Inbox Zero Academy: Lesson 10
Snooze emails until you’re ready for them
Snooze emails until you’re ready for them
Yesterday, we taught you how to prevent emails from slipping through the cracks. Now that we solved that tricky email problem, let’s move on to the next one: what to do with an email that you do need to act on, but not right now. If you’re like most people, you probably leave that message in your Inbox, possibly even marking it as unread. This causes you to look at it (i.e. spend time and focus on it) over and over. A much better way is to move the email out of your Inbox and have it automatically circle back at the specified date.
If you ever receive an email that isn’t actionable at that time, you still need to make a decision and get it out of your Inbox. Remember, Lesson 2! We’re talking directions to your friend’s wedding next year, a lukewarm sales lead that you need to follow up on next month, or an email chain letter from your crazy cousin that you want to read this weekend, not today. These messages are irrelevant, inactionable, or low priority until the time you want them, at which point you want or need to have them front and center.
So how do you organize, or “snooze,” these messages?
First, it is possible to do this manually to a certain degree, though it’s less efficient, less precise, and often ends up in dozens of folders where messages can be easily overlooked. Still, if you want to give this route a try, a good place to start would be with folders for each day of your work week (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday), and another for free time (e.g. “Evenings & Weekends”). Beyond that, you could create folders for “Next Week” and for the coming months. You would move emails into these folders as appropriate, and then visit each folder when that day, week, or given month arrives. Again, this approach takes a good amount of due diligence on your part, as at the start and end of every day, week, and month, you’ll need to make sure each item in the relevant folders has been managed.
Now, let’s take a look at the easier ways to snooze emails.
As you know by this point in Inbox Zero Academy, we at SaneBox are huge fans of tools that integrate with your existing email account to make it a better place. This fact is no different when it comes to deferring emails. Since Dropbox announced that it would be shutting down Mailbox, there are two main integrations that we recommend:
- Boomerang for Gmail
- SaneBox's Snooze feature
Unlike the manual approach we discussed above, the beauty of these tools is that they are highly customizable, intuitive, and dependable. You’ll never create or work out of a bunch of static folders that are ill-equipped to handle something as dynamic as email. Instead, just tell the program when you want a message back (tomorrow, this weekend, next month, etc.), and it will return the email to your Inbox at that time. If you decide that you need an email before it’s scheduled to come back, fear not—the email is never deleted or removed from your server, so you can still access it at any time. While the way each tool works varies to a degree, each ensures that you’ll be working out of a less messy Inbox so you can focus on what’s important now.
Because deferring emails is a new concept to most of us, here are a few more examples to get you thinking. If you have ideas of your own, we’d love to hear them.
- Snooze a meeting agenda until the day of the meeting
- Snooze a bill pay reminder until a day or two before it’s due
- Snooze less urgent work emails until the afternoon or next day
- Snooze that “Take an extra 25% off, today only” email until you’re home from work or on your lunch break
And there you have it—one of the best ways to stay on top of your priorities without missing a thing or overloading your Inbox.
Also, be on the lookout for a special gift from us—we’ll be sending it your way in the next couple of days.
You’re reading the Inbox Zero Academy. It’s a series of lessons to help you improve email life.
Thousands of people are following along. Don't miss out—join them now:
SaneBox is a simple service that analyzes your past behavior (which emails you open, which you respond to, how quickly, how often, etc) and determines the importance of incoming emails without ever looking at the content (only the headers). It moves unimportant emails out of the Inbox into a separate folder called SaneLater and summarizes them in a digest. It works anywhere you check your email (since it's just an email folder).