How To Get To Inbox Zero And Stay There With Spark 3.0
Let’s face it, you’ve got an email problem.
It’s not that you don’t want to get to Inbox Zero. You do. But you’ve got a few thousand unread newsletters and notifications that you just don’t want to deal with. And if you don’t keep checking your inbox every fifteen minutes it just gets worse.
And that’s the real problem
For just about anyone with an email address, your inbox isn’t in your control. Every website, every store, every form you fill out asks for your email. Sometimes, rarely, it’s used only for whatever you’re signing up for but for most companies, that email is a gold mine. Your address is bundled up and sold off to the highest bidder who then sells it to a bunch of others and so on.
At the end of the day, one random email entry ends up being 100 unrequested, unwanted emails fighting for space among all the legitimate commerce emails being sent to you by vendors you actually want to deal with. That’s not to mention any actual attempts at information exchange between you and colleagues or friends.
No one would fault you at all for boarding off your entire inbox Walking Dead-style and scrawling “Dead Inside” on the front of it.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I was drowning in thousands of emails just littering my inbox years ago but now I end every day with a completely clean slate, an inbox zero that’s easily manageable the next morning.
Here’s how I did it.
1. Kill Your (Not-So) Darlings
The first step is the most cathartic. This works best on the desktop but you can do it on your phone if you’d like. Go to the search bar in your email client and enter the name of a sender (or company/brand) that’s cluttering up your inbox. Once the list populates, select every email in the current view and delete it. Keep doing this until you no longer have any emails left from that sender.
Rinse and repeat until all those long-expired limited-time sales and entreaties to come back or join now are sent to the trash.
For personal emails or things like receipts that you’d like to save, you can do something similar, except instead of deleting the email, archive it instead. It’ll still be there (you can always find archived emails with a quick search) it just won’t be in your face, demanding attention anymore.
Delete and archive enough emails and you’ll quickly winnow the pile, to the point where you’ll have a manageable list of emails that actually need addressing. Then it’s a matter of responding or, if you’re not ready to respond, snooze it for later.
Can’t snooze the email in the program you’re using? Don’t worry, I’ve got a solution coming for that.
Just because you’ve sorted everything doesn’t mean they won’t come back. After spending some time deleting and archiving your email, you’ll have a good idea of what’s actually useful in your inbox and what’s just spam.
Did you sign up for a morning meditation newsletter during the pandemic, only to never actually open a single one? Maybe a healthy-eating recipe-a-day mailing list? If you don’t use them, find the Unsubscribe link (every email mailing list has one) and click it. Some email apps, like Apple Mail, will even give you a handy Unsubscribe button at the top of the message so that it’s even easier. Oh, and don’t fill out the “why are you leaving” survey that always pops up, it’s just one last attempt to get unsolicited information from you and usually isn’t required to complete the unsubscribe (if they’re following the rules, then just clicking that link in the email should do it).
Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe from companies that you have legitimate business with either. Stores, services, even public utilities love to send “extra” emails beyond invoices and official messages. The good news is that unsubscribing from these doesn’t block legitimate emails that you do need.
3. Hire a Bouncer
Now that your inbox is at zero (or close to it) you’re probably cringing at the thought of keeping it there. All those random emails that you get from the people who got your email from a list? They just keep coming. Not to mention the email lists that ignore your request to unsubscribe.
I used to groan every morning when I’d wake up and see 50 or more new emails, knowing that most, if not all, of them were destined for the trash bin. I’d been using Spark 2.0 on desktop and mobile, which made the process easier at least, both the mobile and desktop app have a sublime set of gesture actions, allowing you to delete, archive, mark unread, or snooze an email with a swipe. But I still had to interact with each one.
Then Spark 3.0 launched and started offering a Premium subscription that does more than just organize your email. It truly gives you control back.
There are a lot of email apps out there and I’ve tested them all. Spark 3.0 is the first that actually transformed how I dealt with email rather than just improving on the stock Mail app. Spark 3.0 has wonderful inbox organization, sorting emails into notifications and newsletters. You can prioritize emails so that they stay at the top of your inbox. You can also mute threads so that they don’t continue to show up after you’re done with a conversation.
But the best feature is Gatekeeper. With a Premium subscription, you have the ability to keep emails from ever landing in your inbox. Instead, they’ll sit at the top of your screen, giving you a chance to block them without ever having to open anything (you can still click through to see the email if you want to). And once they’re blocked, they stay blocked. Additional emails from the same sender or IP address will go straight to your Blocked folder (in case you do actually need something from one of them).
That morning chore that ate up fifteen minutes or more? Done in about thirty seconds, allowing me to focus on the few emails that I actually care about.
4. Sleep on It
But, often, I’m just not ready to deal with an email the second it comes in. Spark 3.0 (and its predecessor) have you covered there as well.
In both email apps, you can snooze your mail to a time you choose (be it an hour from now, later in the day, or even further out). In Spark 3.0 it drops into a convenient Set Aside bucket that you can easily access from the main screen.
And what should you do after you’ve burned through the morning’s emails? If you’re using Stage Manager on macOS, you know that closing the window isn’t a great option, since you’ll need to drag it back to your preferred program group the next time you check your email. That’s why I was thrilled to see that Spark 3.0 has a handy home screen.
Click the home icon and you’re taken to a lush image with a suggestion for the next time to check your email. You can even display new email subject lines on the home screen if you must. There’s also handy search and new mail icons that let you find things and compose without dipping into the inbox.
I find that it’s fantastic for breaking the habit of dropping into my inbox whenever I’m trying to keep from doing something else, just so I feel productive. My only wish is that the iOS and iPad apps had the same home screen so I can’t sneak in email checking on mobile.
Even if your email app has some of these features, I highly recommend downloading Spark 3.0 and giving it a try. Don’t want to pay the $4.99 per month for a premium subscription (charged at $59.99 annually)? You can still use Spark 3.0 for free, you just won’t get Gatekeeper or the home screen. You’ll still have swipe-based actions, customizable snoozing, and more. You can also check out premium for a free 7-day trial.
Once you see how Spark transforms your relationship with your inbox, you won’t want to go back. Get started on their website.