Making Gmail Work for Me

I’m addicted to email. No joke. It comes in faster than I can answer it and I find myself flailing away like a swimmer in the perfect storm sometimes. So the other day I decided to do something about it. Inspired by my friend Vince, I emptied my inbox and added some Google labs to my email to try and make it easier to stay on top of; so far so good.

Quick version of what I did:

  1. Deleted old, unimportant email.
  2. Archived everything else into about five important categories that made sense to me.
  3. Turned on “Multiple Inboxes” (found in Labs on Gmail).

That’s it, that’s all I did, but it’s making a big difference already.

  1. Delete old, unimportant email. This was cathartic – I just needed to dump a bunch of email. Stuff I thought was worth saving, stuff that I just read and left in my inbox, and stuff that just collected – all gone. Deleted – it’s just email.
  2. I created “labels” for different categories that made sense to me: RCC – for church stuff. RCS – for school stuff. Communications –  for web/communications stuff. Worship – for worship stuff. And I created a few more. Then I created “filters” so that emails that come in from certain people or containing certain content will skip the inbox and go directly into the aforementioned “labels”. What this really translates to is less immediate notification on my end. I have an HTC Evo and I’ve got all my email coming to that phone, so it used to be that anytime an email was received, I was notified on my phone. My personality is to immediately react and respond, which is unhealthy. So now, since I have emails skipping the inbox and going directly into “labels”, I don’t have my phone buzzing every five minutes.
  3. Using Gmail in my web browser is just how I operate. Turning on “Multiple Inboxes” really helps me keep on top of my “labels”. Using this plugin or gadget allows me to see the latest emails in each category right on my home screen. When I open my gmail, I instantly see the top five labels and any unready or starred emails. This has been super helpful, helping me see multiple things at once.

Other gadgets I’ve activated on my Gmail are:

  • Background Send – allows emails to send in the background while I do more pressing email work
  • Refresh POP Accounts – allows me to stay on top of multiple email addresses from one screen
  • Superstars – allows me to star emails with multiple, rememberable icons.

I’ve only been using this method for about a week, but it’s really helping me check email less (especially on my phone), and when I do, to do more effectively.

How do you stay on top of email?