Boomerang’s CEO says Inbox Zero is overrated

Boomerang is a tool for email, but CEO Aye Moah doesn’t want to spend all her time in the inbox.

Boomerang CEO Aye Moah

Boomerang CEO Aye Moah sat down with Protocol to share tips on how to master emails and scheduling.

Photo: Boomerang

Aye Moah has always been a bit overzealous when it comes to productivity.

“When I started working in software companies, I was always the little productivity geek,” Moah said. “I was optimizing for productivity, trying to push productivity tools on my co-workers.”

While working as a UX designer at Webex, it occurred to her that productivity was more than a hobby. She had ideas to contribute. For one, organizing her email inbox was basically becoming a second job. It was the late 2000s, and email had been around 40 years old at that point, but Moah felt that it hadn’t really evolved. She started working on solutions with her boyfriend, and eventually they landed on Boomerang: an email organization app.

Twelve years later, Moah is still with Boomerang (formerly Baydin) as its CEO. She’s just as enthusiastic about productivity and email organization as ever. Moah sat down with Protocol to share tips on how to master emails and scheduling.

Don’t get sucked in by Inbox Zero

Boomerang may be an email tool, but Moah doesn’t want to spend all of her time in her inbox. Inbox Zero is a key selling point of another email client, Superhuman, as well as a popular tech concept in general. Moah says she understands the appeal, but she worries that focusing on it drains valuable mental energy that can be devoted to other work. People who keep their inbox open all day might easily get distracted.

“Having Inbox Zero itself is not a very sustainable goal; you’re just continuously putting energy into processing junk, and that takes so much of your mental energy throughout the day,” Moah said.

You might be tempted to start your day with a routine inbox check. Moah is not a fan. She considers herself at the peak of her mental clarity and energy in the morning: “I don’t want to use it up making decisions on email,” she said. Moah tries to set herself up for success by taking time at the end of the day to write down her to-dos for the next day. That way, she knows exactly what to do when she starts work in the morning. The very first thing she does is absorb that list and figure out when she’ll work on each task.

Only then will she take a stab at her inbox. She religiously uses Gmail’s auto-advance feature, which automatically opens the next email after you delete, archive or mute an email. The feature is turned off by default, so it’s often underused. Outlook has a similar auto-advance option as well.

After this initial scan, Moah won’t return to her inbox until after lunch. “That usually gets me responsive enough that I’m not blocking anybody, but also not sucking me into email the entire day,” Moah said.

Standardize meetings and automate reminders

To ensure everyone’s prepared for meetings, Boomerang employees use recurring reminder emails that go out the afternoon before. The reminder will prompt people to send necessary material and give an overview of what the meeting is about.

“Those are all automated so that when we show up for the meeting, we're not spending time on, ‘Ph, where’s this document?’” Moah said. “We’re all prepped and ready.”

If your company lives in email (though most in the tech space have found communication hubs like Slack more preferable), recurring reminders are also helpful for standard administrative tasks. Boomerang’s general manager Mai-Chi Vu uses them to remind team members to file expense reports, log vacations and enroll in insurance (you can also set up these reminders in Slack).

Moah, like other productivity experts Protocol has spoken to, recommends limiting weekly meetings to one day of the week. Boomerang’s weekly meetings are always stacked on Thursdays, and the rest of the week is as meeting-free as possible. Meetings are not allowed at all on Wednesdays. Moah will schedule external meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays, and pay-it-forward meetings on Fridays to chat with newer entrepreneurs.

Boomerang’s Bookable Schedules feature, which adds a live calendar within the body of an email, is a go-to for Moah. The etiquette of scheduling apps can really rile up some people in the tech world, most notably when it comes to the power dynamics of sending Calendly links. Moah thinks the pushback comes from people having to leave their email inbox to find available meeting times, or “cookies.”

“For the recipient, you don’t have to walk down the street to find if there’s any cookie,” Moah said. “The cookie’s on a plate in your inbox, and you just pick what cookie you want.”

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