I'm a neat freak when it comes to managing my Gmail inbox. But keeping the clutter to a minimum is not easy. I get at least 100 emails a day, including dozens of PR pitches and spam messages, which I spend up to an hour reading, deleting, and archiving. Recently, I tried out two new inbox tools, Unroll.me and SaneBox, to see if they could help.
I'm on a bunch of subscription lists for stuff I don't care about (a press release about Pamela Anderson's new poker website springs to mind). That's where Unroll.me comes in. The free app, which works with Gmail and Google Apps, removes you from unwanted subscription lists. After visiting the Unroll.me website, I entered my Gmail account information. Within seconds, the service pulled up a list of 485 emails tied to subscriptions. I was floored.
I went down the list, clicking a minus sign next to the messages I didn't want, and Unroll.me unsubscribed me automatically all at once. I could click a button to keep having useful subscriptions--for instance, my favorite tech newsletters--delivered to my inbox as usual. The rest of the subscriptions would appear in a daily RollUp email that I could peruse when I had time.
Within a few days, the junk subscriptions stopped arriving. But I was still being barraged with dozens of nonurgent or unwanted emails. To get a handle on them, I tried a service called SaneBox, which uses an algorithm to prioritize emails on the basis of your past interaction with senders. The service costs $4.95 a month and works with a variety of programs, including Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.
To sign up, I typed in my Gmail address at sanebox.com and approved the app. Now, before a new email reaches my inbox, the service analyzes the sender's information and automatically places low-priority messages in a SaneLater folder in Gmail. (For instance, it automatically archives emails from people whose messages I always delete without opening.) Every day, I get a summary email containing the messages deemed to be low priority.
Then, I can train SaneBox by telling it to return important messages to my inbox. I also synced the service with my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts so it will recognize senders in my social networks and deliver those messages right away. Plus, I can flag emails to be removed from my inbox and returned at a later date, which comes in handy when I'm on deadline.
Thanks to SaneBox and Unroll.me, I've been getting only a couple of dozen emails in my inbox a day, so I spend less time on cleanup duty and more time getting real work done. There is one downside: I feel much less important now. But that's a small price to pay for a tidy inbox.