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I've been using Mailbox on my iPhone since the first day it came out. I'm a very visual thinker and use my email as an action list for daily productivity. Mailbox is fantastic for this because I can put an email on hold and move it out of my inbox until a later time or date.

The thing is, I have to deal with email on my phone in order to use Mailbox. My current inbox flow is as follows:

  • check inbox
  • flag action items
  • delete unimportant stuff
  • switch to phone
  • move any "not now" emails to later/tomorrow/weekend/another day
  • start reading emails on the phone until realizing that the screen is too small and switching back to the computer.

I don't like bouncing back and forth from computer to phone just to be able to temporarily put an email off until I get home in the evening or until next weekend. I'd like to be able to do it all from the computer. Using two devices to manage email seems like overkill and multiplies the opportunity for distraction.

There are some solutions I've tried, like creating folders for each time category and managing them, however nothing beats the ease of Mailbox automatically moving "later" emails back into the inbox when it's their time. Is there a plugin for mail.app or a service for Gmail that can do something similar to what Mailbox does?

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What happens to them on the computer when you move them around on the phone? Is it reflected without the app? –  Raystafarian Nov 7 '13 at 0:46
    
Mailbox integrates with Gmail's IMAP folders and moves them to a special set of folders that the app Maintains. I'm not sure whether the client-side app does all of the heavy lifting, but I believe there's at least some server-side stuff going on. Using IMAP means that moving the emails on one device moves them on all devices. –  justinthrelkeld Nov 7 '13 at 0:52
    
answered my own question –  Raystafarian Nov 7 '13 at 1:00
    
this is best I could come up with no, there is no mailbox equivalent for a browser plugin, but mailbox is owned by dropbox, so who knows what they'll do. The security of the mailbox app is.. less than ideal though. –  Raystafarian Nov 7 '13 at 1:05
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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

David Allen describes a pretty nice system in the Getting Things Done Book. There's also Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero concept. In both cases, they describe a folder like structures - one that is simple and not "byzantine" (complicated and deep).

While Mail.app does not inherently have something as specific as you describe you might be able to alter your workflow a bit and maybe move outside the inbox as a to-do list?

  1. You can set rules and build smart folders. You could have a rule on a folder that sends a message back to your inbox in a certain number of days; the problem being that it's not a message specific concept.

    The smart folder structure Merlin discusses in inbox zero is basically a countdown to destruction. You could have a smart folder that moves message to a different folder after a 7 day, then to another after 30, 60, 90 before just automatically deleting it.

  2. I tried for a while to have an "actions" folder in Mail.app and that just didn't work.

    But, luckily, I also have a lot of to-do items that don't come to me via e-mail in the first place. So, I started using Reminders pretty exclusively for all my to-dos - up to and including action items derived from e-mails - with a note to reply to so-and-so, when done.

  3. I like David Allen's two minute rule a great deal; so, messages I want to reply to, but will take longer than two minutes, go into a "reply" folder. And, when I have more than a couple of minutes (just processing the inbox), I'll look at the folder. Again, Merlin goes a step farther by having multiples that countdown from each other, but I don't get enough urgent e-mails to bother.

Given where you are at, what you are trying to accomplish, and the tools you seem to have, I would start by not using the e-mail application as a to-do list. It's kind of an Apple/Unix model of thinking - one tool, doing one thing, and only one thing. That's why Reminders.app is no longer built into Calendar.app and was never a part of Mail.app - unlike the Microsoft equivalent Outlook.

So, to sum up: No, I don't think there is a way to flag a message to disappear and reappear in the inbox at a certain point in time with Mail.app; however, you can probably get similar behavior using a combination of folders, rules, and changes in your inbox checking workflow (ex. check 7 day old folder, 10 day old folder, etc.). Lastly, you may consider modifying your workflow a bit more to take advantage of Mail.app, Reminders.app, and Calendar.app as an integrated productivity solution - all native, all work together, and all built for a specific purpose (including reminding you to do something at a certain time).

ps.

I use rules to filter/move the "unimportant" stuff either deleting it, moving it to a folder (payment confirmations for bills), and subscriptions - huge gain in the inbox staying at zero; so, I don't actually have to do step 3 every time I scan the inbox.

When I get an e-mail with an action associated - I just hop to Reminders and put the action there (or I have Siri add it for me real quick if I'm on the phone).

I have a "review" and "reply" folder for the "not nows" - but you could also use a list in Reminders called "message" (I have that as well for messages I want to send without being prompted by an e-mail first).

It's all pretty seamless to go from the tablet, to the laptop, to the phone, and back again. Especially with iCloud and Google integration for Calendar and Mail (and I actually think Reminders as well). And they're all native apps that can't be deleted.

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I've tried most of those suggestions, and I'm still in the process of figuring out an ideal workflow (likely a lifelong endeavor), but I appreciate the time and thought that went into writing them out. I think it gets closest to what I'm asking. –  justinthrelkeld Nov 16 '13 at 17:29
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There are several possibilities for Gmail; though, none of them is perfect, so you should try them out and decide what's more convenient for you.

  • Create a Google calendar and add there those emails that you want to receive later. Open the message, click the More drop-down menu, select Create event, enter date and time as needed, choose the remainder options, click SAVE. You'll receive a reminder together with the message text. enter image description here
  • Another option could be to use remainders in Boomerang, which is an addon for Gmail for Firefox 3.6+, Chrome 5.0+ and Safari 5.1+.
  • A similar addon is RightInbox. Note that both Boomerang and RightInbox are free only if you schedule not more than 10 messages per month.
  • There are some tools, which forward your emails to yourself later if sent to a specific address. Have a look at FollowUp and FollowUpThen. The reviews are generally favourable for both of them but please mind the privacy issues.
  • Finally, one of the funniest (but certainly effective) tools I've ever come across is this one.
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I wrote something in google apps script that does email snoozing perfectly for me, which I call Gmail Snooze. At the end of that post, under Reated Reading, I list some alternative tools you may want to try.

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I use and enthusiastically recommend ActiveInbox, a Gmail extension that implements a GTD style workflow.

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