For most of us, life is a battle of doing more with less. Time is a finite currency. Making sure that we’re putting that time to good use is the key to productivity.
There are countless email tools on the market. Most of them focus on one piece of the puzzle, which is productivity. Getting to peak performance, then, often requires that you use multiple resources.
SaneBox is different. It’s an email management tool that helps you declutter your inbox, but it does so much more. Also, unlike many of the tools that make up the status quo, it works with almost any email provider.
I’ve used a lot of different email tools over the years. To be fair, most of them are pretty good at what they do. But it’s also fair to point out that they don’t do enough. That’s why SaneBox caught my eye.
In this article, I’ll review SaneBox and show you how taking charge of your email can help you be more productive for the rest of your day.
Let’s get started!
What is SaneBox?
To make sense of why SaneBox is so useful, it’s important to note that it’s more than a single tool. In fact, it’s a suite of tools all rolled into one product. If you have an IMAP or Exchange email account, you can use it, which means that it works with almost any email provider.
SaneBox has been around for over a decade, first coming to the public in 2010. That is to say that the company has staying power, and it’s been around long enough to know how to do the job right.
At its most basic, SaneBox is a system of folders. The artificial intelligence inside of SaneBox learns what emails you consider to be important and then surfaces them for you. The end result is that you have a cleaner inbox, and you can spend less time inside your email.
You don’t have to think about SaneBox, for the most part. It exists in the background, doing its job, waiting for you to coach it if something ends up where it shouldn’t.
The intelligent filtering system learns your habits and then sorts emails into the appropriate folders. Your inbox becomes sacred ground, where only the most important of emails live.
#1. Powerful Folders
It might seem strange to call folders powerful, but they are the muscle that makes SaneBox work. The brain, if we’re to call it that, is the algorithm and intelligence that helps SaneBox decide where things should go.
When you start using SaneBox, you’ll have the option to set up a few different folders. That said, there are three main ones that SaneBox will create with every use:
SaneLater – Messages that are important but not important enough for your inbox.
SaneNews – A home for all your newsletter subscriptions.
SaneBlackHole – The ultimate version of “unsubscribe.”
As email comes to your address, SaneBox decides which folder would be best for it. If a message ends up in the wrong place, you can drag it to the right one, and SaneBox will learn your preferences. You can choose to use or not use any of the pre-built folders, and you’re free to toggle them as you see fit.
As you go through your day, you’ll find that there’s less email that hits your inbox. This is a good thing! However, it does mean that you’ll need to pay attention to SaneLater and SaneNews from time to time. That need then leads us to our next feature.
Oh, but we’re going to come back to folders in due time.
#2. The SaneBox Digest
With so much filtering happening behind the scenes, it makes sense that you’ll have folders that end up with a lot of messages. It’s easy enough to forget them (out of sight, out of mind, right?). But the emails in SaneLater are still somewhat important. So you need to make time to review them.
That’s where the SaneBox Digest comes into play. Each day, at a time that you set, you’ll get an email that tells you how many messages are in your SaneLater and SaneNews folders. If you choose to use SaneCC or custom folders (we’ll talk about that in a bit), you’ll see counts for those as well.
Your Digest contains links to each of the emails so that you can read them if you want to. You can also delete, archive, snooze, or move them to the inbox. There is a Select All feature with limited actions in case you want to get things handled in a hurry.
SaneBox reminders are powerful, to say the least. This is true in part because of how you can use them. For instance, let’s say that you wanted a reminder to take out the trash every Thursday morning. You could email “firstname.lastname@example.org” with the subject line “Take out the trash.” You’d then get a weekly email on Thursday, reminding you to drag that bin to the curb.
The natural language processing of the timing is probably my favorite part. I like how I can do “email@example.com,” and I’ll get a reminder in an hour. Or “every.10th” gives me a reminder on the 10th of each month.
But it’s more than just reminders. You can also forward messages that will be important at a later time. Let’s say you bought some concert tickets, but the show isn’t for another eight weeks. Just forward your email to “eight.weeks” or “july.5” or any other designator that makes up that time gap. When that time rolls around, you’ll get those tickets right back in your inbox.
