7 Tools for Achieving an Empty Inbox
The following is a sample from my book Daily Inbox Zero: 9 Proven Steps to Eliminate Email Overload. If you’re inbox is overwhelming you, the following tools can help you manage it better so you can spend time on more important things. Check out this book to find out more how NOT to get buried under a pile of email.
While the purpose of this book is to teach you the habit of emptying your inbox every day, you can use software to achieve this goal. In this section, we’ll talk about seven different tools that help along the way. You don’t necessarily have to use all of them. Instead, I encourage you to check out each one and see if it can shave minutes off of your email processing time.
Tool 1: Evernote
I’ve already mentioned Evernote, but it’s worth bringing up again. I use Evernote as my personal “ubiquitous idea capture device.” Not only is it good for recording messages and ideas, it also fully syncs between mobile and desktop devices. This means I can record an idea in my car and have it accessible when I’m in front of my computer.
How is Evernote helpful for streamlining your inbox efforts? It can handle email services, collaboration ideas, reminders and anything that might be important for your job. If you’re running errands and suddenly remember that you have to email someone, then you can create an “Email Reminders” folder on Evernote and have the list ready to go when processing your inbox.
Tool 2: Sanebox
Sanebox is a third-party program that works with all email clients. Its purpose is to only allow important messages to show up in your inbox. The rest are sent to a separate folder. Then at the end of the day (or a time that you specify), it will send you a message that contains everything in the “separate” folder.
The main point behind this tool is to rate the emails you receive based on your personal reads, replies and when you mark things “up” as important. Therefore, the more you use the system, the more accurate it becomes.
Tool 3: Mailstrom
Mailstrom is a tool that brings sanity to an out-of-control inbox. It’s designed to work alongside your existing email, with some functionality similar to that of Sanebox. Basically it uses your contact lists, delivered emails and messages read to raise or lower the visibility of the emails that you receive. That way, you can deal with the “low priority” emails after you’ve tackled the important ones.
Tool 4: IFTTT
IFTTT stands for “If This Then That.” The benefits of this tool far surpass helping you with your inbox. This site uses “recipes” to automate your online activities and can sync certain accounts together.
To get an idea of what IFTTT can do for you, here are some popular recipes:
- Get an email only if there is a rain forecast for the day
- Automatically email iPhone pictures
- Get an email when a new album reaches Amazon's top mp3’s
- Automatically save all email attachments to Dropbox
Once IFTTT has permission to take actions for your accounts, it can do pretty much anything you tell it to do. With regard to emptying your inbox, this tool can set up filters and sync your email account with a social media site.
Honestly, there’s so much you can do with IFTTT that it’s impossible to describe everything. As an example, for Gmail alone, there are over 8,900 recipes. My advice is to check out this free site, look at the popular recipes and start thinking of creative ways to automate your life.
Tool 5: Email Game
Most people think of “inbox zero” as a necessary part of their job or business, but you can use Email Game to add game play, fun and competition to this daily habit.
Email Game adds a ticking clock to your email management, creating a sense of urgency. When you finish processing your inbox and complete the “game,” this tool gives you a score based on: speed, things you deleted, actions you took, messages you archived or boomeranged, and emails you skipped.
Gamification is all the rage these days, so if you find yourself dreading your inbox time, then using this tool can add a fun element to this activity.
Tool 6: Use a speedy browser.
Tool 7: UnrollMe
One of the important habits I discussed in this book is unsubscribing from email lists you don’t enjoy and get value from. In my opinion, it makes no sense to constantly delete an item again and again. The problem? It takes a long time to remove your email from every list.
What UnrollMe offers is a simple tool that hunts down all your subscriptions so you can look at them in a single email, unsubscribe from unwanted lists or ignore the email and keep it “as is.” If you find yourself bombarded with too many sales-oriented emails, then UnrollMe can help you cut through the inbox clutter.
Ready for Inbox Zero?
Now that you know the tools to that can help you conquer email, use them to help you free up your time so you can focus on things that matter. Cleaning up your inbox may take some getting used to, but with consistent daily action and these wonderful tools, inbox zero is possible.
To get started on decluttering your inbox and freeing yourself from email overwhlem, check out my book Daily Inbox Zero: 9 Proven Steps to Eliminate Email Overload.