I’ve found it, the holy grail every productivity pioneer - from David Allen to the guys at Asian Efficiency - has been looking for: the ultimate e-mail lifehack.

Many have pondered over the fact that the ‘Inbox’ is broken, that there must be some other way to do it. GTD-fetishists (under whom I count myself) have adopted the 'Defer-Delegate-Delete-Respond-Do'-approach, made famous by Merlin Mann’s ‘Inbox Zero’-talks.

This got me thinking: why do I keep putting a self-induced system on top of the infrastructure that is the e-mail inbox? Why not try and rebuild that infrastructure to make processing my e-mails a little easier?

And I’ve come up with something that appears to be too simple for words, but that has profoundly changed my life over the last couple of weeks:

The Smart Unread Inbox

I’ve taken Apple’s option to create ‘custom inboxes’ based on rules to create a virtual inbox which consists of items that comply to these two rules:

  • Are in the inbox
  • Are unread

I’ve hidden all other inboxes and folders, with just two of these “Smart Unread Inboxes”, one for work-mail, one for personal mail.

(Other e-mail clients offer the same option.)


So what is this ‘magic’ you talk about? Those are just the unread messages in your inbox, you weird wizard of the East?

Well, that’s the genius of it. Once you start reading a message in this Smart Unread Inbox, it’s actually not part of it anymore. It’s in this sort of Schr√∂dinger state, which only exists as long as you keep the e-mail open. So you have¬†to act upon it, otherwise it will disappear forever into the mists that are the cloud.

Try it, you’ll be amazed.