OK, this one takes a little explaining. But it’s such a handy feature that I wanted to make sure to call it out.
Think of SaneBlackHole as an unsubscribe button for emails that don’t have one. That salesperson who emails you every couple of days? Send him to the BlackHole.
It’s not a spam filter, but rather it’s a way to make sure you don’t have to see messages from people or services that are annoying. Once you move something to BlackHole, all current and future emails from that address will be stored there.
Storage is the differentiator. SaneBox keeps emails in the BlackHole folder for seven days. That way, you can still read them if you need to, but you don’t have to worry about cluttering your inbox or SaneLater folder.
#5. Custom Folders
I get a lot of emails. I also use my email as a sort of filing system that helps me keep track of projects, personal plans, and so much more. My custom folders are an easy way to stay on top of things. I’m especially fond of my “Projects” folder, where emails about ongoing projects can all live in one place.
I knew SaneBox was smart, but I didn’t realize how smart until I started using the custom folders. SaneBox does a great job of figuring out what should go there without getting overzealous. If a message is about a project, but it’s important, it still goes to my inbox just as it should. I was a little nervous about missed messages when I first started using SaneBox. But over time, I’ve learned to trust it, and it hasn’t let me down.
#6. Do Not Disturb
While many email clients have a DND function, SaneBox handles it in a different manner. You can choose to allow exceptions, get your email digest, and even give an away message if you’d like. Any email that you get during your Do Not Disturb time goes to a SaneDoNotDisturb folder for your later reading.
#7. Email Deep Clean
If you’re anything like me, you have that one email address that you’ve used for a very long time. For me, it’s a Gmail account that I spun up back in 2004. It’s become my trusty “everything goes here” address. As such, it’s collected a lot of unused stuff over the years.
SaneBox has a Deep Clean feature that I found to be especially helpful for freeing up space. I knew that anything older than about five years wasn’t super valuable to me anymore. So I told SaneBox to look for big emails that are older than that.
It took a while for the system to do its work, but the end result was astounding. It produced a list of senders, allowing me to choose which ones weren’t important anymore. It also let me filter by size, date, and type of email. That made it easy for me to get rid of huge attachments that I didn’t have any need for. Instead of me giving more money to Google for storage, Deep Clean freed up hundreds of megabytes of space.
#8. Handy Extras
There are so many features inside of SaneBox that it’s hard to give time to each of them. But some of the tools are so handy that they still deserve a mention. For instance, I can connect a cloud hosting service to my SaneBox. That way, when I get a big attachment, it gets moved to my Dropbox instead of sitting in my Gmail storage.
There’s a function called SaneConnect, for professional connections. Typing in a domain will show you everyone that you’ve contacted from that company. It also gives you a title look-up function and tells you how recently you last spoke with them. This has been especially useful when going back and finding connections from past projects.
The Organize tool lets you quickly organize your older email. Archive, mark as read, snooze, move once, or train and trash multiple emails at once. The SaneBox folks even baked in keyboard shortcuts to make life easier when processing loads of messages.
I wondered about privacy when it came to SaneBox. But the company does a good job of explaining things on their website:
“The bodies of your emails are never downloaded to our servers, and therefore our software can’t see them.”
SaneBox also talks about your connections being isolated from the public internet. Basically, it means that SaneBox won’t accept incoming connections. So when you connect to SaneBox, only SaneBox can read the headers of your emails.
The pricing program for SaneBox is interesting. It’s broken up by how many accounts you want to connect and how many features you want to use. For instance, a single account and two features are as little as $4 per month when you pay for two years. There’s even a two-week free trial, just to see if you like the service.
I have found all of the features to be useful enough to justify paying for access to them. However, the mid-tier “Lunch” level will probably be enough for most users.
Tools that have a multitude of features often do a mediocre job of all of them. That’s not the case here, and the company does a good job of not cluttering the service with worthless extras. I would highly recommend SaneBox.
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