Trying to get to inbox zero? Switching from conventional Gmail to Inbox can help you get there, thanks to features like bundling, snooze, and templates.
Inbox by Gmail first appeared in 2014, when the vamped-up web-based email client was still invite only. But there are still people who haven’t switched over, and may not even be fully aware that they can.
Those people are missing out. Inbox by Gmail takes what you already enjoy about Gmail — message sorting, filters, great archive search — and makes it even more useful. Its ethos and functionalities will feel familiar to fans of the Getting Things Done productivity approach, as Inbox works to make every email actionable, even if that action is merely to archive a message. This helps you clear things out of your inbox and focus in specifically on what you need to do with your email, when you need to do it.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say Inbox literally transformed the way I use email,” said Vinay Pai, the founder of Unfake.us. “I used to be pretty dedicated to desktop-based clients like Thunderbird, Outlook, and Eudora but Inbox made me decide to switch my whole email workflow around it.”
It might take a few days to get used to Inbox’s somewhat-different look and layout, and you’ll want to spend a bit of time exploring the email client’s features and setting them up to best fit your needs and workflow. But once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever found time to manage email without Inbox.
Here are some of the key features of Inbox to familiarize yourself with.
Write More Than Just Emails
In Inbox, composing emails isn’t your only option when you hover over the red plus sign in the lower-right corner of the screen. You can write an email or a reminder, which will be welcome news to those of you who regularly email reminders to yourself.
The compose button gives you the option to compose an email or create a reminder, and brings up commonly used email addresses.
And you can do more than one thing with the emails you receive. Every email has a toolbar on the top right that gives you options for the email: pin it, snooze it, mark it done, or move it to a specific folder. Pinning an email keeps it in your inbox, and you can toggle to a pinned-only view by clicking the pushpin button at the top right of your screen.
Manage Multiple Accounts
If you need to work with more than one email account — for example, a work one and a personal one — Inbox makes that easier to do. “As someone with four active email accounts, juggling them and staying on top of messages through various apps and platforms was always a major headache,” said Nate Masterson, marketing manager of Maple Holistics. “With Google’s Inbox I can manage all of my email accounts in one convenient place without any time lost.”
To forward emails to a Gmail account, go to the wheel at the top right of the inbox window in the regular Gmail view, then choose “Settings,” then “Forwarding and POP/IMAP.” Then you can use the bundling features to sort emails from the forwarded accounts into appropriate bundles. Or if both accounts are Gmail accounts, you can select “Add account” in Inbox by clicking your user image at the top right, which allows you to set up your additional Gmail accounts and toggle back and forth.
Bundle, Bundle, Bundle
“Like with any email app, the trick with Inbox is to ignore as much as possible,” said Michael Heiligenstein, SEO director with FitSmallBusiness.com. Inbox’s built-in bundles make this relatively easy, by putting related emails in one place so they don’t overwhelm your inbox.
Inbox provides a few standard bundles, but you can create your own as well.
“Most important is the Low Priority bundle, which is also the hardest for Inbox to figure out,” Heiligenstein said. You have to tell Inbox what to put in that bundle, at least for a while, but Inbox will eventually start to recognize what belongs based on your previous actions. “You don’t lose these emails, but Inbox keeps them out of the way so they don’t clog up the rest of your mailbox.”
Take Advantage of the Social and Promotions Tabs
“I previously had a complex labelling system setup so when Google introduced their Social and Promotions bundles, I was dubious,” said Fiona Adler, founder of Actioned.com. But Adler has found the tabs useful after giving them a try.
You can bundle all newsletters or promotional emails together, and even set them to only appear in the inbox once daily to avoid distractions.
“Mainly I use the Promotions bundle for all the reading material I receive that I’m interested in — but don’t want interrupting my day,” Adler said. “When something hits your inbox that you don’t want to read straight away, simply bundle it into this tab.”
Use That Snooze
Pai aspired to hitting “inbox zero” but in the past was never able to achieve it. One of the things he likes about Inbox is that it makes every email easily actionable, thanks to a snooze function that lets you remove emails from your inbox until you want them to pop up again.
By using the snooze feature, you can keep emails out of your inbox until you need to see them.
“Plan on following up with someone in a few weeks? Great, snooze it for that Monday. Meant to grab drinks with a former colleague ‘in a few months?’ No problem, just snooze it for three months from now,” Pai said. “Inbox lets me stay on top of my email way better while simultaneously spending less time on it.”
Set Up Labels
Inbox’s strong filtering tools add another way to manage your inbox, and save time in labelling and sorting emails. “Too many people neglect to use the tools that Inbox provides despite the fact that they have the power to make lives easier and simpler,” Masterson said.
In the left-hand menu, select “Create new” to create a new label for your messages. And under Settings, select the “Labels” tab to turn bundling for your labels off and on. This will help you keep related messages together and let you set rules for the bundles themselves.
Start Using Templates
Inbox allows users to set up canned responses that can save a lot of time if you often send similar messages. To set up canned responses, choose “Settings” in the left-hand menu, then navigate to the “Templates” tab and select “Create a Template.”
If you frequently write similar emails, templates will be a significant timesaver.
Then you can start writing templates of common emails that fit your needs. “Simply write the email you want to reuse. I like to use ‘xxxx’ for placeholders that will need to be customized,” Adler said. “Take a bit longer to ensure that it’s well written and includes all the information you need. You can always delete extra parts that aren’t necessary for all emails.” To save your template, click “create” and your template will be saved.
Don’t Be Afraid to Archive
Using the archive function to get things out of your inbox is a great way to keep things clean, Adler said. “There’s no need to store most emails in folders these days as you can trust that Google’s search function will find anything you need,” she said. To help keep your storage space under control, set a rule for Inbox to delete all emails that are 12 months old, or another timeframe that makes sense for your needs.