How to use the inbox ZERO system to conquer that overwhelming email inbox!

Ahh emails, it’s a love-hate relationship, isn’t it? It’s convenient for dishing out invoices quickly and coordinating with people in different time zones; but for all its convenience, it is also one of the BIGGEST TIME SUCKERS for small businesses.

The inbox zero system below will save you time every day. And while we’re on the topic of improving inbox productivity, I have thrown in some bonus tips to reduce the spam that you get too!

Which are you?

I am 100% type one! I can’t stand clutter or disorganisation in anything, not my house, my pantry, my wardrobe and definitely not my workspace. Which includes my computer and especially my email inbox.

I have always worked on an inbox zero style; aiming to get all emails out of the inbox as fast as possible, and definitely not leaving anything marked ‘unread’ in there. However, my inbox also doubles as a ‘to do’ list of sorts, so it was never, ever empty.

Until lately that is! I recently changed from the default Mac Mail program to Spark Mail. And I absolutely love it, because it makes inbox zero not just a goal, but a daily reality for me.

Spark Mail is designed around the goal of achieving INBOX ZERO. So what is that?

Inbox zero is when there is not a single email in your inbox! Sound crazy impossible? Well with some of the features of my new favourite Spark mail it is more realistic than you might think:

First, you can SNOOZE emails for later.

By snoozing a message, you set a future date/time that you want to deal with it. Then, poof! The message is removed from your inbox folder, so you don’t need to look at it until you’re ready. I do this a lot for subscription emails I want to read, but don’t have time for! It clears up your inbox today.

Or, you can set a REMINDER and archive the message. 

Some emails I used to keep in my inbox were ongoing conversations with clients. I kept them in my inbox folder, to remind me to follow up if I didn’t hear from them.

With Spark, you can set reminders on any emails. Send a reply to the client, then set a reminder for yourself to follow up at a future time/date. With reminders and snoozed emails you’ll get an alert, and the message will reappear in your inbox folder at the date/time you set.

Or, you can SCHEDULE emails to send later.

This feature I adore. Sometimes, I want to send out a message at a certain time, especially when working with different time zones. Being in WA, I’m 3 hours behind my clients on the East coast. So sending them an email at 3pm here is 6pm there, after they’ve gone home. To prevent messages from getting buried in their inbox overnight, I sometimes schedule them to send the next morning, just as they get to work. It maximises my chances of getting a response!

It can sort your emails into categories, too.

If you have a lot of social media updates, subscription accounts etc then it is easy to see why your inbox overwhelms you!

I personally avoid subscriptions and unsubscribe to anything I don’t want immediately. But if you need to prioritise your inbox, the smart inbox with spark mail can group messages by type, so you can easily find what is most urgent.

Archiving folders can be colour-coded!

In your email account sidebar, you can colour-code your archiving folders. Which I absolutely love. It makes identifying the folders for my different email accounts really easy for quickly sorting them out.

The best system for syncing accounts across multiple devices.

Right now, I am typing this post on a borrowed computer while my own is off getting a warranty screen replacement. It was estimated about 3-5 days turn around, and in the meantime I am running my email accounts from my iPhone. When I get my computer back, I will sync all emails, calendar changes, and the archiving I have done from my phone. Easy peasy.

Another feature I adore is when I setup the email accounts I only needed to do so ONCE. If you have ever gone through the manual email account setup process (entering port numbers, incoming/outgoing mail servers) it can be a pain.

With Spark, once you setup your accounts once, you only need to login with your first (primary) account on other devices, and all other account settings will be brought over automatically! Again, a fabulous time saver. Password changes on your accounts, new accounts you install; it is all synced across all devices.

The cons’ of Spark Mail.

I feel like all I’ve done in this post so far is prattle on about how great this email program is. You might be suspecting a paid endorsement here – but I’m not getting paid a cent. I just genuinely love this program and I think it is perfect for small businesses!

However, nothing is perfect and there are one or two drawbacks.

My only real frustration with Spark Mail is the layout. the newest message in a conversation is at the BOTTOM. I have always worked with those at the top – and Spark mail does not have an option to change this, apparently, it is a vital feature to keep their design the way the want it. I am slowly getting used to it, but I don’t think I will ever like working this way. #firstworldproblems I guess!

It’s not a con exactly, but there are other features with Spark for working in teams. As of yet I have not needed or explored those features. While Spark Mail itself is free, the team functions are a paid feature.

Top tips to avoid inbox overwhelm and save time!

  1. Install Spark mail. For all of the reasons above, it will save you time sorting through daily messages.
  2. Practice working with the inbox zero system every day, and allocate blocks of time to emails, then shut the program down in between (if you can).
  3. Spend some time unsubscribing from lists you don’t actually read. It’s a pain, I know, but your future self will thank you for it! Be ruthless, any email list you delete the messages from without reading them; unsubscribe my friend!
  4. Set your social media notification preferences to NO emails. You won’t miss anything, that’s what the notifications on mobile apps are for. No need to clog up your email inbox (and distract you while trying to work!). Repeat this on all social media accounts you have.

Bonus email account health checks to prevent SPAM!

While you’re at it, consider these steps to tighten up security, prevent spam and boost your email productivity.

  1. Change your email account passwords, to something COMPLICATED and use a system like LastPass to remember it for you.
  2. If your email accounts are a few years old, especially personal accounts, consider searching your email to see if your personal information has been compromised. Check it here.
  3. If you get a lot of spam, check with your domain provider and make sure you have domain privacy on your account. Without this, your email account is accessible to anyone that searches your domain on the WHOIS database.
  4. Check with your website design to ensure that your website has reCAPTCHA installed on all contact forms; which will dramatically reduce the SPAM that gets to you from there.
  5. Avoid displaying your email accounts anywhere online; on your website, social media profiles, google my business… Instead, offer a link to a contact form (with the reCAPTCHA) mentioned above.
  6. Don’t subscribe to a list, or give your email address to any website you don’t trust. On quote or comparison websites, it is commonplace for them to SELL your information to marketing companies. Health Engine (an online booking system for doctors/health clinics) appeared in court for such misuse of patient information earlier this year! 

And there you have it; my top tips for conquering an overwhelming inbox and reducing spam.

Do you have any other tips you can add to this list? I’d love to hear them! 

Here’s to a more productive email inbox!

Kirsty