Is email taking up more time than it should? There are better ways to organize and tame your inbox so that you have more energy and space for other things.
Gmail is the world’s biggest email service today, and that’s why most of the methods and apps in this article focus on Gmail users. However, the tricks here can easily be applied in other email apps, and most tools have a how-to for that on their website.
1. You vs. Your Inbox (Web): 4 Strategies for Inbox Management
Everyone has their own cool trick to get control of their inbox. Forge magazine started an insightful series called You vs. Your Inbox to highlight some of the best strategies. Currently, there are four articles with different ideas about tackling inbox overload. Read them all, they offer different perspectives on dealing with email.
One article talks about how the secret is sending better emails. If you compose emails that make it clear what the response should be, there will be less confusion and fewer ambiguous messages sent back and forth. Another talks about how you should check email in sessions, and have a purpose assigned to each session.
The third email management system is about triaging your inbox with labels
, making it easier to sort and filter the messages. And finally, one strategy talks about how it’s not important to have inbox zero, which has one of the best pieces of advice: “It’s important to remember that email itself isn’t work.”
2. Instaclean (Android, iOS): Find Senders and Subscriptions You Don’t Open
Instaclean is one of the best free apps to manage your inbox. It lets you delete and block unwanted newsletters. And it shows you senders who are clogging up your inbox when you don’t even read their messages.
Bulk Delete sorts emails by sender, showing you how many of their messages are in your inbox and how many of them you have ever opened. If someone is sending you many emails and you open 0-1% of them, you might want to block that sender and delete all their messages still in your inbox. Emails can be sorted by sender or size.
The app also finds all the subscriptions you are getting emails from, which aren’t being sent to spam. In a few taps, you can block all such emails you no longer want to receive. It doesn’t delete all subscriptions, and you’ll have to do multiple passes. In a way, that’s good because you don’t want to accidentally remove something you like.
Each action (delete or block) rewards you with coins. Once you collect 1000 coins, you can use them for a good cause by asking Instaclean to plant a tree on your behalf. You can also earn coins by referring the app to friends.
3. Paced Email (Web): Get Frequent Emails as Batches and Summaries
Not every newsletter is unwanted, but it might be coming to you too often. Similarly, even if a colleague is trigger-happy with sending bulk emails on the office chain, you can’t ignore them. Paced Email lets you turn frequent messages into batches, so they land in your inbox when you want.
Register at the website to get your personal email alias, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org. Then go to the newsletter, chain, or service that is mailing too often, and change your email address to this alias. Paced will then batch all emails from it and send it as a daily digest. If you want an email sooner, login to the website and trigger an immediate digest.
You also can also specify how often you want to receive emails from that service. By default, it’s daily as the email alias indicates, but you can change it to “weekly” or “monthly”. Paced will then send batches according to your preferences.
4. Slimbox (Web): Batch All Newsletters in Gmail
More than anything else, email newsletters are probably clogging up your inbox. Slimbox is an easy way to turn them into a single batched message, without having to unsubscribe or delete them.
There are a few reasons that make Slimbox better than the average app for batching. First, it’s verified by Google, so you can sign in to your Gmail or Google Apps inbox with the assurance that your data is safe. Second, Slimbox doesn’t make you change your email address in other services like Paced requires.
Once you’re logged in, the app will scan all your messages and prepare a list of frequent newsletters. You can choose to continue having them sent to your inbox or to put them into the daily Slimbox blast. Slimbox will send that email once a day (you can set your timezone), which hosts all the other emails you missed. It doesn’t affect your existing Gmail filters.
You can check your Slimbox at any time by signing into the site, change which senders go to the inbox or Slimbox, and so on. The service is free for a month to test it out, after which it costs $1 per month.
5. gfeed (Android, iOS): Scrolling Feed for a Faster Inbox
Try out gfeed and you’ll wonder why Gmail doesn’t have this option already. The app turns your inbox into a continuous scrolling feed of messages, like any social network. Images show up in preview, with the first few lines of the message below it.
To expand a message, tap the image, subject, or “more” link. There, you can reply to (or reply all) and forward that message through gfeed itself. This is good for basic text replies, but you’re mostly better off replying through the official Gmail app.
Every time you scroll past a message, gfeed will automatically mark it as read or archive it, depending on your settings. You can also star a message, or tag it with a label to add a filter. When you open Gmail, you can see those messages under that filter.
If you spend too much time going through your inbox, gfeed is among the best apps to speed up how you organize email.
Archive Old Emails for Inbox Zero
Through one of these apps or a combination of multiple methods, that cluttered mess of emails should finally become much more manageable. Whether you’re aiming for inbox zero or a more organized inbox, don’t forget to check out the tools already available.
For example, the most overlooked feature is the “Archive” button in email apps. It’s an excellent way to free up your inbox while still keeping emails available for search later. Here’s how you can archive old mails and reach inbox zero