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: 31 Responses to “Productivity Series: How I Handle Email”

    Ken
    1 year 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.

    1 year ago

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

    Eric
    1 year 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?

    1 year 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
    1 year 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?

    1 year 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
    1 year 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
    1 year ago

    Jasper, my question too.

    1 year ago

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

    JC Blanchard
    1 year 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
    1 year ago

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

    1 year 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
    1 year ago

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

    1 year ago

    Jane: Control+click and delete them.

    Raiford
    1 year 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?

    1 year ago

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

    Christy
    1 year 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!

    1 year 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
    1 year ago

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

    Stephanie
    1 year 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.

    1 year 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.
    1 year 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?

    1 year 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
    1 year 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?

    1 year 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.

    Chris in CT
    1 year ago

    When I save emails as PDFs, they invariably page break in the middle of a line, leaving the upper half of characters on one page, and the bottom half of characters on the following page. What's happening? Is there a way to prevent this from happening?

    1 year ago

    Chris: I haven't seen that. Maybe try printing and PDF -> Save As PDF with adjusts as a work-around?

    Chris in CT
    1 year ago

    This is interesting. When the problem occurs it happens with both save as PDF and print as PDF. After playing with it a while, it seems to occur most ofter when there are side-by-side blocks of text and graphics (or two columns of text) and both blocks/columns are affected by the page break. Being unfamiliar with the inner workings of HTML, does it make sense that this would throw things off?

    1 year ago

    Chris: Yes. In cases like this the web developer should be providing instructions as part of the HTML/CSS for printing. But I guess they didn't factor that into their design.

    Carol
    1 year ago

    Are you saying not to trash daily messages like what comes each day from The New York Times, for example, or “breaking news” or ads? I will never need them. And really, it is easier to look up my Amazon orders on Amazon (or whatever) than in mail, whether it is Apple Mail or gMail. I keep the confirmation in my inbox, and trash that when I get shipping notification. And MacMost is more easily searchable online as well. I don’t remember when you discussed a particular topic.

    1 year ago

    Carol: I'm just showing you what I do. Before I did this, there were plenty of times I thought "I will never need this" only to find I was wrong when it was too late. The whole idea is no to waste time judging each email as it comes in. Everything is just archived. No time wasted. But there are many ways to handle this. My method might not be the best for you.

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