Mailbox makes Inbox Zero easy

I’ve had an email account for a long time. I remember when every email was exciting. That was a mighty long time ago. At one point I wrote about the dread of email as I discovered Inbox Zero and managed to reach a new found un-dread of email.

For the most part I’ve been happily chugging along. While I have not always been at Inbox Zero, it’s been a much better feeling.

Recently Dropbox sent me an email to try an app they aquired called Mailbox. Now, I’m a Linux user and they don’t have an app for me or even a web interface. That made it a tough pill to swallow, given that I’m quite a happy Gmail user and don’t miss the days of the Email desktop client.

Mailbox makes some big promises and it was enough to sucker me into installing it on my Android phone.

I’m still a bit annoyed that there isn’t a webapp, but so far Mailbox has been awesome for me. Why? It makes it painless to get to Inbox Zero.

Allow me to explain.

The basic idea of Inbox Zero is that you do something with your email after you read it. Respond, archive, delete. Just don’t keep it. It’s not really hard if you also make sure that you set time aside to get through your email. Otherwise you have a lot of moments where you think “I need to respond to that, but don’t have the time” and keep it hanging around. Avoiding that is really key for me to keep the Inbox clean.

So what does Mailbox provide in addition to that?

Well, first and foremost it puts all of mail email accounts into one view. No more dealing with multiple accounts. All of my email accounts show up in one view by default and encourage me to deal with all email on an equal basis. It might seem a little strange to have no built in priority, but from a mental perspective all emails add a mental burden. Having to think of priority on top of that is yet another step I’d rather do without. Getting to Inbox Zero is the goal; not “Priority” Inbox Zero. That’s likely the biggest win for me since I have often been guilty of de-prioritizing my non-work emails. That’s not a great way to treat friends and family. The emails also stay on Gmail when they are archived so it’s always possible to go through the Gmail interface.

The second thing that has impressed me is that Mailbox doesn’t offer labels or folders. Now I will admit that this approach seemed odd. I’ve been a big user of the labels that Gmail offers. With Mailbox you don’t get to use those. So why doesn’t that bother me? Basically it’s a trade off. Having to label emails is another step or mental obstacle to hurdle over. It doesn’t seem like a big obstacle, but I’ve found over the past few weeks that not having the option to think about what label to apply has made it very easy. My choice is to archive or delete. It’s simply one less step to think about. The trade off is that I don’t have labels to lean on when I need to find an email again. This hasn’t proven to be an issue. The reason for that (which came as a surprise to me) is that the labels aren’t generally as useful as I assumed. I realized that while the labels always made me feel that I could find an email, it turns out that I frequently ended up searching the hard way because I didn’t label right. Really it was mostly that I applied a label that made sense at the time, but when it came time to find the email I was thinking of a different label. Thus I seem to always end up searching anyway. Searching works quite well with Mailbox and I can also do so via Gmail.

The third and final reason I’ve really come to like Mailbox is that it’s very easy to archive, delete, or postpone. All of those functions are done by swiping in the app. It’s a very powerful and intuitive way to deal with my email. Mailbox just makes it very easy to get through the emails. In particular the ability to postpone or “snooze” an email is very nice. If I get a work email in the evening I just swipe the message to the left and I can have the email pop back into my Inbox at a time of my choosing, such as “Tomorrow” or “Next Week” or “Later Today” etc. It’s a very nice way to keep the email around without having to deal with it right then and there and still keep the Inbox at zero. Admittedly that can be dangerous if you just keep postponing the email. That’s why it’s important to set aside the time to really get to Inbox Zero. None the less it’s been very cathartic for me to keep my inbox at zero and knowing that emails will come back when I have time to give it attention.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I do wish there was a way for me to have Mailbox on my Linux desktop. That’s why I still pull up Gmail in the browser so that I can write longer emails more comfortably. I do have a bluetooth keyboard, but the desktop just works better some time. That actually has me thinking of my computer more was a workstation rather than an email processing system. It’s a bit strange but that also has me feeling more productive. Somehow the computer now feels dedicated for highly productive work.

It’s definitely worth giving a Mailbox a shot if you are using Apple’s email or Gmail.


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