How I hacked my mailbox to gain productivity

Toby Allen
Published in
3 min readFeb 23, 2020


I made one simple change to how I manage my inbox

I get a lot of emails — Like a lot!

If I leave my inbox unchecked, I’ll easily get to 1000+ emails in a couple of day.

The result is that I started missing opportunities, introductions and important messages.

These emails would get lost in the swap of newsletters, notifications, alerts and whatever other transactional email I would receive due to some action or inaction on my part.

While I’ve been hearing a lot about SuperHuman, I’ve been thinking to myself, there’s got to be a better way to manage my inbox.

I’m a massive fan of sorting emails by Unread and group by Sender as this helps to cluster emails together and delete these all together.

This is something Airmail does really well, but not Google.

How can I manage my GMail inboxes better?

So you know, I’ve got already about ~20 email alias, two mail GMail inboxes and a few more which are personal, so there’s plenty to manage here.

I’ve gone through the process in the past of having folders, separating emails manually. Even using filters to automatically tag / categorise the emails so that I could scan my inbox and quickly see what would be important.

The issue is that I would still get the same level of information overload in my Inbox. Emails from different accounts, emails which don’t need the same level of priority or attention. I would still have to think and try to figure out what to do, which email to jump to and it’s a mess.

I would actively ignore my inbox unless there was a fire or something I *had* to do. This sucked.

New mail programs didn’t help either.

Modern emails apps try to manage your inbox by mining your emails and providing you with what they think you need. However, this means that unless you live in a bipolar state of mind switching between Focused and the rest of your inbox, you’ll most likely still miss important emails.

I made this single change: Skip the Inbox

“Hey Toby this feature has been around for ages.. what are you talking about?”

Sure it has! Yet I was never a big user of Archiving, I never understood the reason behind or the purpose. You got an email, you’d want to read it no? Well time to make use of it now.

I thought to myself, I could most likely build a more personal and tailored inbox, focused on what I need to focus on.

This lead me to test this theory out.

I wondered how I could enhance my view to have only important emails.

Typically, anything Unread in my inbox was something I needed to take action on. No longer.

Filters. Filters. Filters.

Most of my emails fall into broad categories, I’m sure yours do too.
These are mine (excluding some specific topics):

  • Meeting Invitations
  • Friends and Family
  • Events
  • Notifications
  • Banks & Payments or invoices
  • Travel
  • Invitations
  • Jobs

Lets get Filtering

Time to filter your inbox and get some results, ideally you get to a more manageable inbox with folders which help you review your important topics.

The best way I achieved goal was to skip the inbox, then send that email into a dedicated folder and make sure you apply this to all relevant emails that might already be in your inbox.

The awesome settings will get you there


All done — Now you can review your inbox for anything important and out of the ordinary, and then switch to dedicated focus folders which help you review that specific topic.

If you come up with another way, please comment and share your different inbox management styles. Would love to hear how you manage for email.



Toby Allen

Technologist with a passion for producing products and technology. Mostly Product Dev, Mobility, Immersive Tech, Games, Web, No Code, Management and Startups :)