Processing Email Faster with Mail Act-On

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I love how Jim Gaffigan describes how lazy we are...

You ever find yourself being lazy for no reason at all? Like you pick up your mail, you go in your house, you realize you have a letter for a neighbor -- you ever just look at the letter and go, 'Hm, looks like they're never getting this. Takes too much energy to go outside.'*

I wonder whether he has a point when I get SO excited about turning three mouse-clicks into one single key-stroke. Perhaps it's not so much that I am lazy [nervous throat-clearing], but that I am so easily distractible. This is especially true reading emails. I have found that I often read an email, decide it's something that needs action, agree with myself to do something about it, and then (before doing anything), move on to a shinier email object. I lose tasks this way, which can be very frustrating.

Mail Act-On** has really streamlined the way I manage emails. It's an Apple Mail add-on that allows the user to create additional rules for mail, some of which are executable by hot-key commands. For example, I like to forward all tasks to my OmniFocus inbox, all reference material to Evernote, and some items to both. Until recently, I did this by

  1. opening the email,
  2. clicking "redirect" 
  3. entering text in the "To:" field, and then clicking send

If I have twenty tasks in my email inbox to process, that can result in many opportunities for distraction.

Using Mail Act-On, I created several rules that run on Hotkeys (btw, I am CERTAIN that this could be done with KeyboardMaestro, but I just don't know how). When an email is highlighted that needs to go to OmniFocus, I click "control-O", which

  1. redirects the email to OmniFocus
  2. colors the email blue (for task) 
  3. marks the email as "read" 
  4. sends the email to my Archive folder

Similarly, I have a hot-key for Evernote that does the same (turning those emails green), and one that sends to both Evernote and OmniFocus. I like having the color of the emails coded, so that I can quickly look through my archive and see what's been sent to Evernote or to OmniFocus (or both). I have a number of hot-keys set up at this point (forwarding to my staff, or to common collaborators), each doing a different task. 

One other feature of Mail Act-On is that you can highlight a number of emails and perform the same task on all of them at once. I recently needed to forward a bunch of different emails to a colleague to catch her up on a conversation. Since she was already in my Mail Act-On rules, I highlighted all of the emails I wanted to send her, clicked the keyboard short-cut, and all of them went to her (individually forwarded).

As a result, I am processing email WAY faster. Even better, I'm not nearly so distracted by shinier emails that draw my attention from moving tasks out of my email Inbox. There are other, more complex, rule-options as well, and I am playing around with those. Frankly, I downloaded the free trial version because I was dubious whether this was worth the $15. Mail Act-On is available for a trial at They have some other products I'm trying on for size - but I have found that Mail Act-On is worth the $15 price-tag.

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** I have no affiliation or financial arrangement with Indev, other than I gave them some of my money ;-)

Posted on September 2, 2015 and filed under General.