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5 little known tools to get your Gmail inbox under control

“37 new emails? I was only gone for 2 hours.”

Sounds familiar?

Post Box

Personally, email is killing me. Every day, I feel like a modern Sisyphus. While he is trying to roll that huge rock up the hill I am trying to reach inbox zero. I think we will both keep on trying until eternity. The only difference is that Sisyphus manages to roll the rock almost up to the top before it comes crashing down. With email you never even seem to get close to the top. Instead, while I’m trying to manage the first few meters someone at the top starts throwing a whole bunch of rocks at me until I hide and give up.

Email is our time killer no. 1. And since traditional tips to deal with email don’t seem to work so well, we need to get a little ninja here. Let me present some not so well known
tools to hack your inbox and increase your chances to achieve inbox sanity.

One caveat before we start: all the hacks work for Gmail (and mostly the Chrome browser). If you are not using Gmail you might as well stop reading right now. I respect your choice to not give Google all your data but Gmail just cannot be beaten in terms of ways to customize your experience and manage your emails more effectively.

Problem #1: New messages constantly arriving

While we are trying to process email new messages arrive and distract us from the task of processing. Also, we really really commit to process email only 3 times a day but whenever we get weak there is a ton of new emails which we feel compelled to read immediately.

Solution: Pause your inbox with Inbox Pause

Pauses your inbox and only let’s emails through in fixed intervals, e.g., three times per day.

Problem #2: Touching emails more than once

We know that we should only read every email once, decide what to do with it, then archive it. Instead, we tend to postpone that decision, keep the email in the inbox and read it later again and again while trying to decide what to do with it.

Solution: Play the The Email Game

The gamification of processing your inbox: decide for email as quickly as possible what to do and collect points for processing your email. You will never have gone through your inbox so quickly!

Problem #3: Getting sucked into your inbox (while writing)

What usually happens whenever you just have to write an email without any intention of going through your inbox? You go to your inbox to click “compose”. As you do it your eyes realize that there are 10 new emails that you could read now. Your brain has quickly forgotten all about the original task, instead you open newsletters and funny chain emails. After reading several news/blog articles or watching cat videos on Youtube that were linked to in one of your emails you try to remember what it was that you wanted to do in the first place.

Solution: Compose email without going to your inbox

Install this browser extension to be able to compose a new email without opening your inbox. It’s magic.

Problem #4: Getting sucked into your inbox (while searching)

Similarly to the problem above, we often just want to find some information in an old email in order to continue our work. But in order to find that information, we go to our inbox with the intention of putting the cursor into the search field. And then … you guessed right: sucked into the inbox, again!

Solution: Search Gmail without opening inbox

Use this hack to install Gmail as a search engine in Chrome and find your information without entering the inbox wormhole:
* Open settings and click “Manage Search Engines…”
* Scroll to the very bottom where there are three blank boxes
* Type “” in the left and middle box
* Type “” into the right box

After doing this, whenever you want to search Gmail without opening the inbox, just type “” into the address bar and hit “TAB”. Now, you can enter the search term that you are looking for and press enter. Done!

Problem #5: Too many emails from subscriptions

Sure, subscriptions are useful. Sure, you want airline discounts, limited furniture sales items, book recommendations, potentially interesting meetups in our city and new articles from your favorite blog or websites straight to your inbox. The problem: you get 30 of these every day. And they come in single emails. Instead of unsubscribing from the ones that you don’t need anymore you just delete them or mark them as read as they come in – but it always takes a toll on your energy.

Solution: Unsubscribe and bundle

Visit and follow the instructions. It will find one gazillion subscriptions in your Gmail account (you will be shocked). Now, for every subscription you can decide to cancel it on the spot, or add it to a daily rollup email. So, instead of 20 subscription emails per day you will cancel 10 and get the remaining 10 all rolled up into one email. Beautiful!

I hope you found this useful. Now go out, install these tools and become an email superhero!

Speak to you soon!

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2 Responses to 5 little known tools to get your Gmail inbox under control

  1. Jens April 20, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    Dear Jo,
    some nice ideas about how to manage eMail flooding.
    Personally I try as often as possible to

    1) Open an eMail and directly finish the task being associated with it
    2) Delete finished mails. Why keeping all kinds of mails. Data rubbish. Just kill it ;-)

    • Johannes April 20, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

      Hi Jens,
      I think that can work really well, too. Problem is if you are trying to clean your inbox and you are getting new emails while working on old emails. Makes me crazy. But the most important thing is to have a working system, whatever it is!
      Thx, Jo

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