It was about 20 years ago—1996—that I really began to use email more widely, taking it from more of a novelty thing to what became a mainstay means of communication, both in business and personally. It really didn’t take long for it to consume enormous swaths of every day.
It’s a double-edge sword kind of thing. Or, can’t live with it, can’t live without it. These days, a hundred new emails in a day is a light load. On average, it’s around 1,000 non-spam per week. Like many people, the inbox stacks up and stacks up—you use the search function to find stuff. Periodically I’d go through and do a clean up of sorts, realizing that there were things buried therein I might have liked to act on in a timely fashion, but it’s now ancient history.
I’ve done all the stuff everyone does: separate email accounts (I have three), filters (I used to maintain dozens), various folders (dozens), creating reminders, tasks, notes (more than I can count). At a point, you might come to realize that all the “management” is taking more time and stress than just dealing with stuff in the first place.
You revert back to the way it always was. You do nothing, act on what you have to, scan through looking for important stuff, let a lot of stuff just fall by the wayside that may have been beneficial to act on—perhaps not in that instant, but in a timely way.
A couple of weeks ago, Alec Kinnear, proprietor of Foliovision—my long-time tech dudes and dudesses that manage all the blog werks under the hood—suggested I try SaneBox. There’s a free 14-day trial and if you want to keep it, it’s like $5 or $8 per month depending on level of service. You get $5 off if you use this link to initiate your trial and end up popping for it, and I get a free month if you only just try it.
Alec is very cool about this sort of thing. Like me, he never suggests using a service—or a plug-in for the blog—that he has not used and tested extensively…and he’ll immediately stop suggesting something that’s no longer up to snuff, or if he’s found something better. Accordingly, I always take his suggestions very seriously.
So I tried it. And I immediately saw a problem. If I were to purchase it, the $5 level is for one email account, the $8 level, two accounts. I have three, and at that point you get into business-level stuff and it’s jumps to $25 monthly, way beyond what I’d want to pay. When I expressed this concern to Alec, he said “well, I went to two accounts years ago and will be going to one son.”
Then I thought about it and laughed. Three accounts do little for me, because they don’t at all categorize email in the way I work and live. My mac.com account is for personal, friends and family, core longstanding relationships with trusted people and companies. It’s the address I keep the most private. Then I have my counterpart gmail.com address. This one is for when you have to provide an email address, but they’re not your drinking buddy and they might contact you too often. Then there’s the freetheanimal.com address, used for all things blog related like comment notifications, as well as the various affiliate stuff I have going.
See the problem? on any given day, in each account, there will be stuff I want to act on now, later today, or just put off as either to do later, or just news and info.
Then I laughed more, because I realized I’d been consolidating my email into a single inbox for years. I have all accounts set up on my Mac, my iPad, and my iPone, and all of them have the ability to look at the inbox consolidated into one, or separately, and I almost always do the former. So what is the benefit to the three accounts?
So it was an ah-ha moment. I immediately went into the other two accounts and set up an automatic redirection to my Mac.com account, and then set up SaneBox accordingly, with one account.
So let’s get into what it does for you.
Most of it is automatic, like 80-90%, I’d guess. That is, soon as you sign up and give it the credentials of your central IMAP account—be it Google, Microsoft, Apple, or whatever—it’s going to create central folders that will show up on your computer email app, and your devices, and then move emails around to different folders. Should you cancel, it will move everything back the way it was (giving you the option to leave as is).
If you’re working from an ancient POP account, I have zero idea. Haven’t had a POP account since the 1990s.
There are three essential things to discuss.
- What folders you want where email you haven’t seen yet will be moved to.
- What level of training you want for #1.
- Deferment via two auto-deferment folders and any hundreds of reminders.
Number 1 is the most powerful. There are two default folders: Your regular Inbox and “SaneLater.” You have an option to activate a third, called “SaneNews.” Activate the third. I find the “three inboxes” are just right for me.
So, “SaneNews” is where, automatically, all my notices and news go before I ever see them: your product shipped, we got your order, Breitbart News, TED talks, and on and on. All stuff I want to see when I’m just passively taking in information and am in a place where I will click on articles here and there, because I’m in the mindset for it, and not stressed about anything else. It has made them a value for me—and I have unsubscribed from a few—because they are no longer in my way, ever.
“SaneLater” is for both higher-level info (I want to know very soon) and stuff I need action on, but not right now. This is where my notices of all blog comments go. I want to see them, not to potentially be put off for a day or two with “SaneNews,” but I want to see them today. This is where a lot of stuff goes that is either info or action, not urgent either, but is of not either of a pure news or info nature.
My inbox is stuff that I really need to act on now, or determine exactly when I will act on it. The very first morning after I implemented this, I had TWO emails in my inbox and I took care of them both immediately. They were both inquiries to rent my vacation rental in Cabo. I did not have to sift through 60-80 emails, potentially get distracted…ending up running down rabbit holes and not even seeing them until hours later, and perhaps the peeps booked something else already…
For #2, training is something that’s so damn automatic initially, they must be using crowd algorithms. with thousands of customers, and common senders of email, they can easily predict from that data that you probably don’t want this in your inbox in the morning, so it’s put to News or Later. And changing that is as simple as moving it from one folder to another in your computer mail app, or any of your devices.
Yes, you are essentially creating a filter without messing with Boolean logic, just by the act of moving it. And you can get complex if you want to. The training is based on who the email is from If you have a sender that emails from a specific address, then you move it to the folder you want it to go to generally; then set up a simple exception.
For example, my 3rd party provider Owner Reservations, my “booking platform,” sends from one address; lots of info stuff, but important. So it’s trained to Later. However, when someone books, that has a specific subject line so that was a simple exception to set up. They all go to Later, unless the subject line is “[BOOKING #” in which case it goes to the inbox.
You can do all this with filters, and I have done so. This is easy enough, though. However, depending on how your email client works, your filter management might not show up on devices unless you have your computer on and your client open. SaneBox works at the central server level.
#3 is something I have not yet taken much advantage of, yet. Just a little, but it’s powerful. The easy part is that there are two folders called SaneTomorrow and SaneNextWeek. Simply, you just move an email from Inbox or anywhere, into either folder, and it’s gone. But then, either tomorrow or next Monday, it’s moved right back into your Inbox.
Reminders are where you have total complexity if you need it. Two ways to use that. You can forward any email to an address of your creation, like, email@example.com. It will remind you in three days.
Sending an email? Cc or Bcc 03Mar-2:firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll be reminded on the 3rd of March, 2:30 pm that you may need to follow-up. This is hugely flexible and there is even an iCal you can subscribe in your calendar so you can see all your reminders.
They are crazy easy to do and their shit can figure out almost any form you care to use.
Well, this has really made a profound difference in my business and personal life, freeing up tons of time and profoundly reducing stress. I found a way to manage my email that works for me, rather than aggravates or frustrates me.
You know, you’re on all the lists that “spam” you because at one time you thought there was something to see there. The problem is, none of them know when is the right time and place where you might actually enjoy or find use in what they have to offer. You have your own timetables and priorities.
The SaneNews has become one of my favorites because now I know, I want to look, and I know there will be nothing to stress or distract me. It’s all just taking in some of the stuff I want to see. I’ll read an article I may not have otherwise. I might buy something that I really like.
OK, hope I conveyed my joy of the whole thing. It actually took about a week of chewing, but I think I hit all the major points.