I will be the first to admit that I am pretty terrible at managing my email. Generally, I just leave everything in my inbox and occasionally make futile attempts at filing emails into folders. Email, as you know, can be an enormous time suck, requiring hours each day to stay on top of. I have been looking for a way to make managing my email more simple and efficient, and I have recently come up with what seems to be a good solution. In short, I have set up a system of Smart Mailboxes in Apple Mail to turn managing my email into a simple workflow.

Firstly, let’s define what a Smart Mailbox. Apple defines it as the following:

“A Smart Mailbox displays in one location messages that are stored in other mailboxes, so you don’t have to move messages between mailboxes. The messages displayed by a Smart Mailbox are based on criteria you define, and are automatically updated to include new messages that match your criteria.”

In other words, it is a folder that displays only the emails that you want to see at that particular moment. You set up the rules, and the Smart Mailbox displays the emails the meet those rules. For example, if you want to view only the emails you receive from a certain person, you can set a Smart Mailbox to do so. Or you can set a Smart Mailbox to view emails with a certain subject or even a combination of things!

My biggest issue is that I have so much in my inbox that it is overwhelming to even think about filing and organizing my emails. By limiting what I view to only the most recent emails, I can reply, file, and delete all of the current stuff without being overwhelmed by the nearly 5000 emails in my inbox. What I have done is create 3 Smart Mailboxes titled “Today” “This Week” and “This Month”. Each displays only the emails from today, this week, and this month respectively. This allows me to simply deal with the emails from today, look back to anything that’s been festering from a few days ago, and once I get through those emails, I can start to chip away at what is left over from weeks prior. By setting this precedent going forward, I will stop adding to the enormous pile of email in my inbox and over time chip away at that pile.

To learn how to set these mailboxes up, please view the video below.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9mzQMCYmuU]
I have been using this technique for a little over a week now and I find that I have completely stopped leaving emails in my inbox. I am making a conscious effort delete or file every single email that I get. By segmenting my recent emails in groups, it makes my workflow simple and more manageable. I strongly suggest anyone that struggles with managing email try this technique. It does require the discipline to use the Smart Mailboxes but believe me, it works.