Remember the days when you could sort through physical mail correspondence and respond to at a leisurely rate?
OK, maybe I am aging myself, but I'm betting that the amount of email you receive (forget about the spam messages) is mind-boggling. I know very few people for whom this isn't a big issue, or a big time-suck.
Email filters can help, by sorting through the incoming messages and cataloging them into folders, but what if you don't have an onsite email system like a bigger business? And what if you don't have time to proactively scan them more than once per day for the really important notes you don't want to miss?
One of the latest small-business tools I've read about for doing this (far from the only one) is SaneBox, which is compatible with Google Apps, AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail, Apple Main and Microsoft Outlook - basically any email service that you can organize according to the IMAP protocol. It is also supposed to work with any device you use to peek at your messages, including smartphones on the Apple iOS or Android platforms. Considering that filters often don't extend to mobile devices, that's a feature worth noting.
SaneBox isn't just a spam filter, it sorts through messages to prioritize them for you (like a great personal assistant). The algorithm keeps important ones in your inbox, routing others to a separate folder and summarizing what's there. If the service goofs and sends an important mesasage to the wrong place, all you have to do is move it to the right place once - the algorithm will "learn" to process it differently in the future.
One of the most useful features might be the ability to integrate the services with CRM contacts from Salesforce.com. That means incoming messages from existing customers or prospects will always be treated as a priority.
The SaneRemindMe feature allows you to track emails that require a response, flagging them and alerting you if there is a need for follow up.
The service also includes a new team option that acknowledges small groups, which SaneBox figures can help every member save up to 100 hours.
And, my personal favorite feature, there is a SaneBlackHole function that will let you classify email from unwanted senders.
Pricing for SaneBox starts at $5.79 per month for handling two email accounts, 250 reminder alerts and 250 attachments. You can try it out for two weeks for free.
There ARE other services for helping organize your inbox. Here are some of the others offerings that I've come across:
ActiveInbox: Priced at $24.95 per year, the service is designed specifically to work with Google Apps and Gmail. There's also a Chrome browser add-on.
OtherInbox: The service handles a broader range of services, including Yahoo, AOL, Gmail and iCloud. It includes a feature called "Unsubscribe," which will let you take action on people you really don't ever want to hear from.
EmailTray: This application acts like an alert system, basically summarizes what's showing up in your incoming Webmail service (the usual suspects). It also works with Microsoft Outlook, through a free Windows client version.
NEO: This is a rich organizer that is built explicitly for Microsoft Outlook. It includes oodles of customizations, such as the ability to track what you've sent.