Nothing is more migraine-inducing than getting back to an inbox that’s as bloated as your post-vacation belly.
The sheer quantity of emails being sent keeps increasing, and despite your most valiant of efforts, you’re probably still drowning in a sea of I-should-read-this-laters, and this-might-be-useful-one-days.
Despite the prolific nature of the email overload problem, a one-size-fits-all solution remains elusive. And the sheer amount of time we spend on email is mind-boggling.
A recent study revealed that the average worker spends 28 percent of his or her time on e-mail during an average day.
Another survey showed that respondents felt like they devoted 50 percent of their workday to wrangling their inboxes.
So after even a brief vacation, many of us can easily be stuck in email hell for days upon return.
Fortunately, Google has taken some recent steps toward helping us manage our collective inboxes, with Gmail Tabs and a new API new tabbed interface the most promising of the bunch. But it’s still only an incremental step forward, and hasn’t proven to be the solution we’ve been waiting for.
Lucky for you, hacking together a system for intelligently managing an unruly inbox is easier than you might think. We’ve pulled together five of our favorite hacks in hopes they will make your post-summer vacation inbox (and life) a little bit (or a lot) better.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. Instantly filter out a flood of insignificant messages with a service that sorts everything into two piles: now and later. Sanebox pulls data from your email address and optionally, social networks, to make these decisions based on a unique algorithm.
Compatibility: Any email program
Price: Free to try, $5-$7 a month
This Gmail add-on literally converts your emails into tasks. With a click, you can create a new task or add to an existing task. A checklist is automatically created, using the email subject as the task name. Set a due date, organize your tasks and when you’re done, checking off a task will archive all related emails.
Price: Basic version is free, Pro is $5 a month
It’s a little sad that something as simple as scheduling messages isn’t built-in to every email app. For anyone in sales, a service like Signals is a must: track email opens and link clicks to see who’s actually reading your messages. For everyone else, Signals’ email scheduling is amazing. For planners, odd-hour working, or beating everyone else to the top of your boss’s inbox, Signals is a must. Alternative service: Boomerang.
Compatibility: Gmail.com, Outlook, Apple Mail
Price: Free for most features
A celebration in the art of “getting to zero,” Mailbox is an iPhone and iPad app that lets you conquer your inbox with a swipe. Its inviting interface encourages you to auto archive in bulk and offers a much-needed “snooze” to emails you’d rather handle later. Alternative service: Boxer.
Email Compatibility: Gmail, iCloud
App Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, and Android. Coming soon for OS X.
5. Gmail Labs
Google continues to cook up beta-type features under the guise of Gmail Labs (login to Gmail.com, go to Settings and chose Labs), the majority of which I’d wager you aren’t currently using. As Gmail states, they may break, change or disappear at any given moment, so tread carefully. The best one is Undo Send, which is the ultimate escape for those “oh crap!” moments.