Conquering your inbox is the modern behemoth – with so many apps sending alerts (read: Asana, JIRA, Monday) along with newsletters and promos all jostling for space amongst the actual important client emails, it’s nigh on impossible to accomplish the mythical ‘inbox zero’. Over recent years I’ve trialed (and now use) some really good apps and techniques to help curb the overwhelm.

Whilst these are mostly focused around my primary tool (Mac Mail), they are available for most providers and the tips are universal.

Time blocking

This is the main and age old game changer. Choosing time(s) each day to check email is the key to avoiding distraction. 

Allow 30-60 minutes (depending on volume) and don’t deal with any that arrive whilst dong it, unless they are urgent. Also, set boundaries as to what is ‘urgent’. 

What works for me:

First thing in the morning, and around 1pm which is roughly half way through my ‘office hours’.

Don’t reply instantly! 

This sets a precedent for the sender that you will reply like this. We work in the web business, so unless something really business critical like a service is down, we wait at least an hour before replying. 

What works for me:

I use MailButler to schedule sends. This means the emails get dealt with when I want the recipient to see it, and means if I really want to spend some time in the evening / at the weekend clearing my inbox, I am also not disturbing the recipient out of hours!


Delete, forward / delegate, snooze or action. 

What works for me:

Delete any crap, and if you’re using Apple Mail, it often spots an unsubscribe link you can fast track if you need to do that.

Forward anything that a team member can deal with. Don’t get drawn into just because you can action it – if someone else in your team can manage it, let them.

Snooze anything less urgent  – MailButler has this function, as does Gmail. I’m a bit of a washed up DJ in my spare time, but get sent lots of music still – I normally snooze it until the weekend, for example.

If it takes less than 5 minutes, or is *genuinely* urgent – deal with it.

Set up mailbox rules

These can work really well, but be careful on how you structure your rules. This can automatically send emails to the relevant person / team,  snooze, or however else you program it.

What works for me:

I set quite advanced and tight parameters for this. E.g.:

If [from X] AND contains XX in subject, send to XX and do XX.

I use Dext to manage invoices / receipts which processes into Xero, but at some point I’d set quite a broad rule that ‘If email contains ‘invoice’, file to XX and mark as read’. Turns out for 2 months my invoices were not forwarding on, and I had missed some fairly important emails!

Argh, I’m still missing some / not getting round to replies!

On some days I can send / receive over 100 emails. It’s OK to miss some, as long as you’re not always missing the same people / clients.

We live in an ever ‘instant’ culture, which is why I rarely reply straight away to anyone. Respect your own boundaries!

One of our clients has an auto respond on to all emails – along the lines of ‘Got it! Will get back to you when I can.’ Whilst it’s clearly automated, it’s nice to know the email has at least been delivered. It’s a nice touch.


Email Tracking

See when an email has been delivered – and crucially when it has been read! I never actually pull people up on this, but it’s good to know if someone is pretending they haven’t see an email… ahem, I mean to know for sure that important message has been read!

Smart Send Later

My favourite feature! Send the email at a scheduled time, and it even learns when is best to send it to ensure the recipient will respond. 

Undo Send

Wow – so simple, but perhaps my second favourite feature. How many times have you sent an email and realised you spelt their name wrong / CC’d the wrong person etc. MailButler ‘quarantines’ the send for a few seconds so you can recall it. Amazing! You can also override it if you want to just get it sent.

Email Signatures

Neat, simple editor to get your email signatures looking sharp – does what it says on the tin.


Add notes against email threads – super useful.

Email Templates

Another godsend – I send a lot of templated mails, and you can customise first name / other elements to suit if you want to personalise a mini-batch send.


I prefer to use my Mac address book, but this is a nice all-in-one tool.


Need a reminder? Here you go. You can also set rules to automate tasks like filing when a reply has been received etc. Slick!


As mentioned earlier, this is super useful to curb The Overwhelm.


Very useful if you want to keep your team in loop of your inbox goings-on. In fact, you can  share notes, tasks, templates, signatures, contacts and more with any other Mailbutler user.

Smart Assistant

Of course – the AI feature! Smart summarise (some people do waffle on and make simple requests sound complex!), Smart Reply, Smart Compose – I have yet to try all these but they all sound super useful.


Sticking to simple rules, and utilising basic add-ons has revolutionised my inbox. This only covers personal mailbox management; we also have shared inboxes for support which we use Freshdesk to manage (there are many other such as Zendesk, HelpScout and Front to name a few, but that’s a whole other conversation!