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HandleEmail inboxes often feel like never-ending pools of quicksand that suck you under.

Handle launched out of stealth mode at TechCrunch Disrupt today to provide a rope out of this pit. Its “priority engine” supposedly raises the bar on productivity with tools that combat inbox overload and help you organize your time wisely.

In today’s world, communication proliferates faster than most of us can manage. CEO and founder Shawn Carolan is a managing director at Menlo Ventures. He struggled every day to keep up with his email, and as a result, he didn’t have the time he wanted to actually go out into the field, meet with entrepreneurs, and survey the marketplace. When he searched for solutions that would help him tackle the information overload, he found none that served his needs.

And thus, Handle was born.

“This is not just about getting your email down to zero,” he said in an interview with VentureBeat. “This is about finding and keeping your priorities straight and spending time on the things that matter. We all have one life to live one day at a time. There is work and there is your personal life, and all of your priorities need to be considered in one place to make decisions. We are creating an operating system for your life.”

handleCarolan said that most productivity products on the market, like Asana or Basecamp, are project-oriented, whereas Handle focuses on the individual. Before building Handle, the team researched behavioral psychology and built tools in direct response to their findings. In the system, people can create task lists and assign each task a priority ranking. Handle places these priorities in a daily calendar that you can rearrange or reassign as other things come up.

On the email side, it has 13 commands that you can use to “triage” your email. This goes far beyond a “later” button, enabling you to delete, archive, label, unsubscribe, and so on. It can place multiple emails within tasks and clicked into for more information. Once everything is organized, you can settle down to execute them.

“If important work is undone or unplanned for, your subconscious will haunt you,” Carolan said. “This is a source for a lot of stress and when you go home, you can’t focus on your family, relax, or be present. We realized that the only way people end up bring happy and feeling good so when they know they spent big parts of their day on the things they care bait most, and brought these things through to completion the best they can.”

As it stands, most people have a hacked together system for staying organized that involves pulling together information from multiple sources and perhaps using what Carolan described as “blunt tools” to make sense of them. Handle focuses on prioritization, with the core belief that productivity stems from there. There are “elegantly incorporated” features to help with capture, triage, plan, and focus with the ultimate goal of fundamentally improving people’s work habits.

To achieve this goal, Carolan raised $4 million in 2011 led by Menlo Ventures. Today, Handle launched web and iOS applications on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York and is now available in private beta. It is free to start, but the company plans to release a premium version down the road. There are currently 15 employees.

Photo Credit: Sean Ludwig


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