My inbox was a mess.
I couldn’t find anything. I was losing track of client emails. I couldn’t find emails I had tagged as “important”. At one point, after a particularly busy day away from the office, I had over 500 new messages dutifully waiting for me when I finally got around to checking my email later that night. Ugh. . .
A lot of my email isn’t necessarily “important”. I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. I get various notifications from services I use. I get reminders for the kids’ soccer practices. But in between all that noise, there are some genuinely important messages. Emails from current clients. Questions from ArchSmarter readers. Inquiries from prospective clients.
I’m a big fan of processing email rather than reading it. The idea is to use filters to route email to specific folders based on the address or subject line. Instead of reading through your inbox, you can quickly scan your important folders to see if there’s anything new.
I set this up for some of my projects in Thunderbird, my email client. It worked pretty good. I had a folder for each project as well as another one called “other stuff” for all my newsletters. Filters checked the mail in my inbox and routed specific messages to the folders.
The only issue with this setup was that I had to update and maintain the filters. If a new contractor came on board one of my projects, I had to add them to the filter. Sometimes I didn’t get around to updating the filter right away so I had to check for project emails in two locations – the project’s folder then my main inbox. Not very efficient.
Another downside was the filters only worked in Thunderbird. If I checked my email on my phone, I got all the email straight into my inbox, unfiltered. I suppose I could have added filters to my phone’s email program but this was too much work.
What I really wanted was a system that would automatically filter my email before it got to my inbox. Ideally, this system would make it easy to determine what messages to filter and, while we’re at it, would adapt and learn so I didn’t have to spend much time setting it up.
Fortunately I found such a tool. It’s called SaneBox.
SaneBox filters all my email before it reaches my phone or inbox. It creates a series of folders I can use to filter my mail. The best part is that the folders “learn” who or what to include in the folder. Dragging an email into the folder trains SaneBox to always include that person in that folder. No more editing filters! Plus, SaneBox works on any device. Since it filters my email before it gets delivered, my inbox is consistent on my desktop and my phone.
Using SaneBox’s online web app, I created folders for my projects. To filter a message, I simply drag it into the folder. SaneBox remembers and sends all email from that recipient to that folder. It couldn’t be any easier.
SaneBox automatically creates the “@SaneLater” and “@SaneNoReplies” folders. SaneLater is for newsletters and other, similar email. Email in this folder is likely not time-sensitive so I can read it later in the day when I have some free time. SaneNoReplies is an interesting feature. This folder shows me the messages I’ve sent that haven’t received a response. I clear this out every few days. If there’s a message for which I’m waiting for a reply, this serves as a good reminder to send a a follow-up email.
There’s also a “SaneBlackHole” folder which send messages directly to your trash – handy for those emails you want to unsubscribe from but don’t want to go through the hassle of that process.
Here’s a link to try SaneBox (affiliate link). Note that I get credits toward my account for every person who signs up for the free 14-day trial. I’ve been using for almost a month and I’m a big fan. It’s very easy to setup using their website. Training your folders is as easy as drag-and-drop.
It’s made my inbox a lot more manageable by filtering my mail so I can easily identify the important emails. Give it a try! I highly recommend it.