Email is the bane of my existence. On average, I receive close to a hundred emails a day (I apologize if I haven’t responded to an email from you). That number is even after culling my address from as many newsletter subscriptions and courses as I could, removing notifications from social media accounts, etc. My inbox is still overflowing.
To make things worse – I am not very efficient with email. I use it as a defacto to-do list. I’ve realized this isn’t effective, and I’m working on changing how I process things. I recently started using Neville’s to-do list, and it has been pretty effective so far. Thanks, Nev!
But I still need to use my email as a to-do list to some degree, because many of the emails I receive require a response or an action. I need to see those emails so I can take action. The problem happens when new emails clutter my inbox and make it more difficult to see the most important emails.
Here is the process I’ve been using, and a new tool that has helped me make progress with taming my inbox. I hope these tips help you if you are struggling with email!
Awesome GMail Features – Priority Inbox, Filters, Tags
GMail is the greatest thing to happen to email since email was created. It has dozens of great tools, and gives you the ability to use one inbox to manage multiple email addresses. I think I am using close to 10 email address from one GMail account (I run several websites and have an email address for each site, plus a few other addresses for social media accounts). Here are a couple tools that make GMail even better:
- Priority Inbox: You can train GMail to recognize which emails are important. These show up at the top of your inbox. Less important emails are displayed in a section below the Priority Inbox.
- Tags and filters: You can assign a tag based on criteria such as sender, subject line, etc. then filter these emails accordingly. This works great for automated reports you don’t need to read each day, or when you can’t unsubscribe from a newsletter (just filter it to the round bin!).
But these tools still aren’t enough for me. They don’t stop the constant stream of noise coming into my inbox. By noise, I mean emails which might be important, but aren’t urgent. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just have a daily digest sent to you with a list of all the seemingly non-urgent emails, then you can decide what to do with them at that time instead of having them constantly enter your inbox?
Well someone finally figured out a way to do that. Enter SaneBox.
SaneBox – Tame Your Inbox
I’ve tried several different tools for managing my inbox – some free, some paid. Some of them work, to a degree, while others haven’t changed my workflow much at all. None have taken me to the promised land – Inbox Zero®. Since I have been running this website and others (over 5 years now), I have only had inbox zero twice. And both of those happened in the same week. Since then, my email has been a mess.
Inbox Zero has always seemed like an unachievable dream for me. Partially because I know where my inefficiencies lie, and partially because I know many of the emails I receive require action. I know that if I filter them out of my inbox, I probably won’t come back to them. I have come very close to declaring email bankruptcy and nuking the contents of my inbox – but I know that isn’t a good idea.
And then I met SaneBox. After playing with it for a few hours (and processing my email), I’ve come to the realization Inbox Zero might actually be achievable for me. Here are some of the features that make SaneBox a good solution for me:
- It works anywhere – with no software to install on your computer: I use the example of GMail, because that is how I manage virtually all of my mail. But SaneBox also works with Exchange, Yahoo, AOL, Apple Mail, Outlook, iPhone, and Android. (I think Hotmail was one of the only major email services it doesn’t work with).
- Automatic filtering: I opened a SaneBox account, and it filtered my email in about 15 minutes. I have not idea how it works, but it does. SaneBox created a folder titled @SaneLater and filed away all the less important emails in my inbox. My Gmail Priority Inbox went from 107 to 83, and the @SaneLater folder had 61 unread emails in it (some of these were from the non-priority inbox in Gmail). The filtering was remarkably accurate, as it filtered emails that I need to read at some point, but don’t require immediate action.
- They don’t read, delete, or modify any of your email: They only thing they do is move it to a specified folder – so you won’t lose anything and don’t risk any breach of your private info.
- Daily summaries of all your less important email: You can get the summary daily, or more frequently if you want. The digest includes the email and subject and allows you to take action right from the email digest. This way you can keep your inbox clear of less important items and focus on those that need your immediate attention.
- Followup Reminders: This works two ways: (1) You can move an email out of your inbox, then bring it back at a specified date, and (2), you can set up an auto-reminder when you respond to someone. SaneBox will send you a follow up email at a certain date if the other person hasn’t responded – so you don’t have to keep the email in your inbox or calendar for simple reminders.
- Avoid unwanted email forever: Use the @SaneBlackHole filter to permanently send unwanted email straight to the trash and never deal with it again. This is great for those newsletters that won’t let you unsubscribe. You can always undo your selection if you make a mistake.
- Train SaneBox to your needs: SaneBox learns your filters and you can easily train it to take certain actions in the future – such as which emails need to go straight to your inbox, which can skip your inbox for processing later, and which can be permanently deleted.
It’s Not Free – But the Value is There
There is a cost involved: The basic account covers one email and a limited feature set, and starts at just over $2 a month when you buy a year or two year plan. The middle account includes more features, works with 2 email accounts, and comes in at roughly $5-7 per month on a one or two year plan. The premium account works with 3 emails, includes a full feature set, and runs close to $20 per month on a 2 year plan. The monthly cost for each of these plans is much more expensive than buying a year or two of the service, so it makes sense to buy at least one year in advance if you decide this is a tool you want to continue using.
The $5 a month plan looks like it will fit my needs perfectly (GMail can manage multiple email address, but only counts as one email account for SaneBox).
SaneBox Looks Like a Game Changer for Me
I just started using SaneBox this week, but it looks like it’s here to stay. There is very little learning curve to use it, there is no software to install, they don’t read your email, and you can cancel at any time. Since I’ve started using it, I’ve been able to process email more quickly and effectively. (SaneBox states the average user saves users a couple hours per month). Saving a couple hours per month is well worth spending a couple dollars per month on a subscription.
There is a 14 day free trial if you want to try it out (no credit card required), and we both get $5 if you sign up through this referral link.
Have you used SaneBox? What are your thoughts?