The deluge of emails never ends. Even with ample quarantine time, tidying up your Gmail account and reaching inbox zero feels like a far-fetched fantasy, but it doesn’t need to be one: There are a number of excellent (and mostly free!) third-party browser extensions that will help you sift through that around-the-clock avalanche.
Gmail dumps your never-ending emails onto a never-ending list, and its spartan interface can make cleaning your messy inbox feel overwhelming.
A Chrome extension called Sortd fixes that. It transforms your inbox into a drag-and-drop workspace where your unread messages live on one end and columns of lists live on the other. You can customise the columns however you like. For example, you can create one column for emails you need to respond to right away and another for messages that can wait until the end of the week.
Once you have your board configured, it’s easy to move incoming emails to the appropriate list and attend to them as needed instead of sifting through your inbox message by message. The visual overview provides a better perspective of which emails can wait and which are time-sensitive.
Sortd also brings a host of handy task-management tools to your Gmail, including a day planner that lets you schedule your emails and notes their due dates. At the top of the inbox, it even displays the number of emails that are due that day and during the following week. You can also attach personal notes to emails and refer to them while you’re composing your response.
Sortd is free for basic features, but if you want access to advanced features like email tracking and the ability to create unlimited lists, you’ll have to cough up a $US6 ($10) monthly fee.
You can think of the Chrome extension Drag as a trimmed-down version of Sortd. It turns your Gmail inbox into a Kanban board—more columns for organisation, basically. What sets Drag apart from Sortd is that it has a less-intimidating design and lives right inside Gmail instead of redirecting you to an unfamiliar new page.
You can personalise your Drag board however you like, and even create multiple boards for separate projects. When you view an email, you can move it to a specific column or board using the quick-access row of labels on top. Like Sortd, you can add notes and tasks to individual emails, too.
Drag is free as long as you’re the only one using it. For groups, it costs a $US99 ($163) flat monthly fee for unlimited users, or $US15 ($25) per user for small teams.
If you’re not sold on Kanban boards but still find the idea of a task-management utility living inside your inbox intriguing, ActiveInbox is for you—if you also don’t mind paying a small monthly fee.
ActiveInbox allows you to tackle emails based on priority. It pins a new window above your inbox that lists your messages ordered by the due dates you assign them. Once you have built your tasks for the day, you can use ActiveInbox to activate a Do Not Disturb mode that “blocks” you from receiving alerts for new emails. A separate Focus Mode hides all the unnecessary elements of Gmail’s interface, such as its sidebars.
Now that you’re living in temporary digital isolation, you won’t get distracted by a constant flood of new emails and will be able to focus on your priority list first. Plus, ActiveInbox offers dedicated tabs for jotting down notes and adding sub-tasks.
ActiveInbox is a premium app, but you can try it for free for 14 days. After that, you’ll have to shell out at least $US4.16 ($7) every month—a mere coffee’s worth of cash to contain your overflowing inbox.
Here’s a nifty little Chrome extension that lets you read a few lines of your emails within your inbox instead of having to click through them one-by-one. With Gmail Message Preview, you can view up to three lines of each email at once—useful, though it’ll make your inbox feel very chonky. If you’re feeling bold, you can even display the full content of each email directly in your inbox.
This minor tweak ends up saving you a ton of time since, for most emails, a line or two is plenty to suggest whether you need to archive it, respond to it or toss it in the trash. This extension is free to use, so go wild.
Once you’ve managed to bring some order to your Gmail, your next step should be to ensure your inbox will no longer be a dumping ground for junk. For that, you need Burner Emails.
This super helpful extension allows you to quickly generate a disposable email address whenever have to submit an email to sign up for something. In other words, only fools use their real email addresses—or those who love spam and mailing lists.
You can choose to have updates from your various burner email accounts forwarded to your actual email address. When you no longer need them, you can simply unsubscribe from your fake emails’, er, emails with a click of a button. The free version of Burner Emails gets you to generate five BS addresses and provides a seven-day history for your imposter mailbox.