Is your email inbox a bottomless pit? Can’t find the right emails when you need them? This blog is for you. Art of Hustle welcomes Google Leadership Recruiting Coordinator and former director of Funkanometry SF, Gina Mariko, as its newest guest blogger. Get ready to be blown away ’cause Gina’s about to shake up that inbox of yours with her Gmail organizing wisdom!
At my current job as a Leadership Recruiting Coordinator on Google’s Tech Staffing team, I receive anywhere from 70-100 emails every day including communications with candidates/clients, interview confirmation/reminder emails, Google group emails, social invites, team updates, etc. Many are urgent; most are not. In order to do my job efficiently, I have to organize and filter my inbox so that those urgent emails get to the top and so that I never forget to follow up. If you’re an organizational and efficiency nerd like me, keep reading.
Below you will find 6 easy tips that will help you organize your Gmail inbox, be more efficient, and retain your sanity. (SIDENOTE: If you or someone you know doesn’t use Gmail, it’s time for their email intervention.)
I. Archiving Email
FACT: Archiving is your friend.
FACT: Archiving is NOT deleting.
FACT: If you don’t archive, your inbox is probably 200-300 deep, if not more. (Is it not?)
When you Archive an email in Gmail, it is the equivalent of putting the email in a filing cabinet. Except with this filing cabinet, it’s way easier to find files years down the road. The biggest benefit of archiving is that it keeps your main inbox clean, and ensures all the emails on your homepage are relevant.
When to archive?
When an email is not immediately relevant, but has information that may be important or useful later on.
How to archive:
- Open up an email that you want to archive. Click on the Archive icon
- To archive multiple emails at once from your main inbox, just click the box to the left of all the emails you want to archive, then click the Archive icon. This will bulk archive multiple emails.
- To find your email later on, just search for it in the search toolbar (will go into more depth in Step VI below).
- To view ALL your archived emails, go to your main inbox. On the left-hand sidebar, scroll down and click ‘More’, then choose ‘All Mail’. This will pull up ALL your emails.
The next step for organizing your inbox is to create labels. If you use Outlook, labels are the equivalent of folders, except in Gmail they’re pretty and you can choose different colors :)
First rule of thumb: Don’t go crazy and create a different label for every single email — that defeats the purpose. Choose wisely; be strategic. Create general or subject-specific labels that will define the most important subgroups of your emails (e.g. family, school, bills, dance, pictures, resources, etc).
How to create a label:
- Open an email that you want to label. Click on the Labels icon
- On the pop-up window, enter the name of your label, and choose if you want it to “nest” under another label. (An example of a nested label: If you have a label titled ‘Social Media’ you might “nest” the labels for YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter under it.)
- Click ‘Create’. Your label has now been created — wasn’t that easy?!
- Now go back to your main inbox and you will see the label on the left-hand sidebar (as shown below). Click on the little box to the right of your label to customize the color (my favorite part). Choose fun colors to set your labels apart!
- Now when you want to view only emails with that label, just click on the name of the label in the sidebar, and it will automatically filter.
WORKFLOW SUGGESTION: I highly encourage everyone to create an “action item label” called ‘URGENT’ or ‘Waiting’ or ‘Needs Action’ (choose one, not all). Every time you send or receive an email that requires a timely response or requires follow up, I label it with this action item label so that I know to follow up later. Make the color bright red, or something that will pop. I will show you later how to filter these into a separate inbox ;)
Filters and labels work hand in hand. Filters can automatically apply labels for you, and basically do your email sorting for you. They’re awesome.
How to filter an email:
- Open up an email that you want to create a filter for. Click on the ‘More’ button, then choose ‘Filter messages like these’ (screenshot below).
- In the pop up box, define your search criteria. You may want to search by a specific email address, or a keyword, or subject line. Experiment with search criteria until you get the result you want. Choose ‘Create filter with this search’.
- In the next window, choose what you want to happen when this mail arrives. If it’s something less important, you may want to Skip the inbox, Mark as read, and Apply a label. If it’s really important, then you may want to Star it and Apply a label.
- Click ‘Create a filter’. You’re done!
REAL LIFE EXAMPLES OF FILTERS YOU MIGHT CREATE:
- Filter social media notifications and check them when you have time.
- Filter emails from listserves you are subscribed to so they don’t clutter your inbox.
- Star and put a bright colored label on emails from your boss so that you know to read/take action immediately.
IV. Gmail Labs
As Google describes, “Gmail Labs allows you to try out experimental new features in Gmail.” In short, they’re awesome new features that you get to demo.
