this help me do $10,000/hour work?
- Does this move me towards my True North?
What’s the pebble in my shoe?
We’ve all experienced that feeling when we’re walking and something feels off. It’s not painful enough to stop walking, let alone remove your shoe, examine its contents, and then put it back on. Brené Brown refers to this feeling as “low-grade anxiety”.
So we keep walking and ignore this pain
But remember how we buy tools to remove pain? There’s an extremely high likelihood that the motivation to get Hey.com is to remove a nagging pebble. In the case of email it could be:
- I get too many
- I’m constantly fighting fires all day
- My boss has unreasonable expectations of deliverables
- My colleagues don’t know how to communicate effectively
- I don’t have a system for cataloging my best emails
- My spouse and kids complain that I’m always distracted
Believing that Hey.com (or ANY tool) will alleviate these issues is categorically false. Let’s take, unreasonable expectations. Now that’s a mighty pebble, one that requires a series of difficult conversations with your boss or new workflow processes like a managing up weekly email or creating a user manual.
Does this help me do $10,000/hour work?
If you’re in the market for a new tool, chances are looking do leverage yourself and improve prioritization. But to do so, you need to have identified the tasks that can have the highest impact and then find a way to prioritize them accordingly into your day.
If you were an entrepreneur, you can think of replying to email as $10/hour work. Hiring and training a virtual assistant (to reply to your email on your behalf) would be $10,000/hour work. If you work in a corporate environment, some examples of $10,000/hour work include:
- Deeply investing in your direct reports
- Creating playbooks, SOPs, and training materials
- Incubating new, moonshot products
Once again, the only tool that’s going to help you do $10,000/hour work is a blank piece of blank paper and some cleared out mindspace.
Does this move me towards my True North?
Why do you do what you do? What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? Where do you find flow? Where does work become effortless? These are thorny and prickly questions that require a lifetime’s worth of contemplation. It’s very tempting to believe that a new tool can help unpack these questions. They can’t.
Let’s use email as an example:
Assume you spend 90 minutes a day on email. Hey.com (or Superhuman) might be able reduce that time by 15%, saving you 13.5 minutes a day. Is 13.5 minutes a day enough to answer these questions? (Probably not)
If so, could you create 13.5 minutes a day some other way?
So we’ve seen how a dose of Self-Awareness can help us sidestep SNTS. But how else can we accrue the benefits of a new tool? By changing your behavior. Fancy running shoes won’t make you run more. Buying an expensive Oura ring won’t make you drink less.
Enter the second pillar of the RadOS: Behavior Change.
Step 2: Behavior Change
If you’ve got a new tool, you’ve got to use it correctly. Let’s look at the behavior tweaks to make e-mail less annoying:
- Sending less emails
- Managing energy instead of time
- Learning how to say no
- Learning keyboard shortcuts and text expanders
- Separating email from a to-do list
Sending less emails
Here’s the ugly truth about email: The more you send, the more you get back. But there are ways to send less, while improving your communications including creating shared resources (Wikis), crafting better scheduling emails (to avoid the back-and-forth), using tickler files (to build up lists of things to be discussed) and using delayed send (also to avoid the back and forth).
Managing Energy > Time
Email requires low amounts of energy, inspiration and creativity. Heck, you could even respond to email while sipping your favorite Rosé on your balcony. Yet how many of us get to our desks at 9 am and just start the endless process of chopping down the email list? An easy behavioral change is to employ batching, or, responding to your emails in sprints.
Learning how to say no
There’s the famous mantra “your inbox is someone else’s to-do list.” Whether it’s an email to “grab a coffee” or for your “favorite places to visit in Copenhagen,” remember: it’s ok to respectfully say no. This behavior change is also deeply tied to the pebble in your shoe. Here’s how to stop saying yes when you really want to say no.
Keyboard shortcuts and text expanders
Ever find yourself writing the same email? You could easily turn that into a text expansion, which would then be accessed via a keyboard shortcut. For example, you could have a default response anytime someone requests a mentoring meeting; instead pointing them to three relevant blog posts and asking them a question to screen for their level of commitment. Here’s a text expander deep-dive.
Email is not your to-do list
And finally, here’s where having the right tools actually matters. The absence of a dedicated task manager leads many people down the slippery slope of having tasks sprinkled across email inboxes and calendars. Invest in a sturdy task-manager and commit to it. And let email stay in its lane.
So if you didn’t get that coveted hey.com email, don’t beat yourself up. 80% of the benefit of better email actually doesn’t come from the email tool itself.
Now go do that reflection and start those incremental behavior shifts.