Control Your Inbox: 15 Email Productivity Hacks


The average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to messages. This means roughly 30% of their work time is devoted to managing their inbox. That’s entirely too much time to be spending on email! 


At SaneBox, we’ve done lots of research and thinking about ways to get better at email. Resist toxic email culture by implementing these 15 advanced email productivity hacks, and soon you’ll be on your way to crushing your inbox every day.

Don’t Unsubscribe from Suspicious Emails

Unsubscribing from suspicious emails can result in more junk mail because you’re exposing yourself as a real person (who actually reads emails) to a potential spammer. Instead, use SaneBlackHole—it will simply put all future emails from those senders directly into Trash.

Don’t Use Your Email as an Archive

Using your inbox as an archive goes against every productivity method out there. It’s the equivalent of keeping all your snail mail in your P.O. box. It’s terrible for your productivity, and for your subconscious. Don’t do it. Archive it all now—right now—and start fresh.


Shortcuts are Your Friend

You don’t need to go crazy with email keyboard shortcuts to become more productive. Think of the five actions you use most often and learn the shortcuts for these actions. Here is a full list of shortcuts for Gmail, Apple Mail, and Outlook.


Don’t Mark Unwanted Emails as Spam

Unwanted emails sent from legitimate mailing lists that you signed up for shouldn’t be marked as spam. Marking them as spam is just bad karma because email providers will penalize the sender, thinking they are a spammer when they are not. Use SaneBlackHole, or unsubscribe from the mailing list if you’re confident in the sender’s integrity.


Triage Your Email

Is your goal is to shoot for Inbox Zero every night? To achieve this, try using a method called triage: every so often, check your email and sort each incoming message into one of three types:


Tip: Never let a starred email last longer than a week before you handle it. To keep track of the stars, you can use Gmail superstars plugin (In Settings, under the General tab, you will see a category named ‘Stars’—simply drag and drop the stars you would like to enable) and the multi-inbox with a separate inbox for starred emails.


Set Follow-Up Reminders

Let’s face it, people can be annoying and don’t always respond to your emails. If you need to hear back from someone, set up a system to remind yourself. We recommend using Boomerang or SaneBox’s Reminders feature. If you haven’t heard from the recipient by the time you specified, you’ll receive a reminder. (Pro tip: Telling the recipient that you have set a reminder and will follow up by a certain time puts additional pressure on them to respond.)


Use the Short Reply

Although it might sound simple, this is for real ballers. Replying to a lengthy email with a couple sentences or even just a few words is NOT rude. If you can effectively convey your response in just a few words there is absolutely no reason to add fluff. Don’t even say “Hi, so-and-so.” A simple “no” will suffice and will earn you lots of respect.


Use Cloud Storage Links Instead of Attachments

Dropbox and other file-sharing services are a great way to share files. Just right-click on the file you want to share, choose “Dropbox,” then “Share link.” Copy and paste that link into your email. Not only is this a much more efficient use of space, but it also allows you to modify the file, which guarantees that the recipient will always have the latest version of the site when they click on the link. The same trick works with any other cloud storage service.


Become a Signature Pro

Don’t go overboard with the email signatures. Include only relevant and useful information. Pick an eye-catching template that fits your business using Wisestamp. Remember to set up email signatures for your mobile devices, too! Replace the generic signature with something useful, like adding links that promote your company.


Use an Email-Prioritization System

Sign up for an email prioritization system like SaneBox. Let that system siphon off the unimportant email so that it never shows up in your inbox in the first place. Glance through this low-priority stuff at the end of the day. (You’ll be able to delete most of it without even opening it.)


Forward Multiple Accounts into One Inbox

There are reasons to keep multiple email accounts (work, personal), but if you have more accounts than that, it’s much easier to have one place to check your email. In most email interfaces you can forward multiple accounts into one inbox, and you will not only be able to send “from” any of these accounts, but also be able to automatically reply from the address an email was sent to. 


Use Templates

Ever find yourself typing the same sentences over and over? Then you should be using email templates. Read through your sent mail and see what types of messages you are regularly sending, then put them in a template. 


Stop the Email Thread Spiral

Email threads can quickly balloon into dozens of emails and numerous recipients. Before continuing the thread and adding to the douchery, decide if a) a phone conference is better, b) some people deserve to be removed from the thread, and c) it makes sense to start a new thread.


Don’t Create Too Many Folders

It’s advantageous to have several general folders meant for filing once the action has been taken or for storing reference-type emails. Don’t go overboard with folders though, because an overly complex filing system quickly loses its effectiveness. A good rule of thumb is once an email is opened, execute an action before moving on to the next email or task. Does it need to be stored for reference? Do you need to respond? Take action on each message before moving on.


Don’t (Always) Email

Before you hit send, review the email and evaluate whether the message will suck you into a long thread. If so, pick up the phone or walk over and speak to your colleague in person.


These are just a few strategies to help you get out of your inbox and on with your life. For more time-saving strategies, best practices and awesome tools and apps to make you an email master, check out this list of 100 email hacks. Now go out and enjoy time spent away from your inbox!