Hello? Hello? Are you there? Ah…. hello
I’m Julian and I'm really pleased that you've chosen to download and listen to this episode. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to little 'ol me!
Podcasters say it all the time, but it really means a lot that you’ve chosen to listen.
If you're new here, then welcome to the Productivity Matters podcast.
Now, my very first episode was a rather quick, tentative chat about email. On this episode, I’m going to take a look at my email client of choice - Spark.
If I just press this button here, we can get started….
We all use email; and we use it a lot. Whether we like it or not, it’s a primary form of communication. I’m not comparing it in terms of social media messaging apps, like iMessage, WhatsApp, Messenger or the like. They are forms of instant messaging, usually used for ‘chatting’. Back and forth conversations, either between two people, or in groups.
Email, on the other hand, is less immediate. Yes, I know we receive messages instantly; but an email doesn’t ‘demand’ and instant response. They contain all sorts of information, and are heavily used for marketing messages; and if you make an online booking for the theatre, or buy something online, then the chances are you’ll receive the confirmation in your email inbox.
Other key points about email - in 99% of cases, it’s totally free. You can use it regardless of your platform, whether Apple, Android, PC, Mac or Linux.
There are no mysterious algorithms that display your messages!
No one company ‘owns’ email.
Another point to note is that, since any reply isn’t expected straight away, then you have the chance to consider a response and how to write it properly.
Emails are pervasive.
They’re everywhere, and managing an inbox is sometime tricky. The flow of messages can start to make you feel threatened by the volume and that you can’t possibly get to them all.
There are a couple of things you can do to help.
So, what can you do to make handling your emails easier?
Firstly - Decide what you want to do with it. Does it require an action from you? Do you need to do something?
If an action is required, put the email into a folder that's specifically for these type of messages. Alternatively, add it to a to-do list for future reference
Secondly - If no action is required, do you need to read it now?
Thirdly - Is it a marketing message? Unless you specifically want what's being marketed right now, delete it. Remove it straight away.
One of the biggest issues are the number of emails that are delivered from businesses we've had previous contact with, maybe only once, and gave them permission to send us marketing blurb.
If you don't want to receive them, it's easy to stop - click the 'Unsubscribe' link, usually at the bottom of the message. Firms have to delete you from their mailing list, and after a week or so, you'll stop getting the emails.
This is something I do on an annual basis (if not more often). I have a cull of the emails that are being sent to me. It's incredibly cathartic and all of a sudden the number of emails being delivered dramatically reduces.
Now I only get emails from the places I want them from - which means I'm less likely to miss them.
There’s plenty of advice about email management, but I wanted to tell you about the email client I use; and why I chose to use it.
I use Spark email. Developed by Readdle, I find the app very reliable and very consistent. It’s free to download and use and is available on the Mac and iOS. There are paid options for businesses use - more on that shortly.
So what does Spark have to offer. Firstly, it’s compatible with all the major email providers, Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, Yahoo, Exchange and many, many more. I’m not stating any of these as unique to Spark; but calling them out.
Spark offers a ’Send Later’ feature, so now you can schedule when you want emails to be sent. Ideal if you’re working late at night, but don’t want the email to be sent until the morning.
You can ’snooze’ emails. This will remove them from the inbox, only to be returned at a pre-determined time. Useful if you’re busy and want to deal with it later.
A relatively new feature is that of Templates. If you find you are sending repetitious emails, you can create a template, including placeholders for specific information to be added, and then just recall the template when you’re ready to go. It saves typing the same thing over and over again. I’ve used it quite a bit, and it’s a real timesaver.
I also like the integrations available. You can create save an email directly into Todoist, as a task to follow up later. You can save links to Pocket and any attachments can be saved to your cloud storage of choice; all from within the app.
Spark is also available in the Share sheet within iOS; so if you have something you want to share, just choose Spark, and send it as an attachment in an email.
The search functionality is also good, and uses natural language; so, for example, if you’re looking for a pdf document, just type in ‘pdf document’ and all pdfs will be returned. Of course you can also search by people or email addresses.
Other functionality includes email signatures; you can create multiple signatures per account, a facility to do quick replies and there’s also a built in calendar. I can’t see the point of that last one though. Seems a bit superfluous to me.
Finally, there’s the Smart Inbox. Spark will automatically categories your emails and display accordingly; but you have a great level of control over how this is done. I love the Smart Inbox - it lets me see at a glance what there is to deal with, and I can handle them individually.
Spark for Teams
Spark also offers a business facility - Spark for Teams. This expands the functionality to enable collaboration on emails.
There’s shared Templates, and you can actually collaborate on an email before it’s sent.
This only works in business where Spark is the email client, and is a great way to expand the collaboration between colleagues, in a single space.
Colleagues can also ‘chat’ on Spark, to add ideas about emails, before the final version is sent. It keeps the collaboration in one place.
So, what about cost. Well. Spark is free for personal users; but that also includes up to 2 collaborators and up to 5Gb of fie storage.
For a Premium service, with unlimited collaborators, unlimited email templates and up to 10Gb of file storage per user, then it will cost $8/month (it’s a little cheaper if you pay the year up front)
In the interest of impartiality, there are a number of email providers available; the obvious is Gmail, or Outlook or Yahoo. Then there’s Airmail, (which I used to use, but started to have trouble with synchronising emails!)
Podcast of the Week
OK - it’s time for “Podcast of the Week”…
This time it’s a particular favourite of mine “No Such Thing As A Fish”
This is a weekly podcast from the QI offices, in Covent Garden, in which the writers of the hit BBC show of the same name, gather around the microphone and discuss the best and most interesting things they’ve discovered this week.
If you’ve ever seen QI, then you’ll know it’s filled with amazing facts and interesting information; and this podcast does the same thing. The 4 presenters, Dan Schreiber, James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray and Anna Ptaszynski are naturals at telling their discoveries and the humour that ensues.
They have a number of books available;
If you want to while away 45 mins or so, each week, either on the commute or while doing the dishes, then you can’t go far wrong than give these guys a listen.
That’s “No Such Thing As A Fish”.
Equipment I use to make my podcasts:
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