October 2013: Woohoo! I have 127 new emails to sort even though I don’t have time! Said no one ever.
Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to hate email than right now.
Dozens of solutions for fast-sorting are hopping up onto the scene, including beat-the-clock games, automation and ways to unsubscribe en masse. Here are some good ones that caught our bulbous eyes:
Note: These cloud tools work with any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) and you need to use the email protocol called IMAP, which stores emails on the server. They won’t work with POP, which downloads emails onto your computer. Here are more details about the differences.
Also, like spam filters, these services require access to your email accounts to function properly. So there is the customary IT balance between convenience and security. Be careful about sending sensitive information by email and always check your company’s “acceptable use” policy before allowing a third party to access work emails.
What could be more fun then turning email management into a game? OK, that might be a stretch. But if you have Gmail, you can race against the clock and earn points for awesomely fast-sorting (and responding) abilities. The goal is to clear your inbox by focusing on one email at a time. You earn points for making quick decisions and get a big fat zero if you take too long.
The developers say it’s best to play (i.e., deal with email) only a couple of times a day. And for those emails that you’re not ready to answer, sort or delete, you can select the boomerang option so it reappears in your inbox when you tell it. This online game is brought to you from the same people who developed Boomerang for Gmail and Boomerang for Outlook, which let you schedule emails and create reminders. Email Game is free.
Sanebox is like having a personal assistant between your inbox and your brain — it allows only important emails into your inbox. And attachments are automatically moved into your DropBox or Box folders. The rest go into a SaneLater folder. And at the end of the day, items in the SaneLater folder are summarized into a daily digest for you. The SaneBlackHole unsubscribe feature makes emails go away forever and Follow-up Reminders notify you when an email you sent hasn’t been responded to by a certain amount of time.
The goal, like that of any good assistant, is to prioritize your tasks based on what you say is important. Sanebox bases initial sorting on your past email interactions (faster than building your own filters) and can be trained to be more precise. It reviews your email headers, not content, and says it uses “bank-level security.”
You will need to provide all of the necessary login information to access your email accounts, including passwords. Sanebox works with one, two or three email accounts and pricing plans range from about $2/month to $20/month after a free trial. The business and enterprise versions allow you to integrate Salesforce and add customization.
Gmail now automatically categorizes your emails under five tabs that run across the top of your email window. The tabs are simple and self-explanatory — Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. But it’s a big change because now you can see what’s new in each category at a glance. This makes it easier to prioritize your email time and focus on one type of email at a time instead of bouncing around between senders and topics. If Gmail isn’t sorting your emails correctly at first, just move the emails under the correct tab and Gmail will remember the next time. Make sure to check all the tabs when first using Gmail Tabs so you don’t miss anything important!
Some other email management services that might give you what you need are Mailbox, Unroll.me (includes unsubscribe en masse feature) and Boxer.
There’s one group of people that isn’t too happy with all the new ways to manage email, especially Gmail: email marketers. They’ve already seen a 20% drop in Gmail open rates and the ability to mass delete? Makes them feel like a toad who’s invited to the frog party.
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