How I Email: Seth Kravitz, CEO of Phlearn

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.

A fixture of Chicago’s entrepreneurship community, Seth Kravitz co-founded Technori, the event and media company for Chicago startups. He led Technori for a few years following the acquisition of, which he launched with a business partner while still in college. These days, he’s CEO at Phlearn, which offers Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography tutorials.

In the interview, Seth, who swears by Inbox by Google, discusses the mindset shift that altered the way he processes his inbox.

Interview by Jaclyn Schiff

What’s your daily email routine?

The first thing I do when I wake up is not check my phone.

It’s weird to have a thing you “don’t do” as a task in the morning, but the compulsion is always there to check it right away and I have to fight that urge. After about 30 minutes, I then open the phone and check both my work and personal email using the Inbox by Google app.

I have tried at least 15 different email apps for iPhone (all

connecting to Gmail), and Inbox by Google is the simplest, yet most powerful one. It allows me to crush through dozens of emails quickly with a few swipes, almost making a game out of how quickly I can archive and reply.

Once at the office, my email routine switches purely to desktop, using Chrome to access Gmail directly. I don’t use any desktop mail apps as I have found that I can modify the Chrome / Gmail experience so heavily using browser extensions and 3rd party plugins, that no desktop app can compare to that.


Do you have an email secret weapon — anything that has drastically helped you manage your inbox over the years?

Understanding that email is more of a to-do list and less of a place to have conversations helped me gain control over my inbox.

There are so many tools you can use optimize and automate like, Rapportive, Gmelius, Boomerang, GMass, etc… You can subscribe to methodologies like Inbox Zero or even commit email bankruptcy once a month if you like.

But none of that matters if you are treating every email like it’s a conversation. Where it’s pulling at you at all moments, the unread email number count sitting there, drawing your attention away out of a sense of urgency to check & reply. Conversations are best left to voice or text, email is a giant to-do list in my mind now. I look at each one as a task and I’m very brief in my replies. It’s so much better to write a rapid reply and send it than sit with the email for three days, take 45 minutes to write a 600-word reply trying to get everything in there, and then realize the recipient is simply going to reply with five more questions. One 7 minute phone call could have done everything instead. Stop treating your inbox like it’s the 18th century and letters are the only way to communicate and replies take months to receive.


Do you have any favorite email newsletters?

Brain Pickings
Offscreen newsletter
Pocket suggested reading
Kickstarter’s community newsletter

Final thoughts?

Email can only control your life if you give it permission to. It’s 100% optional to be stuck in that flow, no matter how many people you think you will “let down” or “opportunities” you will miss. We create these fantasies of what being connected 24/7 will do for us and our careers and they almost never match reality.