Gmail's conversation view is taking me awhile to get used to (I even missed a few messages early on, because I didn't scroll down far enough), but the more I use it the more I like it!
Where it's really working for me is in handling the abundance of messages I receive as part of my membership in the New Coach Connection.
I love this group – I joined back in 2005 when I launched You Talk, I'll Write, on the suggestion of my coach at the time, Andrea Lee. I knew that I wanted to work with coaches, and here was a fantastic group of coaches! There are also other members who serve coaches, such as virtual assistants.
I've made wonderful contacts in the NCC – people who have helped me in immeasurable ways (and yes, some treasured clients as well), and people I have really enjoyed collaborating with.
I noticed that my participation had dropped off lately – I wasn't even contributing to Free Friday, when we're invited to send promotional messages (otherwise that is strictly prohibited on this list, which is more about networking, guidance and collaboration).
The issue was that I had switched to digest email in an effort to tame my Inbox. But that meant I had to pore through really long emails. As well, replying to a digest message was cumbersome because I had to retype the subject line and trim away everything except the message I was responding to.
The solution? Switch back to receiving individual messages, and put Gmail's conversation view, labels and filters to work for me. Here's what happens now:
1. When a message from the NCC comes in, Gmail marks it as "read." This takes away some pressure, since I tend to feel compelled to read or deal with every single piece of unread mail in my account.
2. Gmail also attaches the label NCC, and there is a link in my sidebar that will pull up all emails with that label (or any of my other labels – it's Gmail's cool "instant folder" feature).
3. With Gmail's conversation view, when I open my NCC "folder," I can quickly scan the subject lines and open up and reply to the messages that interest me. Other people's replies are stored neatly underneath the original message – I can see how many replies there have been, but those replies are not taking up any valuable real estate.
4. To get back in the habit of joining the party at the NCC, I've added it to my list of business/relationship development tasks that I like to do on Friday mornings.
A special reminder to my NCC friends – please be descriptive with your subject lines! So instead of "I have an announcement," or "I have a question," say a few words about the specifics. That way I'll know instantly if I can help and I'll be much more likely to click through to your message.