The Shortwave Method

Welcome to Shortwave, an email app designed for stress-free productivity. Are you tired of constantly sifting through an overwhelming number of emails? Struggling to stay on top of your inbox? Shortwave is here to help.

Leveraging the latest in AI technology, we designed Shortwave to help you achieve and maintain inbox zero. We built it around the Shortwave Method, an inbox management approach inspired by Getting Things Done, a popular productivity system that has helped millions of people organize their work and lives.

The Shortwave Method has two parts:

In this document, we introduce you to the Shortwave Method and provide best practices for using Shortwave to level up your productivity. By following these simple yet effective tips, you will be able to cut through the noise and enjoy your inbox.

Triage your inbox

At the core of the Shortwave Method is triage, the process of quickly sorting and prioritizing your inbox. This step should come before doing any deep work. Triage your entire inbox, one item after another. Committing to this step helps you focus your attention on your most pressing tasks, while making sure nothing is missed.

As you make a pass through your inbox, your workflow should look like this:

  • Dismiss anything that does not require action
  • Complete any tasks that take under two minutes
  • Pin tasks for today
  • Snooze tasks for later

By following this methodology, you avoid making prioritization decisions multiple times on the same item.

Dismiss items requiring no action

As you process your inbox, you'll find you can dismiss most items without taking any action: marketing emails, shipping confirmations, calendar notifications, and the like. Ruthlessly clear these emails out of your inbox.

There are two actions you can take on such items within Shortwave: mark as done or delete.

Done, akin to archiving on other email apps, is Shortwave's recommended way to clean up your inbox. Items marked done are removed from your inbox but remain easily accessible via search and the Done page.

If you are certain you will never need to reference an email again, you can delete it. Threads you delete remain in Trash for 30 days before being permanently deleted. Regularly deleting threads preserves storage space and keeps your archive relevant and easily searchable.

Throughout this part of your triage flow, Smart Summaries will be your best friend. Smart Summaries are AI-generated summaries that capture the key points from long emails. Use Smart Summaries to get the gist of an email in no time at all and quickly decide whether to mark it as done or to take another triage action.

What about mark as unread? While a common approach for many people, marking unread is an inefficient way to track your work and often leads to repeated effort. Instead of marking threads as unread, ask yourself: "can I mark this done?".

Immediately complete items requiring less than two minutes

As you triage your inbox, you'll eventually run into an item that requires some action. When this happens, consider how long it will take to complete. If it will take less than two minutes, do it immediately. Then mark it done and move on to the next item in your inbox.

This "two-minute rule" is a simple yet powerful productivity tactic from Getting Things Done. It is a defense against the temptation to let small things pile up. In isolation, these small tasks — responding to a calendar invite or answering a coworker's quick question — are easy. But when dozens of them crowd your inbox, the stress builds. The antidote is taking immediate action.

Pin or snooze items requiring further action

Spending two minutes to check something off your to-do list is well worth it. But for an item requiring more time, you should defer until later. Pin and snooze both allow you to do this without interrupting your triage flow.

Choose whether to pin or snooze an item depending on its urgency:

  • Pin threads which need to be handled soon — an urgent request from your boss, a support case with an important customer, or an offer negotiation with a candidate.
  • Snooze threads which are best handled sometime later — a travel reservation, a meeting agenda for next week, or a thread in which you're waiting on someone else's reply.

Pinning a thread moves it to a dedicated section at the top of your inbox. The Pinned section is your reference for time-sensitive, high-priority work. This is your to-list for the day and will keep you focused on the work that matters most.

Some threads require action but are not urgent or are blocked for the time being. We recommend an "out of sight, out of mind" approach to these threads by using snooze. Snoozing removes an email from your inbox until a future time of your choosing. Using our natural language date picker, snoozing is a breeze.

Snoozed threads are still accessible via the Snoozed page, which is where they will stay until either their unsnooze time passes or they receive a reply.

Prioritize your remaining work

By the end of the triage process, your inbox should only have items in the Pinned section. This is all that stands between you and inbox zero.

Before diving into deep work, use drag and drop to reorder pinned threads and prioritize them from most to least important. This lets you treat your inbox like the to-do list that it really is.

You can also group related tasks together based on project, label, participants, or anything else. Combine threads into a to-do bundle and add a note outlining next steps for an added layer of organization.

Now you're ready for some deep work! Start at the top of your Pinned section and get to work, confident you're working on your most important stuff.

Repeat as needed

Eventually email will start to pile up again. How often you choose to triage your inbox is up to you.

