Productivity Series: How I Handle Email

A big problem for a lot of people is dealing with email. Here are my techniques for keeping your inbox empty and how I file away old messages. This is the first in a new series where I share some of my own productivity methods.

Comments: 25 Responses to “Productivity Series: How I Handle Email”

    Ken
    3 weeks ago

    Hi Gary, interesting post. Do you find archiving everything slows Mail down or do you prune your mail at set times – maybe export in some way.

    3 weeks ago

    Ken: No, I don’t prune. Seems fine. But Google is only syncing the 10,000 most recent messages.

    Eric
    3 weeks ago

    Gary: Always interesting to see how the pros use apps for their use. I’m curious, I use an iCloud (.me) mail account, but I also have Gmail and work IMAP emails too. How would you handle archiving those types of accounts? Would you archive those inboxes to iCloud, their respective archives, or to the local machine? How would something like these look?

    3 weeks ago

    Eric: Don’t overthink it. Just use the Archive command and it puts the message into the archive folder (or equivalent) for that service.

    Phyllis Steele
    3 weeks ago

    Most of what remains in my inbox are emails with contents I want to read later. Your emails, for instance, because there are multiple videos I want to watch. Since each day I have multiple emails from different sources, with contents I want to read later, if I archive these emails, how will I remember how to search for them later?

    3 weeks ago

    Phyllis: Add them to a Reminders list with a link to the message. If they are online articles, add them with a link or open them in Safari and add them to your Reading List or as a bookmark. Or maybe this is a good case for a mailbox called “Read Later.” I never get emails with reading material like that, but if I did I would be OK with creating a mailbox for that as long as I never put anything in there I NEED TO read, only things I WOULD LIKE to read.

    Jasper
    3 weeks ago

    I like to use server-side rules that put new emails into Sub-Inbox folders. I can then skip through the folders with a heads-up on what I probably need to do with them (Archive/Action/Delete). It seems somewhat quicker and certainly less effortful.

    What do you use to send Action emails to Calendar/Reminders? There’s no Share button in Apple Mail (although Spark has a way to sent to Reminders). Some 3rd party apps (Omnifocus & Evernote) have a forwarding email address for this.

    Steve
    3 weeks ago

    Jasper, my question too.

    3 weeks ago

    Jasper: You can drag and drop, or use Siri.

    JC Blanchard
    3 weeks ago

    Phyllis: I’m like you. I end up keeping a lot of emails I want to read later. After a while, my inbox contains a ton of messages I want to read, but now there are so many, that I don’t know where to start, or I don’t have time to read them all. Another problem is that after a while, the messages are so old, they’re not relevant anymore, so I have no more interest in reading them. I’ll try Gary’s method because my inbox in out of control! Simple is good!

    JC.Blanchard
    3 weeks ago

    Gary: when you archive a message, is it archived on the server or on your Mac?

    3 weeks ago

    JC: It uses your server’s archive function. If you are using modern email (IMAP, Google, iCloud, etc) assume everything is on the server and treat the Mail app like a browser — you are just viewing the server with local caching to speed things up. If you want to truly archive locally, export as a mail file or a PDF.

    Jane Mountain
    3 weeks ago

    How do I get rid of extra email folders that I’m not using?

    3 weeks ago

    Jane: Control+click and delete them.

    Raiford
    3 weeks ago

    I’m a little puzzled, if everything goes into the archive folder, how is that different from leaving it all in the inbox folder, apart form archiving being slower of course? Do both folders not have the same choice of functions?

    3 weeks ago

    Raiford: Inbox = new email you need to act on. Archive = email you have already dealt with.

    Christy
    3 weeks ago

    Gary – do you have an in-depth class or video on apple’s Mail app? I’m confused about the “On my Mac” section. I thought I could move emails into folders in that section and that would move it from server to my hard drive. Then it seemed like apple created a file folder structure there (couple of years ago maybe?), and it seems like my folder structure is actually a clumsy duplication of that. In any case, it sure could use improvement!

    3 weeks ago

    Christy: No, I don’t have a course on Mail. On My Mac is when you are either using old POP email (that downloads each message) or if you move a message off of your email service to your local storage. Most people today can (and should) avoid “On My Mac” email.

    Jim Terrinoni
    2 weeks ago

    Great idea – a series of Gary’s productivity tips.

    Stephanie
    2 weeks ago

    Google sent me an email warning that I had used 86% of the 15 GB available and would soon need to purchase more storage. I don’t use google storage for anything but gmails. Now I started to trash anything I don’t want. I would prefer to archive but don’t want to buy more storage. I don’t get that many emails (maybe 40-60 a day). I am surprised you say storage is not a problem.

    2 weeks ago

    Stephanie: Perhaps you have a lot of emails with large attachments? Or just a few with particularly large ones? Gmail is bad at handling that, you just have to delete the whole email really. But I would go to the web version of Gmail and filter for large (> 50MB) messages, then sort by size to see what you get. Maybe by deleting a few you don’t really need you can reduce that by a lot.

    Sue H.
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Gary, I didn’t see any Archive folder in the side panel. I have three gmail addresses under All Inboxes. I opened Mail/Preferences and found an Archive folder for each address and activated them. I discovered that all mail I’m receiving already was included in these folders, even mail I thought I had established a rule for them to be deleted. I also found a few emails in the Archive folder that I never saw in my Inbox. Recent mail delivered was in the Inbox & Archive. What now, please?

    2 weeks ago

    Sue: Gmail uses label, not mailboxes. All Mail is literally that. If there are no labels, like Inbox, for message it is only in All Mail. So it is kinda like archive but not exactly the same. Read up on Gmail labels to get a better understanding. I just use the archive function and then look in All Mail for old things.

    Peter Eckle
    2 weeks ago

    On my Mac I can only see my gmail in Apple mail. I cannot see my wife’s email or iCloud emails. How can I get these folders to show on the left side of the screen?

    2 weeks ago

    Peter: First, you should set up separate Mac user accounts for each person using the Mac. So your wife’s email and iCloud account should be set up on her own user account. See https://macmost.com/mac-basics-user-accounts.html
    As for your other email account, go to Mail, Preferences, Accounts and enable or add the ones you want to see.

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