Get to Inbox Zero--and Stay There
I tend to get about 100 messages a day. That's down from about 300 before I started actively managing my inbox.
In a fairly recent column in the magazine, I wrote about both SaneBox and Unroll.me and how they helped me get some sanity. I'm still using both on a regular basis, but I can't say they have completely solved the email crisis for me.
Part of the problem is the nature of my job: I'm a tech columnist so I'm inundated with pitches, edits, feedback letters--the whole works. It's a win for me--I receive great ideas and communicate directly with some incredibly smart people, but the influx is also a time-suck.
Recently, I tried a new app called Mailstrom. First off, I really like the name. It's a play on maelstrom ("a violent or turbulent situation," indeed). The sign-up process is painless: You just type in your email account and password, then approve the access.
Analyzing my inbox took a good 30 minutes; then I received a notice informing me I could start using the app. The idea is to do some housecleaning and stay at zero each day. I'm a good test subject because I had a few dozen emails--some waiting to be archived, a few that only needed some minor attention, and plenty of extra fluff.
The app splits email into buckets but they're not intended to stay there. The one for Sender shows grouped emails. If you don't really need to deal with that topic anymore, you can delete all the related messages in two clicks. You can also view by time--say, all messages older than three months ago. You can continue to chop away at your inbox by removing social networking notices and shopping-related messages.
My favorite feature is the size bucket. You can see messages over 10MB, between one and 10MB, and under one MB. In a few seconds, you can remove huge emails with attachments that tend to slow down email processing. In all, I culled all of my Gmail messages down to zero in about 10 minutes, which is impressive. The same management chore would have taken three times as long without Mailstrom, especially since Gmail provides no way to see large emails. (An upcoming version of Gmail will provide similar categorization.)
Mailstrom works with Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo, AOL, or any IMAP email service. It's entirely free. You'll see some nifty charts as well that show your time of use (say, if you mostly get emails in the morning or at night) and a quick tally of your zero-state (how many messages you've received today and how close you are to zero).
I plan to keep using it--and living with less email clutter.