When it comes to email management, there are 2 types of people…
- Inbox Zero: people who strive for an empty inbox by filing and archiving every incoming email. Emails left in the inbox need action.
- Inbox Star: people who strive to read all emails but leave everything in the inbox. Emails starred and/or marked unread need action.
But, after using the “Inbox by Gmail” app, I have come to the conclusion that Google devised an email app experience that pushes everyone to a new way of managing email that is the best of both worlds.
Here is my breakdown of these methods and how Inbox by Google reaps the benefits of both.
Filing Emails into Folders
Inbox Zero: Categorize!
Assigning emails to labels or folders is a common practice in the Inbox Zero camp. It benefits in having neat organization and categorization for quick filtering.
Inbox Star: Get back to work!
On the other hand, the Inbox Star method benefits in efficiency as incoming emails do not need to be manually filed into labels or folders.
Workaround: Create Filters
Instead of manually filing emails, creating a filter that automatically assigns incoming emails to a label is a nice way to get the organization benefits without the manual work.
Gmail Tabs (Google’s First Attempt)
Gmail tried to implement a feature to help with filing a while ago. It was a concept of tabs for different types of email like Social, Updates, Forums, & Promos. The benefit was Google filed them automatically without manual filing or knowing how to craft complex search criteria.
However, it wasn’t very well received. A lot of people (like me) turned it off because it was frustrating to not be able to see all new emails that come in without having to click through the tabs.
“Inbox by Gmail” Solution: Bundles
Now with Inbox by Gmail, Google has taken their concept of tabs for types of email and evolved it into a much more useful application… bundles.
Instead of having to click through tabs to see all of your email, now you can see it all in one inbox stream, but with similar types of emails bundled together into a single line item for each type. You can see a preview of who the emails are from, and when you click on the bundle, it expands it so you can see all of the emails within the bundle.
You can also use the same filters and labels that you had in Gmail and turn them into bundles, which is nice.
Archiving Done Emails
Inbox Zero: Archive everything!
Archiving emails once they are complete is essential to Inbox Zero. Its main benefits is aesthetic cleanliness. You only see the items that you need to follow-up on.
Aesthetics may seem irrelevant to email management, but when it comes to the screen that you are looking at the majority of the work day, the less visual distractions, the better.
Inbox Star: Leave it be!
On the other hand, the Inbox Star method says that you don’t need to waste time archiving email.
Workaround: Inbox Panels
The Inbox Star method can also steal a bit of clean aesthetics without the manual work by using Gmail’s collapsible inbox panels and collapsing the “Everything else” panel. Just set the other inbox panels to Unread, Starred, and Drafts and you should see everything you need and only the things you need.
“Inbox by Gmail” Solution: Swipe & Sweep
Now, with Inbox by Gmail, the tables have turned on these methods. Inbox no longer has any feature to mark an email as unread. This is a big game changer as it completely disrupts the workflow of the Inbox Star user.
At the same time, archiving is no longer seen as a chore with the addition of a few new features.
- The “swipe right for done” feature is a nice and easy way to archive an email.
- The “swipe left to snooze” feature lets you clear away the emails that you don’t need cluttering your inbox at the moment. Quickly snooze them to a later time or date and the email will come back when you’re ready to deal with it.
- Or if you have a lot of email you want to get off of your plate quickly, you can pin only the emails you want to keep in your inbox and then click the “sweep” button that archives all of the emails on the page except for the pinned emails. What’s really nice is that you can sweep within an opened bundle. So if you have a bunch of social notifications that you are already aware of, you can sweep them all in one click without touching any other emails in your inbox.
Google’s Better Way to Manage Email
It is clear to me that Google’s Gmail team designed the Inbox app specifically for the Inbox Zero method (which is very popular), but they made it so much better by automating manual processes and making it faster and easier to clear out your inbox.
It didn’t take long before I realized that I had to change how I was managing email to get the most out of Inbox. I pinned the handful of emails that I needed to keep track of, and then went over to Gmail, clicked on All Mail, selected all, then selected all for real (not just what’s visible on the page), and I archived all of it.
From then on, I was able to use Inbox by Gmail the way they intended it to be used and I’ve felt more organized and productive ever since.
What Do You Think?
- Have you tried Inbox yet?
- What do you like or dislike about it?
- Is Inbox’s email management really better than the other methods?
- Or are there flaws or issues with Inbox?