There's a better way to manage your inbox--let SaneBox do most of the work for you.
Email is a pain. There are simply too many messages to handle—and I'm not even talking about spam from marketers (I use a separate address to collect those emails). The headache is the increasing number of legitimate business messages—it's a humongous time-suck that only seems to be getting worse.
Two years ago I answered nearly every message. A year ago I downgraded to at least trying to read them all. Last winter I started scanning the sender subject fields concentrating on the ones coming from people I knew or looked like they might contain information I needed. And lately, I've been considering closing my account and starting over with a private address reserved for only work colleagues and select sources.
It's like Gmail's Priority Inbox feature in that it looks at your messages and prior history engaging with those senders and decides which emails you're likely to deem most important.
When you turn on the Priority Inbox feature in Gmail, Google separates your email into three categories: Important and unread, Starred, and Everything Else; all the mail is still in your inbox, but the important messages are up top.
SaneBox is a bit different in that it removes less important messages from your inbox completely, moving them to an @SaneLater folder that you can peruse whenever you want. If SaneBox puts an important message into that folder you can move it to your inbox and it remembers the action so the next time you receive a message from that person, it will go to your inbox.
Priority Inbox is trainable in this way, as well; the more you move stuff around, the better it gets at categorization. But I prefer SaneBox.
SaneBox vs. Gmail's Priority Inbox
SaneBox gives you a custom dashboard including a timeline that graphs how many important and less important emails you get every day. My current average, according to SaneBox, is 81 a day. If I took a minute to read, digest, and respond to each one of them, that's nearly an hour and a half a day going through email. If you figure there's at least 250 work days in a year, I'm spending 375 hours annually on email. That's not acceptable.
In addition to the @SaneLater folder that stores non-essential messages, you can also enable folders such as @SaneNews for newsletters and @SaneBlackHole for those messages you want to send straight to your Trash. (Ha! Finally I'm getting revenge on a certain five-letter-titled fitness magazine that has not let me unsubscribe to its newsletters for two full years!)
And it also has a nifty feature that lets you CC or BCC a message to @SaneBox.com to remind you if someone doesn't respond.
So let's say you need an answer from your boss about a project and you need it no later than two days from now. In the CC field just include the address 2days@SaneBox.com and in two days SaneBox will put the message back in the top of your inbox if she never replied to it. This way you remember to bug her again.
SaneBox also creates an @SaneRemindMe folder that lets you keep track of all the messages to which you still need replies. Use oneweek@SaneBox.com, June5@SaneBox.com or 5minutes@SaneBox.com; it doesn't matter, SaneBox will figure out the time frame you need.
The service is $5 a month and works with email clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, iPhone, and Android and as well most email services like Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, AOL, and Gmail. The only service it doesn't currently support is Hotmail.
CHRISTINA DESMARAIS is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech startup community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com. @salubriousdish