If you are a Gmail user, you found that your inbox looked a little different last week. Gmail rolled out a new interface that changes the way you compose messages. Instead of using the whole screen to compose a message, a small “compose box” now pops up in the bottom right corner.
I (along with the rest of the world) enjoy complaining about even the most miniscule adjustments to popular free websites, so this monumental change to one of the most basic functions of Gmail sent me into a bit of a panic. However, after living with the new compose box for a few days, I realized it’s actually helpful to our time management. Here is why:
1. It encourages shorter messages
When you have the whole screen to write a message, you feel obligated to fill it. How many times have you received a lengthy email requiring you to wade through tons of extra information just to get to the purpose of the message? The new smaller compose box feels much more like a chat window, encouraging shorter, more to-the-point communications. This saves time for both the writer and the reader.
2. It’s easier to reference other mail while you write
When composing a new message, I frequently have to reference previous emails, which was not easy to do in the old format. You had to save your current message as a draft, close it, open up your inbox again, and then return to the draft. Now, you’re able to keep your new email open while browsing your inbox for older messages, which is so much easier.
3. You’re less likely to forget about half-written drafts
In the old Gmail, if you were interrupted while writing a message, you saved the incomplete message to your “drafts” folder to come back to it later…assuming you remembered to come back to it later! For me, placing a message in my drafts folder was a pretty good sign that it would be quickly forgotten about. With the new compose box, you can minimize your drafts and they stay at the bottom of your inbox as a reminder to come back and finish them.
…and one reason it’s not
On the whole, I like the new compose box and think it makes my email experience quicker and more streamlined. There is, however, one big time management detriment I’ve discovered: it’s more difficult to stay focused. When the compose box took up the whole screen, it was easier to stay focused on the task at hand. Now that I can see my inbox while I’m writing, it’s easier to be distracted by incoming messages. If you notice your focus start to shift, click the “pop out” arrow on the top right of the compose box. This makes the window bigger and you can easily cover up your inbox until you’re ready to face it again.