Welcome to the BONUS Week 5 of Email Month! More than half of the months in 2024 only have four Tuesdays in them, but this January has five, so this one counts as a bonus week. Therefore, I’m doing something a little different: highlighting a few email tools that I’ve used or have heard great things about, in case any of them might help any of you.
Email Week 5: Leverage Good Tools
We’ve made it through an entire month (well, four weeks) of email management to help you achieve a cleaner inbox, less incoming mail, a simple organizational framework, and some essential habits that set you up to efficiently manage the messages that are still coming in. If you were following along with each of the previous weeks, most of what you’ve already done was by hand: moving, archiving, labeling, unsubscribing, etc.
For this final “half week” in January, I want to point you toward some solutions that can automate and streamline much of this work, especially if you have a ton of old emails that you don’t want to let go of entirely just yet.
- Consider what you’d still like to fix, improve, or clean in your inbox (see below for examples)
- Review the list of apps below to see whether any of them can help achieve your goal
- If so, sign up for a trial to the tool that looks most promising
(To be clear and maintain my integrity, I am not pushing these tools for affiliate income reasons. I have done so with Clean Email on another post, but for this week of Tidy ’24, the links on this page are direct. I recommend these tools because I like them, and in some cases, I’ve used them with great results. Whether you click through and sign up doesn’t change anything on my end, but I recommend it anyway because they’re effective.)
When Step 1 says to consider what you’d still like to fix, I mean that the last four weeks might not have brought you to Inbox Zero. Maybe you’re still getting too much email. Maybe the “Archive Everything” step felt too much like sweeping mess under the rug. Maybe the email you still get legitimately takes too much time to manage, and you’re still overwhelmed.
If you do have a great-looking inbox now and no more stress, then by all means just delete this message and enjoy your week, you lucky dog!
But for the rest of us, here’s a list of five email management tools that go beyond a typical mail client and provide huge productivity boosts in the right circumstances:
- Clean Email ($29.99/year minimum, free trial with CC, family plan available) – My current favorite for personal email accounts. I’ve zapped thousands of messages with this, helped set up sender filters, created automatic archiving rules, and unsubscribed from hundreds of irrelevant newsletters. The interface is pleasant and modern, and the feature set covers a lot. There are minor quirks and limitations here and there, but they have great tutorials and online help if you have questions. Whether you use them continually or just for a few weeks at first to vastly cut down your email volume, it’s a great tool.
- Mailstrom ($59.95/year minimum, free trial without CC) – Similar to Clean Email, this tool has been around longer. It has more of a “technical” or “business” vibe. Most of the relevant features found here are also in Clean Email, but it doesn’t try to streamline as many operations for you–and that might be a good thing if you’re comfortable making your own decisions start-to-finish about what to filter or move or unsubscribe from without AI-powered suggestions. Also, Mailstrom has a message count graph that I particularly enjoyed; you get to watch a mountain of emails gradually reach ground level.
- Unroll.Me (FREE, but harvests some data) – This is a more basic tool that focuses only on unsubscribing from unwanted lists. In addition to (and sometimes instead of) going through the unsubscribe process from the sender–assuming one exists at all–Unroll.Me actively filters any future incoming messages even if the sender doesn’t respect your unsubscribe request. This isn’t an ideal solution, but sometimes it’s the only one.
- SaneBox ($7/month minimum, free trial without CC) – This is a more powerful tool that works in tandem with you, learning from your actions so that you have to do less and less manual cleaning, sorting, deleting, and unsubscribing over time. It’s like Clean Email but lives more inside your inbox rather than being a tool you use separately. They have a great intro video on their home page. I know a few people (some very prominent) who use and heartily recommend this service, so check it out if it sounds interesting.
- Superhuman ($30/month minimum, no free trial) – This is a specifically business-focused tool that probably only applies–maybe–if you do a lot of email-based collaboration with work colleagues. It’s surrounded by a lot of hype, and it is by far the most expensive tool on this list, but it does pull together an impressive set of features if you happen to need them all. Some have pointed out that you can get the same features for much less–even free–from other tools, and while that’s true, the overall experience will be significantly more disjointed if you go that route. If you have some cash to spend and you feel like you’re unable to stay on top of business email, check out their landing page and see if you want to try it for a month. I might have jumped on something like this a couple of jobs ago, but in my current role, it’s overkill.
There you have it! Five different options for tools that can make your inbox easier to manage. All but one provide a free trial, most without requiring payment information. If I were buried under email right now, I’d probably try SaneBox first, simply because it looks like a great tool, and I haven’t tried it yet. However, Clean Email is also great, and I know this because I’ve used it and still have an active account.
If you have any questions about these tools (or others I didn’t mention), reply with a question to this email or reach out on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post.
How Does This Help?
Repetitive tasks are prime candidates for automation. Searching through a ton of emails for certain categories (sender, subject, timeframe, etc.) is one of those tasks, as is the follow-up action that we usually take, like deleting, sorting, or unsubscribing. Tools like SaneBox or Clean Email let us take dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of this kind of task and do them all at once in just a few seconds.
Who Does This Help?
These tools are great if you still receive more emails than you’d like or you’re sitting on a massive collection of old emails that you know are mostly irrelevant (even if you just archived it all a few weeks ago). They’re built to help you do what you often already know how to do, but in far less time and with fewer clicks.
Who Does This NOT Help?
If you don’t get much email or already stay on top of what you receive (whether a little or a lot), layering on another management tool like the above apps won’t add any value. It might even make your day-to-day email use unnecessarily complicated. If you’re considering an inbox assistant of any kind, make sure its feature set lines up with whatever problems you want to address.
For Week 5, your task is to leverage good tools. Think about what you’d still like to improve about your email and consider one of the apps recommended above. If you have questions about this task or anything related to digital organization, comment below or on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post.
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