I don’t know about you, but I get a LOT of email. I am the Email Queen and I do just about everything I possibly can via Email! So, between work and my personal account, I probably get a couple of hundred Emails every single day. Keeping your sanity under those conditions takes some careful planning and organization.
At work I use Outlook, which is great and has a lot of built-in tools, but at home, I use Gmail. That seems to be about the most popular of the freebie Email services. It’s a great tool, but it does take some work to understand and to set up efficiently. And with my crazy life, I have to be very efficient or I would just drown!
1. Filters The most helpful Gmail tool I use is the filters. They are very easy to set up and are very powerful. I have many filters I’ve set up to classify different categories of Emails: Emails from close friends and relatives are set up with a color-coded Priority tag. Scouting tasks have a Scout tag, blogging Emails (lots of those) have a tag, etc. Here is why it is helpful to take the time to set up these automatic filters
- You can tell at a glance what is in your Inbox
- It’s easy to see what is urgent and what is not. You can even set different filters to “float” to the top of your inbox – for instance Overdraft notices or bank notifications.
- It makes it very easy to Archive or Delete whole categories of Emails at one time.
- Note that when you click Archive on a labeled Email, it automatically shifts it into the appropriately labeled folder.
How to set up filters – let’s say you get Emails from your child’s school. You click on just one Email from the school and across the top are some buttons – the last one will say More. Under that is a choice that says Filter Emails Like These. You click on that, and it will bring up a list of all the other Emails from the school that are currently in your mailbox. It brings up a screen that has the address the Email comes from and a few other choices.
At the bottom, it says Create a Filter with this Search. About midway is a choice that says Apply the Label and a box to enter a Label (think of a label as a folder name). You click that box, enter a label of School and make any other choices – Always Mark as Important, Skip the Inbox, Star It, or Delete It – whatever you want to happen when new Emails come in. Then at the bottom, it says Apply this setting to XX other Emails. Click Create Filter and you are done! Now every Email from the school will automatically be handled the same way.
Here is a YouTube video that shows you how to set up your own Labels – .
2. Skip the Inbox. This is another filter option. It’s great for newsletters and things I want to read, but they aren’t time-sensitive. It pops them directly into a folder and I can read them when I have time.
3. Email Bankruptcy. This is the nuclear option when you are just at your wit’s end. No, it’s not the most efficient solution, but it does work when you are super buried. I call myself a digital hoarder so I just take everything and I dump it all into a folder called Email Bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s a couple of thousand Emails (how embarrassing is that?) That way I can use the search function to find any Emails I might actually need. But I’m not slogging through piles of Email daily and feeling guilty about it.
4. Priority Inbox – Gmail has a new feature that I love called Priority Inbox. Based on which Emails you read and respond to the most, it puts those messages at the top of your Inbox and puts the rest of them further down the page. There are buttons to specify what you feel is Priority and what isn’t so you can set it up however you want. I’ve only had it for a week or so, but I’m finding it very helpful. Note that I have not yet moved into the whole tabbed mailbox system yet – I’m not a big fan of change, especially when it comes to my Gmail.
5. Stars – The other feature I use a lot is Stars. I can’t always act on things right away, so I add a Star my “to-do” items so I don’t forget them. All my starred items go a special spot right below my Priority items. Then when I’m ready to work, I can just go to my starred items and dig in. See, I almost sound organized now!
6. Task List – You can also create tasks directly from your Emails. I don’t use their task lists, so I’m not all that familiar with it, but it’s available.
7. Unroll.Me – I saved the best for last. My favorite tip is a service I’ve found called Unroll.me. They take all your semi-junk Emails and it puts them all into a folder. Then it sends you a daily summary. It’s free and it really simplifies life, especially for all those Pinterest, Groupon, and shopping Emails. I love it most for shopping Emails. When I’m in the mood for shopping, I can search them Emails for coupon codes. But I don’t have to deal with the daily temptation of all the sale Emails.
What is your best Gmail organization tip?