How to browse and enable Labs:
- Click on the Settings
- Click on the Labs tab at the top.
- Click the ‘Enable’ button next to Labs you want, then click ‘Save Changes’ at the top/bottom of the page.
HERE ARE A FEW LABS THAT I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU ENABLE TO STEP UP YOUR GMAIL GAME:
- Canned Responses** – Do you often send the same email response several times a day? Save your time typing and create a canned response. The option will appear like this in your Compose a Message view when you enable it.
- Custom keyboard shortcuts – Maneuver through your inbox with the greatest of ease! Set custom shortcuts and sort through your email without ever taking your hands off the keyboard.
- Google Calendar gadget – See a summary of your daily calendar to the left of your inbox. Never be late to a meeting.
- Google Docs gadget – Search and open your Google docs without ever leaving your inbox! Just type the name of the doc into the search box at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar.
- Multiple Inboxes** – I’ll describe this in detail below.
- Signature tweaks – Hate when emails have 20 of the same signature collecting at the bottom? Keep your signature near the top of your email so that you can choose to include it or delete it.
- Undo Send** – Ever wish you didn’t click Send? Well now you can take it back. Just click ‘Undo’ within 5 or 10 secs after clicking that button. Customize the time in your Settings.
- Extra Emoji – These are just fun :)
**Labs that I think are a MUST. But, I literally use all of the Labs listed above every day. Scroll through the Labs list and enable ones that you think will help you improve your workflow.
V. Multiple Inboxes (can’t live without)
Ok here’s where I blow your organizational mind. If you don’t already use Multiple Inboxes, you’re missing out. Before proceeding with the steps below, make sure you enable Multiple Inboxes in the Labs section, and also set up your most important labels.
How to setup your Multiple Inboxes:
- Once you have enabled this lab, click on the Settings
- Click on the ‘Multiple Inboxes’ tab at the top.
- Each “pane” row will represent a separate inbox on your main inbox page. Choose the top 2-5 labels that you will use everyday. In the first column titled ‘Search query’ you will create a query to define each inbox. In the second column, create a title for your inbox.
- To create an inbox based on a label, use the query: is: LABELNAME
For example: is:social media or is:URGENT
- To create an inbox that includes multiple labels, use a combination of parentheses and the conjunctions AND/OR. Using AND means that both labels must be true in order for the email to show. Using OR means that either one or the other must be true.
For example, in my Multiple Inboxes shown above I have ‘Pane 0’ representing all emails that are either labeled ‘waiting’ or are Starred. I’ve titled the inbox, ‘In Progress’ since all emails in this inbox require some action to be taken. The search query is ‘(is:waiting) OR (is:starred)’.
- Next, choose how many emails per inbox you want to show. I have chosen 9 above. Try to keep this limited to 8-15, otherwise your homepage will be really long.
- Then choose if you want the additional inboxes to appear above, below, or to the right of the main inbox. I recommend choosing Below the inbox.
- Click ‘Save Changes’.
Now go back to your main inbox page. The page should automatically refresh, and you will see that your inbox is divided into the different inboxes you have designated. Order the inboxes based on your workflow: most important emails should be at the top; least important at the bottom. Only create inboxes for labels that you will work with daily, otherwise your homepage will be cluttered.
If you want to learn more complex query tricks, check out the Multiple Inboxes Google forum!
VI. Learn how to SEARCH!…efficiently.
Last, but not least — Google is all about search. If you want to find the right answer to your question, you have to know what question to ask, right? Same goes for email. If you are looking for that one email, you need to search for it properly.
Above is the Gmail search bar. This is where you will do your advanced searching, and this will be the most helpful tool to find emails.
Here’s a way to narrow down your search:
- Click on the little arrow to the right of the toolbar. This will open a drop down box with options.
- Type in details in this box based on what you want to search by. For example, if I want to find an email from my mom about our family reunion, I might type my mom’s email in the ‘From’ box, and type the word ‘reunion’ in the ‘Has the words’ box. This will pull up all emails from my mom, and with the word ‘reunion’ within the email content.
Check out this webpage for even more advanced search queries!
Another easy way to search is to filter by your labels. Click on the name of your label in the left-hand sidebar to filter. Then type extra words in the search bar to narrow it down even more.
And there you have it! The most important thing to remember is: use tips that will help improve YOUR workflow. Setup a workflow that works for you and use these tips to customize to your liking. Have fun :)
If you have any questions about the tips I’ve listed, feel free to leave a comment. ALSO, would love to hear how people are utilizing the tips in your own workflows. SHARE your examples below!