Email is a growing problem for many people. As such it’s no surprise that there are a growing set of tools and tricks to help you manage your email better and get back to getting things done.
But what is the best device for you to use to work through your emails? A computer, tablet or smartphone?
Today I’m going to look at where each device excels and where they fall short.
Email started life on the humble computer and for many people it is still the de facto option for working through their email. The larger screen real estate and option to multitask with a word document or web browser running along side really help to make it a productivity powerhouse. And that’s not even mentioning the keyboard shortcuts you get with many mail clients. Using a computer can also help you develop a “processing” mind set where you deal with email only at certain times.
However, because you can have email running all the time, many people end up with their email running all the time and inviting unwelcome distractions during their work. Email on a computer, even a laptop, is also inheritely less mobile than on a tablet or smartphone which you are more likely to be able to pull out on the go.
- Multitasking (especially looking up details and cut and paste)
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Larger screen for quicker scanning
- Can distract from important work
- Less mobile
Tablets are a great option for managing your email. They have a decent size screen and usually encourage unit tasking rather than multitasking, helping you avoid the rabbit hole of the Internet browsing that sits to the side of your desktop email client. They are also more portable and encourage behaviours such as sitting down with a nice cup of tea or coffee and working through your email at leisure, rather than frantically trying to quickly process things on a computer. This might seems a strange point on a productivity post, but a pleasurable experience can be more important than a quick experience.
There are also some great email applications that help you quickly work through email with gestures and extnetions to send items to Evernote or a task management application. However, there don’t have as many features as some computer clients which include extensions and greater customisation.
- More tactile
- Good size screen
- More portable than a computer
- Processing email can be more relaxing
- Discourages multitasking
- Mail apps which make use of extensions (Cloudmagic and dispatch)
- More difficult to do good multitasking
- Smaller screen than a computer, not as customisable as desktop clients
For better and worse, Blackberries changed how we see and understand email. What was once something limited to our workstation or home computer has become all present. There can be great advantages to this such as quickly working through a couple of emails while waiting somewhere, or getting that vital message out to a loved one. However, smartphones have some significant limitations due to their smaller screen size (even if phablets are nearly as big as tablets) and even greater difficulty to do useful basic multitasking.
One of the greatest advantages to using a smartphone is that it encourages us to write shorter messages, which benefits everyone. It is more difficult to write out an email on a smartphone. You’re always going to look for what you can cut out and only what you need to include, and may even encourage your recipient to do the same.
- Extremely portable
- Great for quick deleting and archiving
- Encourages brevity
- Great native clients
- Not as scannable
- The most difficult to multitask
- Notifications encourage ‘check-in syndrome‘
What Do You Use the Most?
Honestly, I flutter between all three devices. I will often scan and sort my emails in the morning on my tablet (along with my RSS feed), then I’ll use my desktop for any longer writing or if I need to add a file from my computer. I’ll do a quick check and process with my smartphone or use it while I’m traveling. And then I may use my desktop to process the last things at night.
All these different devices have different advantages and limits, so it’s useful to make the most of their strengths and limits. If you want to force yourself to send shorter messages, then use a mobile device, if you want to send a long form message, use a desktop.