Technology is supposed to help us run our lives more easily, but sometimes it just plain runs our lives. Email is a common example of the latter and can be an especially harsh master. Merlin Mann introduced the idea of Inbox Zero at a Google Tech Talk in 2007 (you can watch the presentation above). Inbox Zero is the idea of not only cleaning out your inbox, but getting your inbox out of your head. Clear it out, get it out of your mind, and get productive on the things that really need your focus.
I'm a fan of a small inbox. Clearing that last email is a great feeling. If you can pull it off right at the end of the workday, you can go home without the mental clutter of unattended messages. I brought two tools to help you get to Inbox Zero to WISN for our #wewant segment with Thema Ponton.
The first is UnRoll.me. This is a tool to help you contain your mailing list and newsletter emails. Sign up for a free UnRoll.me account, tell it with periodic emails you want 'rolled up,' and UnRoll.me will catch those emails before they hit your inbox, combine them into one email, and send it to you at the time you choose. Now you can browse through all your Twitter and Facebook notifications, shopping alerts, and mailing lists at one time instead of being peppered by them throughout the day.
The second, and my favorite email tool, is Boomerang. Boomerang works with your gMail account to keep your inbox clear by allowing you to clear an email out of your inbox and schedule it to return at a time you choose. One of the most useful options is to boomerang your own email back to you if you don't get a response within a specified time frame - I use this all the time reaching out to colleagues and clients, it helps me keep projects moving forward if someone forgets (or delays) to get back to me.
I didn't have time to talk about it, but those of you with massive inboxes (you know who you are) should look into Mailstrom. It makes whittling down your inbox a breeze by grouping your emails together. Just highlight, click, and say goodbye to unwanted emails.
A clear inbox is a beautiful thing; I hope these tools help you get there!
OnMilwaukee.com's senior developer Nick Barth has been a part of the team since 2008. After an 18-month stint in Portland, he returned to his hometown with a new love of food trucks, bike life, and simple and effective gadgetry. The self-proclaimed gear geek and denim addict now presents OnMilwaukee's #wewant series weekend mornings on WISN-12.