9/25/219:00 am 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. Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. Let me show you how I handle email. MacMost is brought to you thanks to a great group of more than 1000 supporters. Go to MacMost.com/patreon. There you can read more about the Patreon Campaign. Join us and get exclusive content and course discounts. So this is a first in a series of videos I'm going to do on productivity. More specifically on things I do to increase my productivity by using Macs. So these are techniques that I personally use. They may or may not fit your needs and style of using computers. But I hope there are some ideas that you can use. So in this episode I want to talk about email. This is, of course, my demo account. Not my real account. But I'm going to use it to demonstrate how I handle email. A lot of people struggle handling email. I get a ton of email just like everybody else. Probably more so. But email really isn't a problem for me because I gave myself some rules many years ago and I follow them. The first rule is that my Inbox should be empty at all times. Of course new email comes into the Inbox but when I go to check my email I make it my goal to clear out my Inbox. I know a lot of people don't use their Inbox in this way. Some people have their Inbox filled with things going back days, months, years. Everything just stays in the Inbox. I take the Inbox literally. It's email that just came into me. Now what I've got to do is take an action with each message in the Inbox and get it out of the Inbox as quickly as possible. My Inbox should be empty when I'm done checking my email. So the default state is that there are no messages in it. I like to call this Inbox Zero. But other people use that same term to mean other things. Another thing that I don't do is I don't care about Read or Unread. Some people use the Unread status of an email to show that they need to do something with it. Then when they do something with it it's just Read and it stays in their Inbox. I don't care about Read or Unread. If it's in the Inbox that means it's something I need to deal with as soon as I can. Every email that's in the Inbox, when I go to check, I look at it and I take an action. The simplest action is to read the email. Sometimes that's all I need to do. Sometimes I need to respond. So that would be the action for that email. Sometimes I need to do other things like maybe set an event on my calendar. Maybe it's an email about an upcoming appointment. Maybe I need to create a reminder because it's something I need to take an action on but I can't do it right now. So I would set a reminder for some point in the future and then I'm done with that email. Whatever the email message is there's always an action that you need to take. Then you can get it out of your Inbox. You could always take that action immediately even if it's something in the future you can add a calendar event, a reminder, or something else and then get the email out. Then what do I do with the email messages. Well, they all go into the Archive folder. As a matter of fact I use the keyboard shortcut, Message and Archive, Control Command A. It goes into Archive. Notice what I've got here. I don't have any extra folders. I haven't created any folder for work or home, for personal, for family, for trips, for tickets, for anything. I don't have any organization in here at all. That wasn't always true. Many years ago I had a lot of folders there and every email message I got I had to figure out where it went. Sometimes it was confusing. Sometimes a message would belong in more than one folder. Sometimes it wouldn't belong in any and I had to think about whether I needed to create a new folder to hold this type of email or maybe put it in a miscellaneous folder or something like that. This always takes up a little bit of time for every single email message you get all day long. But if you put it in the Archive folder it takes no time at all. You don't have to think about it. The message is there for you to find later. So idea is to shift the effort from now when you're finished reading the email to later when you need find the email later and you just do a search on your Archive. The reality is that most of the time you never need to see an email again. It's only occasionally that you need to find an old email. Every single time when I need to find an old email a search does the trick. You can search for things in the Subject, in the Body, who it's from. All this stuff. Even by Date and figure out where the email is. It usually doesn't take me more than a few seconds to find an email that I need. The other thing I don't do is I don't put any email in the Trash. Now maybe if I was a normal person I would put things like obvious spam and scam emails in the trash. But since I kind of keep those around in case I need to do a video on a scam or something I just put everything into the Archive folder. This also saves me from having to decide whether something gets thrown away or archived. A long time ago I would occasionally throw things away. You know what, every once in awhile I'd realize I needed something that I threw away. Today email providers give you a ton of storage space. So even with all the email I get I've never come close to running out of storage. So that's it. That's how I deal with email. The rules are that every time I check my email my goal is to empty my Inbox completely. To remove an email from my Inbox I read it and take an action. Then everything goes into the Archive folder where if I do need it later I can search for it. If I don't it's really not going to get in my way. That's how I have an empty Inbox all the time and email for me is never stressful. Related Subjects: Mail (83 videos), Productivity (58 videos) Related Video Tutorials: No related posts. Comments: 31 Responses to “Productivity Series: How I Handle Email” Ken 2 years 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. Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Ken: No, I don't prune. Seems fine. But Google is only syncing the 10,000 most recent messages. Eric 2 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 2 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years ago Jasper, my question too. Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Jasper: You can drag and drop, or use Siri. JC Blanchard 2 years 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 2 years ago Gary: when you archive a message, is it archived on the server or on your Mac? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 2 years ago How do I get rid of extra email folders that I'm not using? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Jane: Control+click and delete them. Raiford 2 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Raiford: Inbox = new email you need to act on. Archive = email you have already dealt with. Christy 2 years 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! Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 years ago Great idea - a series of Gary’s productivity tips. Stephanie 2 years 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. Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 2 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years ago Chris: I haven't seen that. Maybe try printing and PDF -> Save As PDF with adjusts as a work-around? Chris in CT 2 years 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? Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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 2 years 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. Gary Rosenzweig 2 years 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. Comments Closed.