James’s explanation of how he uses his email accounts as his “to-do-list”; archiving emails that have been actioned immediately and keeping those that need follow up labeled in his Inbox has helped me to take gmail from 3000+, home email from 1000+ and my work email account to ZERO!
Let me show you how to do this with gmail (HINT: Follow these steps before deleting or archiving any emails)!
Step 1: Create Labels
Labels in gmail are a bit like folders in Microsoft Outlook except you can add more than one label to an email and keep the email in your inbox (whereas with Outlook the email is move into the folder). Clicking on a label displays all messages in ALL MAIL with that label.
Look at the emails in your inbox and create labels that separates your messages into meaningful categories which you can use for managing your workload. For example I have labels like “To Do” for those I can’t action immediately but to remind me that I need to deal with and labels for conversations on specific topics or people that I need to be able to easily locate.
Don’t stress — you can add more labels at anytime and removing a label doesn’t delete emails.
Step 2: Create Filters
Filters are great for managing incoming emails because you can set up filters that automatically label, archive, delete, star or forward emails based on keywords, email address etc. For example if I needed to keep track of emails from a specific person I set up a filter with their email(s) addresses which automatically labels them.
Make sure you tick Also apply filter to conversations below to apply the action to all existing emails.
Step 3: Archive All Email In Your Inbox
When you archive in gmail it takes the emails from your inbox and moves them into ALL MAIL. This cleans up your inbox without deleting them making messages findable when you search your email with keywords or click on a Label.
Gmail currently provides 7063 MB of storage space — so lots of room for keeping emails.
To archive just click on Select: All which selects the 50 messages currently display and then click on Select all conversations in Inbox. Now just click Archive — any recent messages you don’t want to archive just untick before clicking Archive.
Step 4: Keeping Your Inbox Empty and Using It As A To-Do List
Now that your inbox is empty to use it effectively as a To-Do List you need to keep the messages in your Inbox really low (less than 50). To achieve this you need to:
- Once emails have been responded to, label if necessary, and then archive them immediately!
- Any emails that you can’t archive (because they require action in a few days) add a label as reminder of what task you need to complete.
- Delete, instead of archiving, immediately any emails you don’t need to keep e.g. notifications from twitter, Facebook. Deleting moves messages across to your trash and gmail automatically deletes them after 30 days.
- As notifications arrive that you no longer need immediately unsubscribe from their service or set up a filter to automatically delete them.
In case you’re wondering since I always keep my Google Reader account at ZERO I’m sure the new skills I’ve gained will do the same for my email accounts. Shame I can’t say the same about keeping my house and study tidy — solution(s)?
I’ve only covered some of the features of gmail. What other features are you using in gmail to make your life easier?
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