One Folder to Rule Them All

Six or seven years ago, I watched Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero talk on YouTube, and his GTD-based, common-sense approach to email profoundly altered my own approach to email. One of the specific takeaways for me was that it would benefit me to stop taking the time to file each message into one of the many nested folders I’d created, and instead simply file all processed messages into a single Archive folder. That seemingly simple change saved me time and the mental energy needed to decide which folder each message belonged to while processing email, and it also saved me the step of trying to remember—or re-determine, in a reinvent-the-wheel scenario—which folder to start looking in when trying to find a particular message later on. But it also did something unexpected: it allowed me to take fuller advantage of good email apps—specifically on iOS—by using swipes and keyboard shortcuts.

These days, the most popular email apps have been influenced by Mann’s Inbox Zero idea—at least in some ways and to varying degrees of faithfulness to his original conception of the term—and one of the results of that is that these apps tend to be built around the ability to archive your email messages quickly. For example, the app I’m currently using to manage my email, Spark, allows you to designate which folder will serve as the Archive for each of your email accounts. Once you do that, you can quickly tell the app to archive any message in your inbox in one of two ways:

  1. Set up a swipe gesture in Spark’s settings to archive messages with a simple swipe left.
  2. Using an iPad with an external keyboard, simply hit command-delete.

Now, Spark is not the only email app to offer this kind of feature, so whichever app you’re using will probably have a quick, built-in way to archive messages. This is one case where choosing the less mentally-taxing method of doing something not only results in being more efficient but also in working with the grain when it comes to email apps.

My advice? Try it. Try using only one Archive folder for storing your emails, and try using keyboard shortcuts to move your processed messages there. Who knows? You just might like it.k I know I did.