I was living away from home for 6 months due to renovation work. I was using emClient on my desktop, which I had limited access to, and had Eddison Mail on my phone which was okay, but not great. During this time, with several personal email accounts, and work email accounts to keep on top of, my emails were doing my head in. I wasn’t dealing with my emails in an effective way. Things built up. Things were missed.
Outlook at work had been popping up asking me to agree to terms for the last 6 months or so, and then presented a link to sign in, which didn’t work so I’d enough – thanks, Microsoft – you never make anything simple!
Being aware of the concept of ‘Inbox Zero’, when I saw I had 40+ emails in my personal inbox, and about the same in my work inbox, I knew something needed to be done.
So on the quest for a better email client, I stumbled across Spark Mail.
Immediately I took a liking to it. Mirroring the search for a better writing app that I solved with Typora, Spark Mail had an environment that was clean and simple. It looked like something that could make me more productive at home and at work. So I gave it a spin, and am happy to say, I’ve been using Spark Mail’s free account functions for several months to great effect.
So What Is Inbox Zero?
In short, the idea of Inbox Zero is that your email inbox is designed to be a place for your incoming mail that needs to be dealt with and nothing else.
Dealing with email means replying, forwarding, deleting, saving for future reference etc. So each time you open your mail client, you can clearly see everything you need to deal with and know that everything else is in hand.
So What’s The Issue?
Most people do not have a system in place to keep on top of things with their email.
Most email software does not easily facilitate a good workflow.
People often have hundreds, if not thousands of emails sitting in their inbox, and scroll up and down through them.
They will receive newsletter emails, and leave them read in their inbox. They will reply to emails, and leave them in their inbox.
Email that builds up eventually results in a full mailbox causing incoming messages to bounce, and stop outgoing messages from being sent.
The more full your email inbox gets with stuff that needs to be dealt with, the less clarity there is and the more work your brain has to do to switch focus between them. This can easily lead to overwhelm.
Rather than being about incoming mail, your inbox becomes full of email that is causing you to use mental effort – do I need to reply to this email? Do I need to do something with this one? Do I need to keep this one? When your inbox is like this, emails can often slip through the cracks.
Using Spark Mail to Achieve Inbox Zero
Here’s some ways I achieve Inbox Zero using Spark Mail.
I delete everything I possibly can. I don’t need an Amazon order receipt email when I’ve got my order history on their website. Newsletters that don’t jump out at me with something to store or action – delete – there will be another one coming soon.
I’ll unsubscribe from everything possible. Most newsletters are scraping the barrel anyway and seldom of interest – unsubscribe. Notification emails from an app that also has in-app notifications – unsubscribe.
Archive and Search Instead of Using Folders
Instead of creating lots of topic folders to store emails, with Spark Mail, I just archive everything I’ve dealt with. I know I can use the search function to find anything I need to refer back to. This saves time and mental labour on creating folders or figuring out which folder to place an email in. Just click archive to move it out of sight. You will be able to find it again if you really need to (and that’s unlikely)
Snooze emails for later
Snoozing email is a killer feature in Spark Mail. For me, it works so well because I get my work emails to my home PC and phone, but most are not appropriate to deal with outside of working hours. So work emails that come in over the weekend get snoozed to Monday morning when I’m at my desk, and emails that come in after hours in the week, get snoozed to the next morning. Spark even lets me configure preset snooze times, so I’ve set the next day snooze option to be when I arrive at work.
Snoozing email works great as a reminder as well. Maybe you’ve received an email about an event or meeting that is several months off. Snooze it for a couple of months until I need to deal with it and take a look at it then.
As an early riser, scheduling emails is a great feature. I’m awake around 4am-4.30am most mornings. The quiet time in the early hours affords me a good opportunity to catch up on things if I’m really busy. But then, I don’t really want to be emailing my friends or clients at 4.15am, so scheduling is great – Compose an email, schedule it to send later. Done!
Why not draft an email, and then send it when I get to work? I could do this, but what happens when I get a phone call at work or a client comes in. I’m tied up for an hour, or have to rush to an appointment and the email doesn’t get sent?
Pin Emails for Reference
Pinning emails is great for reference material. I pin useful ‘evergreen’ information in Spark Mail ready for me to transfer permanently into my PKM system (things such as invoices, articles, useful information) but for temporary information such as holiday booking info, online returns QR codes, or discount vouchers, pinning is a great way to have these emails to hand without them cluttering your inbox. Need that voucher for your next online shop – look in Pinned emails.
Periodic Archive Clean-up
Every so often I’ll go through my archive and delete any emails that are over a number of years old to prevent my mailboxes from becoming full. As I haven’t been so hygienic over the years, this can mean quite a lot to delete with some accounts, but it also means I’ve discovered some emails I want to keep, and I transfer those over to my PKM for long-term storage.
Once you‘ve established the system, and get into the habit, achieving Inbox Zero is easy. The sheer level of clarity, peace of mind, and effectiveness I now enjoy makes this system worth it. If you’re tired of your emails getting on top of you, give Spark Mail a try!
Spark Mail Premium is $7.99 per month or $59.99 a year and offers some useful features. However, what I’ve detailed in this article can be achieved with the free account.
NOTE: I am not affiliated with Spark Mail and have not been paid to write this – though if they want to offer me a free pro subscription, I’d be more than happy!