question for my readers: how do you handle your inbox?

I just had an interesting email exchange with Fred. He nudged me, as I still owed him a reply to his latest email. In our conversation, he mentioned an app he uses called NEO (Nelson Email Organizer) that helps him stay on top of his conversations. Of course, it’s a windows app. Are you using anything similar on a mac?

I need overhaul the way I handle my inbox. Just yesterday, I had to completely erase my harddrive and reinstall everything. With that, my inbox went from over 1400 emails (approx 700 of them flagged) to zero. (enter happy sigh here)

The eternal question: How do you organize your inbox. How do you stay on top of ongoing conversations?

(Oh, and by the way, if I owe you a reply, please nudge me again!)

33 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I’m using Gmail and Apple Mail with IMAP and my iPod touch…
    Don’t organize – search!

  2. jan is right.if you wanna stay in control of your indox you got t have a pda or something similar.I use my blackberry or i-phone.there is no other way.Unless your are in an office all-day.In my part its not a matter of organizing as it is of time.:)

  3. Hello i use “Smart Mailboxes” inside Mail App, that’s easy to configure.


  4. have you seen the “Inbox Zero” project from the personal productivity site 43folders –

    chance would be a fine thing….

  5. Gmail. Only check mail twice a day. Answer everything answerable immediately, create a @TODO label/folder, archive everything. Don’t let anything sit un-acted upon for more than a day or three. Freak out if you have more than ten idle messages in your inbox.

  6. gmail. organize things into folders. especially a todo folder

  7. my workflow:

    your inbox is your todo list. when you’ve acted on the email place it in a folder labelled DONE.

    to keep your inbox near empty, and your todo list short, take half an hour each morning to go through the emails in your inbox and act or file them as DONE.

  8. I use automatic filters for everything.

    People that I corresponds with more than once a day get their own folder/label. I filter all mail from them automatically inbound and outbound.

    Email I send to one person goes into a Sent-To-person folder.

    Also, I have a folder for each mail-list I belong to.

    This works for me both with MS Outlook (win) and GMail. I keep a Gmail account that gets copies of everything that crosses my inbox or outbox. Just in case the mail-sever is ever down.

    Google Desktop is invaluable for finding old emails.

    After implementing filters and GTD I have conquered my inbox.

  9. You got to watch e-mail zero by Merlin Mann (43folders). It’s a must and has saved my life (no kidding).

  10. have to use the Mac mail program for work… but I love love love the “Organize by Thread” feature. so many long email chains and this helps…

    beyond that I try to folder everything I’ve replied to or that is pending on someone other than me (lots and lots of folders). good luck!!

  11. For Apple Mail: tons of rules that automatically direct stuff to folders. Then (try to) keep the main inbox empty. My screen grab:

  12. I don’t organize. All my inboxes are overflowing. Gmail keeps my conversations in order though, it’s helpful.

  13. Another vote for the Inbox Zero strategy. Works like a charm.

  14. i use gmail and archive every conversation. i star those which i may need to come back to and don’t archive a convo till i am done with my share.

  15. Gmail conversations are killer. Add a couple filters for autolabeling. Plus I try the inbox zero approach, with moderate success.

  16. Last week I noticed that the combined inboxes in ten email accounts totaled over 6000 pieces of mail, so I finally took the time to archive everything and adopt the Inbox Zero approach. Normally a packrat, I’m used to having the last six months of mail at my fingertips so it’s taking some getting used to. But forcing myself to “do it, file it, or toss it” seems to be working.

  17. in my latest post i write a solution inside the Mail App, but if u wanna an atittude solution and have a little time to read some other blogs this week i found “The Pleasures of Uninterrupted Communication” >

  18. GTD with Gmail is what I use. I haven’t yet gone towards Inbox Zero of Merlin Man, but I will soon do so.

  19. I use GMail with the notificator at my iGoogle page and ‘archive’ button for all emails that are no longer important.

  20. Gmail + my personal productivity rules:

    1. First respond to anything that can be answered in a minute or two. (the David Allen rule)

    2. Create filters for any senders that I need to communicate with regularly / projects that require multiple e-mail threads.

    3. Archive everything.

    4. If more than 10 e-mails are sitting idle for over a day, stop everything else and take action on them.

  21. email sure does suck

    the killer internet app has had it’s day I say.

    and with gmail and IMAP and tagging.. oh my….it’s a mess, but at least it’s getting better

    get out of the email!

  22. I use Gmail through Google Apps. It works for your own domain and the Standard Edition is free.

  23. For Outlook use MoveIT ( It helps with the filing of emails and cuts down on at least 2 hours a week. reduces email overload, and keeps your inbox uncluttered.

  24. ok, I looked through what everyone has and amazed no one’s mentioned mailplane. After the initial Apple Mail app had a bug, I just started using Gmail and the labeling system and filters are absolutely essential for how I work now.

    But the problem was there was no “desktop” equivalent for it on the mac. However someone developed one called Mailplane. Its pretty slick, syncs with OS X, and you can use all the features of Gmail and more on a desktop class client. The only major thing it lacks is downloading the data onto your desktop.

    For mobile, gmail handles imap, so anything I’ve labeled, read, etc is reflected on my phone.

    Here’s mailplane:

  25. I use gmail + archive almost everything. I also use gmail (imap version) on my iphone and everything stays in sync. I have created smart folders and rules. I try to have no email in my inbox when I go home at the end of the day. The must read is:


  26. With a Mac, rules in mail, spotlight and, of course, organize by threads or chains (group messages with the same subject) should be enough. Plus a little care to create folders and have just the “to answer” in your inbox…
    Good luck.

    ( )

  27. Gmail is great for its message threading, and for the very strong spam filter – miniscule amounts of spam gets through, and miniscule amounts of non-spam gets put with the junk.

    As well as conversation threading gmail also lets you ‘star’ conversations to show they’re important, and has a great search facility.

    I’ve now completely abandoned seperate email clients, I just use Gmail (which pretends to be my domain name when it sends).

    Then again, I use multiple computers, so that’s another bit advantage of gmail for me.

  28. instead of creating a “todo” folder, “star” the 2do-mails and archive them.

    The only thing i’m a bit anxious about is that now google not only tracks my internet-activity, my calender, but also my mails :) but as long as they offer this kind of high-productivity-tools i let them track… *sight*…

  29. i use google reader 4 blogs