Batched Delivery of Gmails to my Inbox

I am always and forever tweaking how I use Gmail.

I wrote about a script to send an email on a schedule, but I abandoned that. It was too much trouble to use and I found that I had no real need for it. I can use Spark if I really want to schedule the delivery of an email.

I evaluated Boomerang for this option but Boomerang added too much overhead and clutter to my Gmail experience. However, Boomerang had a couple of neat options I’d not run across before: it could pause delivery of email to the inbox for a specified period of time (for when you really don’t want to be bothered by email) and it could deliver batches of email to the inbox at intervals defined by the user.

I’m the classic inbox-checking personality type, so withholding email from me so that I checked it less gave me a nice break.

Search on “pause gmail” and you’ll find a couple of paid options and a couple of free Chrome extensions that can handle that task for you.

I didn’t know about those options before implementing the following free, though techy, approach to roughly the same thing. MIT student Kenneth Friedman wrote a few lines of Google Scripts code that diverts incoming email from the inbox to a new label then, at a specified interval, moves the emails in a batch to the inbox.

Friedman’s code relies on Google Developer Code for the timing trigger, which is not as fine-grained or customizable as the commercial options. The commercial options let you specify specific times of day when email will be moved to the inbox (every 10am and 2pm, for example) and can make it easier to let emails from specific senders slip through the filter.

The Google Developer Code is not that flexible. I need to tweak the Gmail filters myself if I want to be sure to receive emails from specific people. And although timing intervals can vary (by seconds, minutes, hours, and so on), Friedman recommends selecting an interval of every 4 hours. Intervals of 2, 6, 8, 10, and 12 hours could be selected instead; finding the right interval is a personal call.

I chose an interval of every 6 hours; I think the 6-hour intervals began after I saved that choice, but I am not sure. In any case, my emails get delivered four times a day at roughly midnight, 6 am, 12pm, and 6pm. That’s a nice spread for me. (And if I really really need to check email urgently, it’s easy to just click on the All Mail label.)

If you’re not interested in technical challenges and mucking around in Google Scripts code, then don’t bother with Friedman’s process. Go for Boomerang or Inbox When Ready and pay $5/month; it’s easier, more precise, and a little less nerve-wracking.

Update, 2019-02-14: I’ve been involved in some intensive committee work that has been sending lots of emails my way and required me to check and answer my email more often. The way to cheat on this batching Gmail method is simply to view All Mail, which will display all the mail queued in the batch. I still like the system, though, so I’m changing the delivery time from 6 hours to 2 hours. This will allow me to respond in a decent amount of time without subverting the system. More later.