Email can be both an incredible blessing and a curse, often at the same time. It allows almost instant communication across the world of large quantaties of information, and it can place a burden upon the user to always be responding and never creating. Email can alert us to vital, urgent information and it can keep us distracted from what is really important. If you don’t have a handle on your email then it can feel like a complete chore and labour that you must endure. But the good news is this doesn’t have to be the case and there are some very valuable tools to help you stay on top of your email.
Unroll me is a handy little service that helps you get on top of all those email subscription lists you may have signed up to. First it shows you everyone you’ve signed up to and give you the option to unsubscribe from which ever ones you no longer check out. But the real trick up it’s sleeve is unroll me will then send you one daily digest of the select few that survive the cull, rather than peppering you with emails throughout the day.
Mailbox takes a different approach to email management from many traditional email cliens. Instead of having folders and a set processing time in the day, Mailbox is designed on a system more like “getting things done”. When you get an email you make a quick decision over what to do with it. You can delete it, archive it, respond to it, save it to a folder (you can decide your own) or, most interestingly, delay it till a later point in the same day, later days or even weeks.
The recent release of Mailbox 2.0 has also added in automatic swiping, meaning your phone will learn how what you tend to do to certain types of emails and do it automatically. It has also added in a syncing feature over Dropbox (the parent company) and a Mac App is coming soon too.
It allows you to take action quickly and helps you get back to what you are doing. It also means that you can see urgent items and important ones and organise them effectively. The downside is you still have your phone buzzing and even just the simple buzz of a notification can disturb your pattern of work.
Mailbox has some strong fans but it is devicise. The value of Mailbox is the constant notifications and that isn’t a positive for everyone.
GMail priority inbox
An alternative “smart” inbox is Google’s new Pirority inbox. It will catagories your emails by it’s own smart filters and insure that you only get notifications for real people over important issues. It also allows you to help set up your own filters so you can have folders for specific groups.
The advantage of this system over a system like Mailbox is you get fewer notifications, some of your emails are automatically grouped into relevant catagories so you process them more effectively than when they are all grouped together. Maybe you need to check emails from your clients as soon as you get them, no problem. Perhaps you only want to check emails from your social networks at the weekends, well you just check that folder at the weekend then.
Dispatch is similar to Mailbox but it has a couple to key differences. Firstly it has no delay option so you can just keep delaying email till later and later in the day (or week). Secondly, it lets you take more actions straight away on your email. For example, you can send an item to your todo list, make a calendar event or “create reference material”.
As Robert Myers mentioned in his review on the sweet setup, it fits more into Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero mentality and it is also Mike Vardy’s iOS email client of choice. Two high sources of praise. However, Dispatch is currently limited to the iPhone.
Text exapander is not an email specific app but is very useful for managing your email. If you find yourself making fixed or semi fixed emails or responses then text expander is a really handy tool. It allows you to insert chunks of text quickly so you can get back to more important task. It’s a real time saver and the more you use it, the better it get’s. Check out our full review.
This isn’t an app but a real human being! I know crazy right, those things still exsist but an assistant (virtual or more traditional) can help you deal with your email by preprocessing it for you. It’s similar to some of the automated process above but it adds in a human element which can both be better and worse at the same time. A human can make value judgements and help identify important and urgent items better than a set of rules, but they can also priorities things based on their own opinions too.
An assistant can also reply to your set messages saving you from needing some of those text expander snippets…but an assistant costs much more than an app or automated service even if it can provide much more service and value to you.
Do Not Disturb
If you really need a break from notifications and need to do some serious attentive work then Do Not Disturb mode is always there for you. You can activate it quickly from the control pannel and leave it on for a set peice of work. You can also schedule regular times for do not disturb mode so that when you going to bed or out of work, you don’t get notifications. This helps to disconnect from the work and responding mentality.
This is by no means a complete list and everyone has their own personal favourite applications that fit into their own workflows.
Do you have any favourite Tools to manage your email?