Some prefer to triage at scheduled times of day, such as once in the morning and once in the evening. Others find time to triage sporadically, such as between meetings. Still others check their inbox consistently throughout the day. Whatever your style and however large your inbox, Shortwave is optimized to make triage easy and pain-free.

Automate your workflow

There's more to the Shortwave Method beyond just mastering triage. Automating your workflow reduces the number of decisions you need to make during each triage session, leaving you with more time and energy for deep work.

Shortwave's workflow features are customizable for all contacts and labels, forming a highly-configurable and powerful system for managing your email workload:

  • Bundle your inbox for bulk action – Group threads together into bundles so they take up a single row in your inbox and allow for bulk triage
  • Auto-apply with smart labels – Configure senders to automatically apply labels with a single click, no filters needed
  • Deliver on your schedule – Schedule emails to arrive in your inbox only at fixed times
  • Block unwanted senders – Guard your inbox against noisy senders with block, unsubscribe, and skip inbox
  • Favorite for quick access – Add your favorite contacts and labels to the sidebar for convenient access from anywhere

With minimal effort, you can tailor your inbox to your workflow and save yourself precious time going forward.

Here are some tips on how to configure each feature.

Bundle your inbox for bulk action

Email apps traditionally give every thread its own line in your inbox. But not every thread is equally important and sometimes one sender can overtake your inbox. Shortwave takes a different approach by grouping related threads into bundles. Bundles give you a condensed view of related emails, allowing you to take bulk action on several threads at once.

Shortwave has pre-configured bundles for common use cases like Travel, Newsletters, Purchases, and Promotions. We also automatically bundle low-priority automated senders, such as updates from apps you use. Every bundling decision is configurable, giving you full power over how contacts and labels are grouped in your inbox.

Auto-apply with smart labels

Shortwave labels are smart – they can be configured to automatically apply to messages from specific senders. Way faster than filters, Shortwave lets you specify if a label should be applied to future messages when you apply it to a sender for the first time.

To auto-apply labels using more complicated criteria, create a filter in Gmail and it will take effect in Shortwave. For most purposes, you'll never need to set up your own filters, but the option is there when you need it.

Deliver on your schedule

Once your labels are bundling and auto-applying, customize their delivery schedules. Delivery Schedules let you defer emails from a specific label or contact to arrive in your inbox at certain times of day and on certain days of the week.

Do you only have time to read newsletters on the weekend? Set the Newsletters label to be delivered on Saturdays at 8 AM. Or, do you prefer to start your day by clearing out the customer support queue? Schedule your support emails for weekday mornings.

By reducing interruptions and batching triage for related threads, you can focus on more important tasks throughout the day.

Block unwanted senders

Guard your inbox from unwanted senders and noisy marketing emails with one-click block for senders and one-click unsubscribe for mailing lists.

Blocking sends future messages from a sender immediately to the Trash. So, the next time a recruiter tries following up for the fifth time, or you receive a cold email selling you on something, you can dedicate three seconds to keep your inbox permanently cleaner going forward.

Favorite for quick access

The sidebar is a place to access your most common searches. You can favorite a contact, group of contacts, or label to add them to your sidebar. This makes them easy to access and prevents you from duplicating search queries over and over when you need to reference previous threads.

Paired with "skip inbox," favoriting gets even more powerful. Do you have mailing lists that are overly noisy—but that you still want to be in the loop on? Favorite the list and configure it to "skip inbox." "Skip inbox" keeps threads accessible via search without letting them clog up your inbox. And by favoriting skipped lists, you can choose if and when you want to catch up on missed messages.

Mix and match for best results

For ultimate inbox organization, combine all of these features together. Set emails from your investors to auto apply an "Investors" label which sends push notifications. Bundle emails from your project management tool and deliver it each morning and afternoon. Set your team's water cooler mailing list to skip inbox and favorite it so you can check in when you want a break. The combinations are endless.

The more rules and automations you set up, the shorter each subsequent triage session becomes. Over time, your email becomes easier to manage.

It's time for a change

The Shortwave Method is our team's opinionated approach to reaching inbox zero faster and sustaining it for longer.

Triaging your inbox upfront means more time to focus on the work that matters. And with a powerful set of customization tools—such as Delivery Schedules, block and unsubscribe, and auto-applied labels—available at your fingertips, you'll be cruising through your inbox in no time.

Now that you have the basics of the methodology down, dive into the weeds and become a power user of our feature set. Get started in our docs.

This might be a fundamental shift in your relationship with your inbox, or simply a fine-tuning of your existing practices. Either way, it's a step towards a more productive and confident you. Reclaim your inbox with Shortwave by signing up for free.

It's time for a change

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