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How-To: Tame your inbox with SaneBox

by Ray Aguilera

May 8 2012

Your email is out of control. Folders can help, but managing yet another filing system is cumbersome—and takes time. SaneBox automatically filters your messages, moving less important stuff to the side, and making sure your important messages stay front and center.

What is it?

SaneBox is a service that sits between your email box and the client you use to read messages (Mail on the iPad or Microsoft Entourage on a desktop, for example). As long as you have an IMAP-capable email box, SaneBox will work with whatever you already use. If you’re not sure, your IT department can tell you how to access email via IMAP.

Sign Up

To set up your SaneBox account, head over to sanebox.com. Type your email address into the box and click Sign Up. You can try the service free for 30 days. After that, you’ll need to purchase an account. Single-user accounts are $4.95 monthly, $55 for a year, or $100 for two years. Enterprise-level accounts are also available for deploying SaneBox to large numbers of users.

SaneBox will ask for your password, and try to auto-detect your email server settings. If auto-detect doesn’t work, you can enter your server information manually. Once you enter your email information, SaneBox gets to work behind the scenes creating the folders it will use to help you filter and process email. Signup takes less than a minute, and the SaneBox service is fully-functional in under 10 minutes from start to finish.

New Folders

Once SaneBox configures your new account, you’ll notice some new folders in your email clients. SaneBox will automatically filter your messages using these folders. Important messages will remain in your inbox, while less important stuff like press releases, newsletters, social media notifications, and other “bulk” email will be moved to your @SaneLater folder (if SaneBox’s default folder names don’t suit your needs, you can rename them). Going forward, focus first on inbox messages, and only check @SaneLater as time allows. It's a small change in habits that gives you a huge productivity boost.

Out of the gate, SaneBox does a great job of finding the important messages. Connecting the service to your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts helps the system decide which messages are important. But SaneBox also learns as you go. If an important message ends up in @SaneLater by mistake, just move it back to your inbox, and SaneBox adjusts your filters accordingly.

Blacklisting and Reminders

Automatically sorting your mail isn’t SaneBox’s only talent. Logging in at sanebox.com allows you to activate @SaneBlackHole, and additional folders for scheduling reminders. Dragging a message to @SaneBlackHole banishes the sender forever.

If a message is important, but you just can’t deal with it now, @SaneTomorrow whisks the message away, and it’ll show up in your inbox again tomorrow. @SaneNextWeek does a similar trick, bringing back messages on Monday. If those options aren’t enough, you can configure custom folders to defer messages for a specific number of hours or days, or have them reappear at a specific time.

SaneBox can also send you reminders on the fly. When you’re sending a message, Bcc a copy to 2weeks@sanebox.com, and you’ll get a reminder in your inbox in two weeks. SaneBox understands minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years so it’s easy to schedule a reminder for whenever you need it.

Checking in

Having an invisible hand in your email can be scary. But SaneBox has lots of ways to let you know what it’s doing. In Notification Preferences, you can set up custom digests to remind you about unread messages in your @SaneLater folder. And the system is smart. As new digests arrive, old ones get filed away to minimize clutter.

You can also configure Training Confirmations, so that SaneBox will periodically check in to make sure you didn’t accidentally banish someone’s messages into @SaneBlackHole.

Optional weekly or monthly digests display graphs and statistics about your email. In one week using SaneBox on a fairly low-traffic email address, the service plucked 44 important messages out of a total of 304 messages. SaneBox estimates my time savings was 2.2 hours, although it felt like a pretty conservative estimate. 

SaneBox's tools are simple, and easy to integrate into any email workflow. The advanced reminder features can be great, but even if you don't use them, the automatic message filtering and simple spam blacklisting are amazing time-savers.

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