Like many people, I have struggled over the years with managing the plethora of emails that show up in my Inbox on a daily basis. For some people, emails are easy to ignore, but for the work I do, emptying my inbox regularly is essential to maintaining good communication with clients, co-workers, and friends.

For well over a decade, I used Apple’s default Mail application, mainly because of its smart mailboxes and smart rules. But unfortunately those features are inadequate for getting my Inbox to zero on a regular basis.

After trying a few other mail clients, I discovered Spark about two years ago, and ever since then I haven’t needed to look any further. I’ve already reviewed Spark, but in this article I’m going to focus on my mail management system that enables me on most days to get my Inbox to zero.

Basic Inbox to Zero Rules

Spark Mail letting me know I’ve emptied my Inbox

There’s no shortage of strategies for managing emails. The Inbox to Zero was once sort of a movement in the geeky tech world. There have been five basic rules for managing emails. They include:

  • Reply to emails immediately if possible.
  • Snooze important based on what needs to be done with them.
  • Delegate emails for other co-workers to handle.
  • Unsubscribe to useless newsletters and promotions.
  • Archive or delete emails as much as possible.

Using Spark, I’ve incorporated the above rules in my email management system because it’s easier to keep my Inbox empty than to allow emails to pile up and not get responded to.

Percentage of time I spend managing emails.

My goal with email management is also to reduce the amount of time I spend managing emails. According to my Timing application (affiliate link), I spend roughly 5% of my productivity time in Spark. According to Timing, out of the 118 hours I spent at my computer last week, almost 8 hours were spent in Spark. On average, that’s about 20 minutes per day. I would love to get that time down to 10 minutes a day.

My Marie Kondo-like System

My system is fairly simple, and that’s why I’m sharing it. I think my system can be used with most any mail client, but the Spark features, as I explain, help a lot. (Note: Marie Kondo is a best selling declutter guru and author.)

Review and Delete

Reply to Emails

File Away Emails

About five percent the emails I receive end up in one of my several dozen mail folders. While I could just archive and search for emails, I find that approach too time consuming when I have to do it regularly.

The folder system that I use for my email management system.

I use a BTT Spread With Thumb And 2 Fingers gesture to trigger the Move menu item in Spark, which triggers my long list of folders. Sometimes Spark remembers the folder I saved for the sender of the email and I can choose that folder at the top of the list. Otherwise I need to do a quick search for the folder, and Spark drops it in.

I keep two folders at the top of my list, one labeled Temporary for emails I might review later but will definitely be deleted at some point. And I have a Read folder this is for long emails that I might read on my iPad when I have time.

Smart Rules

Pin and Archive

What’s Your Email Management Tips

I hope some of what share helps you with managing your emails. And I and other readers would love to hear what works for your in managing emails. Which email client do you? Do you try to empty your Inbox on a daily basis? What are you biggest challenges to managing your emails?

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