Adding Some Spark Back to Email

I’ve been a long time Airmail user. It was the closest thing I could find to replace the now-defunct mail client Sparrow (RIP), but for as long as I’ve used Airmail, it’s never been without bugs. Even worse, those bugs seem to not get fixed. Over time, those bugs, mainly one where emails I’d already processed continued to show back up in my Inbox, started to irk me.

So when the Sweet Setup posted an update to their Best Third-Party Email App earlier this month, they caught my attention at just the right time.

They didn’t change their pick. It’s still Spark, and I’d tried Spark in the past but decided to stick with Airmail. Still, I found myself wondering if there wasn’t something to their recommendation.

It turns out, Spark’s grown up a lot since the last time I tried it – enough so that I’ve made the switch.

So what’s good?

  • I haven’t come across any bugs. Once I clear my inbox it stays clear.
  • Readdle, Spark’s developer, is a pretty big name, so I don’t feel worried about their ongoing development.
  • Search is incredible. I even have a few saved searches which have replaced any need for creating project-based labels.
  • It doesn’t add a bunch of extra labels to my Gmail accounts.
  • The smart inbox is pretty handy, although it does require some tweaking to get the training right.

And the bad?

  • Spark doesn’t have all the integrations Airmail had. For instance there is no DevonThink integration. (Airmail’s wasn’t great though.) Moreover, it doesn’t have a native share extension so I’ve been relying on Hook more to create links. It does have integrations with both Things and Evernote though.
  • Both Spark and Airmail create links using their own URL scheme so I’m finally experiencing the pain of email links being tied to a mail client.
  • I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Seen behavior in Spark’s Smart Inbox. If I happen to view an email without processing it, I wish Spark would leave it alone. Instead it either removes it from your Smart Inbox entirely or moves it to a Seen section.

So I’m still trying to understand Spark, but overall, I am happy with the decision to switch. What mail client do you use?

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Inbox Zero… It Does Exist!

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About a year ago, I ran across a term, inbox zero. After a bit of Googling, I discovered that the term Inbox Zero is the term people use to describe having no emails in their inbox. Apparently, some people really struggle with obtaining this “Inbox Zero” which was a surprise to me because I usually had only a few emails in my inbox at most, but then again I’ve also seen coworkers with 1,000+ emails in their inbox.

So how do I achieve Inbox Zero?

Let’s start with some background. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t use email. I have 5 Gmail accounts that I use daily. I get on average around 400 emails a week+ spam not even including work/school-related emails, but at the end of the day I rarely have more than 10 in my inbox.

Maybe you’re thinking, “5 accounts?! You’re crazy.” {Maybe just a little… 😉 } But they each serve their own purpose.

  • Main account – I sign up for accounts using this address.
  • Personal account – If I know you personally outside of work, you get to use this address.
  • School/Work account – Anything school or work related goes to this account.
  • Survey account – This is the account I use to sign up for offers and such. It was originally just for paid survey sites.
  • Blog account – Lastly, this one’s pretty self explanatory. If it’s blog-related, I try to use this account.

The great part to having multiple email addresses is that each address can serve a particular purpose, but that also means you have to check them all. If you use a mail client like I do, you also run the risk of sending messages from the wrong address. {Sending an important work email to a client from my personal address is something I prefer not to do.}

I’ve tried consolidating these addresses in one way or another more times than I can count, and I’ve failed each time up until recently.

So what did I do differently?

Rather than forwarding ALL of my emails to one account. I only forwarded some of the accounts. All emails from my personal, survey, and blog accounts get forwarded to my main account. Since I work at the same university I study at, those two are already consolidated. I then have two email accounts to check: my main account for personal things and my school/work account for professional things.

Why I didn’t think of this before is beyond me, but it’s so simple that it just works.

Now onto what I use…

Right now, on my Mac, I use Sparrow as my mail client. Sadly, Google bought up this app and development for it stopped, so I’m still looking for a better alternative should Sparrow ever die completely. Everything I’ve tried so far is too cluttered.

For my iPhone and iPad, I’ve fallen in love with Mailbox which I mentioned in my February Favorites post. For anyone who has coworkers that like to do all their work at 10pm on a Friday evening, you’ll love this app. Given that my boss has told me I’m under no obligation to respond to messages outside of work, I take full advantage of Mailbox’s snooze feature. When a work-related email comes in, it gets deferred until I’m back in the office. Similiarly, I can also defer personal emails until I get home.

The last service/app I use is something I stumbled upon recently. It’s called Sanebox. I purchased the 2-year “Snack” package which works out to be around $.06/day with a promo code I used. Right now, I’m only using this on my “Main” email account, so this only affects my personal emails. I prefer to get my work emails as they get sent. With Sanebox, non-important, newsletter-type emails get moved from my inbox to a “SaneLater” folder. Then, once a day, I get an email summary of anything that’s been moved to SaneLater. From that email, I can choose whether to move a particular email back to my inbox, choose to always send emails from a particular sender directly to my inbox instead, delete the messages, or archive them. Once a week I get a summary email with fun graphs and numbers like how much time I saved. Now, I’m not even close to using Sanebox to it’s full potential. It can do other things like save attachments to Dropbox or Box, or integrate with social networks. You can set up other folders too, but the real beauty of it all, is that this does’t require special apps or anything. It’s just folders! If something should have ended up in SaneLater, I just move the message to that folder in whatever I’m using to check my mail (Gmail, Sparrow, Mailbox, etc.) and Sanebox learns.

So to summarize my recipe for Inbox Zero…

Gmail Accounts + Mailbox app + Sanebox = Inbox Zero

Now obviously it’s not that simple, if it were, everyone would have empty inboxes, but for those of you who are inbox-zero challenged, here are some tips that will help even if you don’t use the apps mentioned above:

  • Have one account that you use to sign up for things. Even if you don’t have 5 accounts like I do, just this one will keep your junk mail in one place. {Be sure to use different passwords… nothing worse than someone like an ex getting access to one password and having access to ALL of your accounts!}
  • Delete, Do, Defer. This is my one rule for keeping my inbox count low.
    • Delete what you don’t need immediately.
    • Do anything you can take care of within 2 minutes immediately.
    • Defer any emails you can’t address immediately until later. {Gmail’s star function works great for this, so do folders. Just get it out of your inbox into a place you can check later.}

Is your inbox out of control? Do you use any of the apps/services mentioned above or something similar? Do you have tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

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