The other week I had a conversation with someone who was getting completely baffled with their email. They were using GMAIL (just as I do) but they were getting totally overwhelmed. And this was *not* because they were immensely popular and were being snow under with emails; it was more because they just didn’t know the basics of GMAIL or good, general email housekeeping skills. Cue this blog post…
Note: this email is heavily GMAIL biased. For obvious reasons. But many of the ideas here will apply to whatever client/system you use. I use Google Apps for Domains for the JOJET.COM emails (i.e. this isn’t just about GMAIL.COM email addresses).
Master your inbox
My goal with GMAIL is to keep my inbox as empty as possible. I don’t like lots of emails hanging about in there; and tonnes of unread or unactioned items in my inbox would fill me with dread. I want those email gone by hook or by crook. But what tactics do I use for this?
Well, it starts when my working day kicks off with me doing some basic housekeeping on my email.
Pretty obvious this one. If the email is of no possible use to me then I’ll delete it. If it is a newsletter subscription that I don’t want to read then perhaps I should consider unsubscribing from it & save myself from constantly deleting new editions.
However, storage on GMAIL is vast so, instead of deleting, you might want to consider…
This is a basic GMAIL feature which the person I’m alluding too just didn’t know about. They were reading their emails but, when finished with, they were just leaving them in the inbox; stopping them seeing the wood for the trees.
Archiving is a lovely way of moving actioned email out of your inbox, leaving it free for only unread emails or emails which need to be actioned.
But where do these archived emails go? Well, it doesn’t really go anywhere apart from the fact that they are not in your inbox. If you search for something in GMAIL, archived emails will still be found.
These are pretty much an advanced tool. With these you can do funky things like set rules such as “if an email comes in from X then automatically archive it” – this comes in handy for me as I get lots of system logs which get emailed to me automatically from web servers, I don’t want to read them, I don’t want them in my inbox, but I want to refer to them if need be.
And that’s just scratching the surface of filters – for more info go here.
Now, these are very handy!
Before I used Gmail I was a big Microsoft Outlook fan (have to say that I think that was one of their better apps) and Outlook is very good at allowing you to have folders which you can put emails in; helps keep things organised – I like that!
Gmail’s ‘Labels‘ are like Outlook’s folders but with one key difference; you can apply multiple labels to an email. E.g. you could apply a label called”CLIENT_A” to an email as well as one called “ESTIMATE“. That way you can easily access emails labelled CLIENT_A or ESTIMATE; this makes search a lot easier for you.
Oh, and you can nest labels.
You can visually indicate that an email is important by marking it as starred; this helps it stand out in your inbox. Heck you can even turn on superstars which gives you a greater variety os star shapes & colours to play with. Very useful.
This one take some getting your head around but GMAIL offers different types of inboxes for your emails.
Your “classic” email inbox is as you would have expected; emails drop in at the top and push others down – yes GMAIL has this but it also has some more advanced options too. You can arrange your inbox so that
- all starred emails are at the top
- all unread are at the top
- all important* are first
- priority inbox (my fave)
With priority inbox active, your inbox pane is separated into three distinct areas; ‘important & unread‘ at the top, ‘starred‘ emails in the middle and ‘everything else‘ at the bottom.
(*How does GMAIL work out which ones are important? Well, it just tries to learn from your activity)
Throughout the day, if I’m out and about I’ll always try to keep an eye on my inbox via my iphone. As they come in I’ll try to do a quick reply, deleting, archived, applying a label etc. This constant chip chipping at the inbox helps keep my email under control.
And yes, I will do this on holiday as well. Heck I have to! I can’t sand the idea of coming back to 300 unread emails #shudder
I mentioned earlier that labels are very handy and I stand by this. But I’ve found an additional tool which really helps take labels to the next level. This tool is called ActiveInbox.
However, there’s a lot to say about this superb Gmail enhancement & I’ll leave that for a future post.
Hopefully some of those basic tips will come in handy, please shout out if you have any suggestions. I look forward to blogging about ActiveInbox as that tool rocks!
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