Inbox Zero, I finally got there!

I’ve been struggeling to get to Inbox Zero for years now. I’ve tried Getting Things Done plugins, I’ve tried Priority Inbox in my GMail accounts. I’ve tried paper TODO lists, I’ve tried letting go and not care about countless emails in my inbox, but nothing got me to the point where I was comfortable with the way I handled email.

Somebody once said: “people fix problems, tools don’t”. Although I really believe that’s the case, I think the current set up I’m using with the various email clients, plug-ins and added services finally helped me to get to zero emails in my inbox, along with the right mindset to keep it at zero…

So, what am I using?

Google Apps

We’re using Google Apps at The New Motion, so that’s the first step for me. Although it’s probably possible with other email providers / systems, Google Apps allows me to access my email from anywhere on every device.


Sparrow is the new kid on the block. It’s a replacement for the standard Mac / iPhone email clients. First of all, Sparrow integrates really well with GMail. It support labels, supports Priority Inbox (if you use it, which I don’t), has support for threaded conversations and has little UI features that make handling individual emails a lot more efficient. There’s lot more to tell about Sparrow, so please checkout their website for all the details. It’s available from the Mac App Store as well as the iPhone App Store and it’ll only set you back a few euros.


I recently started to use Sanebox and for me this is the missing link. Separating email that matters from email that can be ignored or only dealt with later is really key to getting to an empty inbox in my opinion. Sanebox only shows you the important emails in your inbox and leaves the rest for you to read later (it sends a daily digest with unimportant emails for you to check). The next really helpful thing Sanebox helps me with is deferring emails. Either by adding a label to an email or by forwarding it to a ‘remind me’ address, it gets deleted from your inbox and only pops up again after a specified period of time. For example, if I reply to an email inquiring for more details and I need to check back in a week whether or not it happened, I label to original email with the @SaneNextWeek label and remove it from my inbox. In one week, the original email will pop back up in my inbox and in the meantime, I can completely forget about it. Sanebox provides lots of other features worth checking out, but these are the two most important ones for me. Sanebox does cost you a bit of money; about $5 per month; or, just one cup of coffee as they cleverly mention on their website. Totally worth it for me.

Why this post?

This post is really meant to give Sanebox a bit of love. Setting up Sanebox is a breeze; actually it’s not just a breeze, it’s a lot of FUN setting it up. They’ve created such a smooth signup process; every online service should look at it and take it as an example. That already justifies this post in my opinion ;-).

Why not Priority Inbox?

Priority Inbox is a feature provided by Google Mail and also separates important emails from emails that can be dealt with later. It works, although the algorithms Sanebox uses and the integration with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter provide for more accurate filtering. But if you would ignore that difference, for me there are two other major differences. First of all, Sanebox has all these other features that make handling email a lot more fun. Deferring emails and getting them out of sight is a major one using the @SaneNextWeek/@SaneTomorrow/ features. The other is the fact that Sanebox is a paid for service and doesn’t mingle with my privacy. While I’m still using Google Apps and Google’s privacy policy still gives them access to all my emails, at least I know Sanebox is NOT poking around in my email for other reasons that helping me handle my email.

By the way, if you have any other tips, please do share!

Now it’s back to work again; I think I just heard an email come in ;-).