Will Arnett is so overcome with email he’s working with a startup to solve the problem

Will Arnett is so over email.
Image: Getty Images for Sony Pictures Television

Actor Will Arnett has his hands (and voice) in a lot of different projects: a fifth season of Arrested Development is coming soon; his Netflix series Flaked is back this week for a second season; the trailer for Nut Job 2 just came out before its August release;and the Lego Batman movie is now available on Blu-ray and online.

For all those projects, the actor gets tons of email. The entertainment world seems to run on the format: scripts, meetings, publicists, lawyers its all on email. “Trying to keep up with them does get insane,” Arnett said last week during a phone interview from Los Angeles.

Plus he has two young kids and presumably a life outside of work and those things also come with their own onslaught of emails, on top of keeping up with social media. It’s a lot enough to get Arnett involved his first tech project.

He’s working with the email management company Timyo, whose app and Chrome browser extension aim to make email less time-consuming.

The product is designed to bring “clarity, productivity and peace” to email by allowing you to indicate to your recipient if you need them to just read, reply or do something else in response to the message and by when. It’s supposed to take the guesswork out of emailing and make it so everything doesn’t seem urgent.

Arnett says he got involved “organically” when he heard about Timyo’s concept through a friend. He got in touch with the founders and checked out a beta version of what they were building. Once a more finalized version came out, Arnett said he was all in.

“I like the idea of getting rid of the frustration of email,” he said.

In a blog post from last year, he joked about trying to invest $1 billion into the company, but realized he didn’t have that type of money. The LA-based company earlier this month said it’s raised $6.5 million since launching in 2013. Since it came out in 2016, about 211 million emails have gone through the app.

Time is everything for this email app.

Image: timyo

Arnett is something of a spokesman for the app, but he seems sincerely into it. He thinks Timyo is “stunningly practical” and is helpful for busy people everywhere. But mostly for himself. “I selfishly thought this could make my life easier,” he said about his motivations. And he’s having some fun, too, stepping away from his usual film, TV and entertainment projects and learning about the tech world.

He credits the app for making him a more efficient boss, coworker and “better dude.”

He credits the app for making him a more efficient boss, coworker and “better dude.”

“I was on the verge of being a dick,” he said about his lax attitude with email responses and disorganized inbox. He said his business partner would send over scripts and he’d see them come through and think how he would remember to read it and respond, but of course things start to pile up.

That’s where the app comes in with its labels and notifications based on your time and schedule. Timyo lets users say if the email needs a response or just a read. If a response is needed, you can ask for one by, say, Tuesday instead of just ASAP.

“I love the idea of you can say this is not urgent,” Arnett said. The app is all about appreciating everyone’s time, as it makes clear with the note it sends with every email:

For a nation that’s more than overworked and won’t take a vacation, or unplug once on a vacation, email is a big part of our lives. An email statistics report from Radicati, a Silicon Valley tech market research firm, found in 2015 more than 205 billion emails were sent and received each day around the world. By 2019 that number is expected to hit 246 billion.

That’s a huge number of emails. And ultimately those all represent time, which is the premise of the app: organize and prioritize your communication based on your and others’ available time, and treat time like a limited resource.

Timyo isn’t the only email management app out there; lists and app round-ups are all over the internet. Gmail has Inbox and Microsoft has Outlook. They all want to help you get through your inbox, clear it out, and not miss anything important in the clutter. Like Timyo, many of these acknowledge wasted time. But most apps don’t make time the guiding principle.

Arnett is pretty passionate about balancing work and his family. He and fellow comedian and actor Amy Poehler divorced in 2016 after nine years of marriage. They had been separated since 2012 and have two sons together.

“Every job, every interaction is time away from my kids,” Arnett said, making his priorities clear. Kids over emails. During our Friday afternoon phone call said he had to be at little league practice in about three hours and the last thing he wanted was to be on his phone, dealing with his emails. “The worst thing is to be hanging out with your kids and be on your phone,” he said.

He treats time like it’s very precious. “My most valuable commodity is my time. What people want most from me is my time,” he said.

So he’s doing everything he can to recoup that time one email at a time.

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