5 tips on how to organize your Gmail inbox in 15 minutes

by June 10, 2019 0 comments

An average employee spends 1/3rd of their office time on emails. At Rs 634K (average salary for an IT services job in India ), an average employee is paid Rs.211K per year to organize Gmail inboxes!

On top of that, every time you stop what you’re doing to check your email, it takes about 23 minutes to get your focus back.

You spend hours sifting through emails, determining what to do with them, and actually dealing with them eventually — you basically end up spending a lot more time in your inbox than you had initially planned.

When you cannot escape altogether but still want your peace of mind, becoming more organized is the best way out.

This post will tell you how to organize Gmail tabs such that it’s more of a productivity and collaboration tool and not a distraction.

1. Put more relevant emails on top

Do you really need all the new emails right at the top of your inbox? Gmail gives you five options to organize your inbox.

Head to your settings (the gear icon at the top) and click the dropdown next to inbox type.

Here’s what each one of them means:

Default: It shows the emails in the order that they came in — the layout we see every day.

Important first: Gmail uses its own prediction to determine which emails are important, and places them at the top of your inbox with a yellow marker.

Unread first: This setting displays unread emails above recent emails. This is especially helpful if you use the read/unread as a to-do list.

Starred first: This is for the ones who use stars to prioritize their inbox. The starred messages appear first, followed by everything else.

Priority Inbox: Gmail learns what kind of emails you interact with the most, and puts them at the top of your inbox. This is great for folks who have to deal with a lot of emails every day.

2. Use Labels to neatly organize Gmail

Gmail is a label-based system. Everything that you would otherwise consider a folder, such as Inbox, Trash, Drafts, are technically labels.

Labels are a great way to organize Gmail. They are like tags you can add to emails you send or receive. Unlike folders, you can add more than one label to an email. And you can add colors to labels!

You can also have Gmail apply labels to emails as they arrive, saving you the manual effort. For example, you can have all the emails from your lawyers labeled as Documents. All you have to do is create a Filter.

3. Archive emails you do not need in the near future

A lot of times, we do not delete emails only because we might need them later. For example, you do not need your purchase invoices lingering in your inbox but they might come useful when you’re getting your accounts done.

This is where the archiving feature comes into play. Archiving does not delete your email but removes it from your inbox. They remain searchable too.

Select an email and look for the file-like icon at the top.

You can also automate archiving by using filters – this is explained in the next point.

4. Use filters to automate common actions

Gmail has a really strong filtering capability. You can filter emails by subject, sender, recipient, content, and more.

Once you’ve filtered the messages, you can instruct Gmail what to do with them — label them, set priority, decide whether the emails make it to your inbox.

What you’ll absolutely love is automated filtering. You can set criteria and actions — every email that meets the criteria is dealt with by Gmail automatically.

All you have to do is start an advanced search. Click the grey arrow at the extreme right of your search bar.

And a dropdown opens up.

Type in an email address and click “Create filter with this search” at the bottom right of the popup.

For example, if you get a bunch of newsletter emails you have no interest in, you can create a filter that will automatically archive all emails that come from that address.

Ways in which you can use filters to organize Gmail:

  • Star every email from someone important (say your bank)
  • Automatically forward emails from a certain address
  • Archive emails that contain a certain word (say Free trial)

5. Experiment with Gmail Labs

If you’re new to Labs, the first thing you need to know is that it is a testing ground for Google. The successful ones go on to become standard Gmail capabilities and others might get shelved — but it’s definitely worth giving a shot.

The one feature that has been under Labs for years is Multiple Inboxes. It allows you to create multiple panes, each designed to display a certain category of emails, based on the email type, topic, or personal preference.

You can have emails from a particular sender, or emails that bear a certain label appear in a separate mailbox.

For example, you can add labels such as needs response, to-do, project backlog, and weekly reading — all the emails with a particular label appears in the respective inbox:

Wrapping up

Distractions at work take up more time than you think. They derail your mental progress and your brain takes a while to get back to focussing again. Given that emails are a big source of distraction at work, it’s about time we do something about it.

You’d be surprised by the amount of time you can free up just by organizing your Gmail better. Don’t let the inbox take over!

Authored By: Niraj Ranjan, Co-founder & CEO, Hiver

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