How I Email: Nate Bagley, Founder of First 7 Years

Email is a non-negotiable part of everyday life. For some, it’s an unruly time suck, but enlightened email users have systems to ensure they’re not a slave to the inbox. We’re asking smart thinkers to give us a peek inside their inboxes, share tips, ideas, gripes, and everything in between.

Nate Bagley spends a whole lot of time thinking about love: how to find it, how to improve it, and how to make it last. He has documented his learnings on The Loveumentary podcast and shares actionable tips and research for improving relationships through the First 7 Years. We talked to him about the connection between love and email.

Interview by Jaclyn Schiff. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Paint us a snapshot of what your inbox looks like right now.

My inbox is a hot mess. My personal email address has over 5,500 unopened emails, and my business email address has around 300 unopened emails. This would probably drive a lot of the Inbox Zero fanatics absolutely crazy, but I thrive on the chaos.

Most of the unimportant stuff gets automatically marked as “read.”

Emails that come in from people I know get flagged so I don’t miss them.

I’ve gotten really good at just visually filtering through what comes through my inbox every day. The unimportant stuff just flows through like a river… maybe one day I’ll go through and clean it up, but that day is not today! I have too much to do!

A lot of the emails that I get come from lists I subscribe to. I subscribe to various newsletters because I LOVE reading great copy written by awesome, compelling copywriters like Seth Godin, Ramit Sethi, Andre Chapron and many others. Sometimes I read these emails for the message itself. Other times I read them just to analyze how these masters tell a story, make a point, or structure a pitch.

It’s a fascinating study of psychology and storytelling.

What’s your email routine?

I typically wake up in the morning and through my morning routine (let’s get real… while I’m pooping) I’ll read the daily email from Seth Godin and Ramit as mentioned above. I’ll also check to see if I have any personal emails that need an immediate response.

I hit the gym, get ready for the day, and typically don’t check email again till about lunch. I like to use my mornings as creative time, so if an email isn’t inspiring me to be creative I ignore it until later.

Typically during mid-afternoon or evening, I’ll respond to the handful of emails that are urgent or pressing. I especially love emails that come from my readers. I love hearing about how I can help people create more awesome relationships. Few things inspire me more.

As the creator of The Loveumentary and the First 7 Years, you think and write a lot about relationships and love. Over the years, is there anything you’ve observed about email and relationships that the rest of us might find interesting?

Email, just like any other tool, can be used for good or evil. It can bring value to your life, allow you to connect with awesome people, and help you get things done… or it can be a distraction from things that are important, stress you out, overwhelm you, and become a huge time and resource suck.

How you use the tool is up to you.

Some people let email overtake their lives, their phones, and their relationships. The happiest people know when to turn it off. They know when things can wait. They know that sometimes connecting with their wife or kids is more important than a vibrating phone… especially while on a date, at the dinner table, or after office hours.

Remember, the way to measure your values and your priorities is by looking at how you ACTUALLY spend your time, not by how you WANT to spend your time. If your nose is constantly buried in your screen… well, you can do the math.

Final thoughts?

Words can be so powerful.

Use your email today to reach out to someone you love. Remind them of a great memory you shared together. Tell them your favorite thing about them today. Let them know how much you care about them and appreciate them.

I’ve even heard some couples actually use a special email account to navigate conflicts with each other or send love notes to each other regularly.

You never know how much your words will mean to someone today. Be generous with your love.