A few years ago, I was drowning in email. Multiple accounts, various roles, numerous responsibilities brought a constant stream of messages into my Gmail account. I was drowning.
But now, things are much better. Why? Simple: I have a plan and the plan works. I’ll share my plan with you and maybe you can adapt it for your own survival.
Create These 4 Email Folders
The four folders you should create in your email browser (Gmail, Spark, etc) are:
- Reply Soon
- To Do
- Name for Some Key Task
- Watch List
- Reply Soon is the place where you will move any email which needs your timely response.
- To Do is the place where you will move any email which calls for you to act (complete a task, research something, etc).
- Key Task is the place where you will move any email which has to do with a key work task you regularly do. This folder will help you keep track of one type of work, bringing you added clarity and less clutter. You should name this folder something specific (mine is called “Manuscripts to Review.”
- Watch List is the place where you will move any email which may need attention in the future, but for now you simply want to keep your eye on it.
Harness the Power of Zero
The plan is simple: Keep your inbox empty. When you receive an email, quickly scan it to determine to what folder it should go, and immediately put it in that folder.
Some people find it helpful to only check email a couple times per day, and that’s fine. I still recommend moving each incoming email into the corresponding folder as soon as you can. Then, when you have time sufficiently deal with your email, they will be categorized and waiting for you. Bonus: you may even find that your email browser will display the number of emails in each folder, which will motivate you to get them to zero as soon as you can.
This plan will help you deal with email more efficiently too. You can start by knocking out all the “reply soon” emails, and then move on to the “to do” emails. This plan will also streamline your email, to prevent wasting time searching through your inbox multiple times per day or week, looking for emails which need a certain kind of attention. And you will almost entirely avoid the common blunder of overlooking one important email for weeks at a time, because it’s buried in a sea of mixed up messages.
Finally, once you have dealt with each email do one of the following:
- Move it to a folder designated for saving emails from a certain person or about a certain topic.
- Delete it.
- Archive it. This means it still exists but you can’t see it until you pull it out of the archive.
Use Spark (if you can)
Spark is an email browser for Mac and iOS devices. It’s free and it’s the best (not the best free email app, but the best of all email apps). Here are a few benefits:
- Easy to use folder system
- Syncs beautifully with gmail and other email servers
- Has the ability to use templates for creating duplicated email messages
- Offers Quick Reply function (with one click you can trigger one of a handful of customizable responses
- Multiple email accounts and multiple signatures
- Regularly updated with new features
Visit the App Store on your mac or iOS device and search for Spark.
For Gmail Users:
You can create separate inboxes by activating a certain “lab function” for multiple inboxes. Instead of folders, you can use these inboxes. Name them like you would the folders (Reply Soon, To Do, etc). You can also have Gmail display the inboxes alongside your main inbox. This will give you
That’s it. I hope it works for you like it’s worked for me.