Gmail Tools for a Clean Inbox
I have been using Gmail since it first launched in 2004, and I love it. I use it for my personal emails, my blog emails and my business emails. That adds up to an awful lot of email traffic coming through my inbox every day, especially when you add in the fact that my original Gmail address is 13 years old now. I get thousands of emails every week, and sometimes it’s hard to keep on top of what’s junk and what I actually need to read and deal with.
The good news is that because I use Gmail, there are lots of things I can do to help me keep my inbox clear. Here are some of them…
- I use GMass to help with email campaigns; you can use it to send mass emails, mail merges and follow-up. It saves me valuable time when it comes to sending emails to whole groups of people. This is invaluable when I need to let all of my clients know about something, but I don’t want to send them a mass email or one where they are all blind copied.
- Enable Undo Send. I don’t know when this gem appeared on the settings page, but it’s an absolute godsend if you’re a bit scatty from time to time… which obviously I am not, but it’s handy to have!
- Apply lots of rules and filters! I have a lot of Google Alerts set up, as well as subscriptions to lots of newsletters whose content I need for client work. I try to be strict with myself about which work I do on each day, so I’ve set up filters so that newsletters and Google Alerts go straight into folders for those clients. This keeps my inbox a little more clear, and means that when I need them, all mails relating to one client/subject are in one place.
- Enable multiple inboxes. This sounds more complicated than it is. Basically, it means that I have my main inbox taking up the left-hand side of my screen, and on the other side I have messages with certain markers: a section for those with yellow stars (to action/reply); purple question marks (to read); purple stars (for the blog); red stars (to print). This helps to separate out my emails, while also clearly showing me which emails I need to action. To enable this, go to Settings and Labs and search for Multiple Inboxes.
- Unsubscribe from everything! I realised one day that of all the time I was spending in my inbox, more than half of it was being sent weeding out and deleting emails I didn’t want to read. I had a ton of unread mails and most of them were newsletters and random unsolicited junk. If you search your Gmail for “unsubscribe” it will bring up a list of emails containing that word – so now you have your list of newsletters! If you have the time and inclination, you can go through and unsubscribe from them one by one… or you can do what I did: delete them all, and then be strict with yourself about unsubscribing from newsletters as they come in from now on. My rule is that I either read immediately, unsubscribe or set up a filter so that next time the newslette skips my inbox and goes straight to a folder to be looked at later.
- Use one Gmail account for all of your emails… except when you don’t. I don’t know about you, but I have several email addresses. Some are historical and rarely used; others are to separate work, my blog and personal. All of these automatically go to one central inbox, which I have set up to send “as” each address if I need to. On the other hand, I have another email address for a particular client, and this one I keep entirely separate. If you click on your profile picture in the top right of the screen in Gmail, you can flick between profiles. When I’m working for that client, I change over to that mailbox so that I am working for that client only. It stops me from being distracted by other random emails dropping into my inbox.
- Archive sent mails. Under general settings, you can opt to show the “send & archive” button. This then appears every time you reply to a mail and means that once you’ve replied to an email and you’re sure you’ve dealt with everything, you can archive at the same time as sending it, thus cleaing your inbox at the same time.
- Boomerang. If you don’t have Boomerang, you’re missing a trick! I use it mainly to “send later” on emails. I use this if I know I have to send an email but not right now. So for example I’ve scheduled a blog post for 9am tomorrow and I need to let someone know it’s live, I could try and remember tomorrow morning – or I could just write out an email and schedule it to send at 9:05 tomorrow morning. You can also use it to postpone incoming mails, so that they disappear from your inbox and reappear after a specified interval.
- I avoid sending attachments wherever I can. Instead I use Google Drive. I write content in Google Docs, and then send a share-link to whomever needs to see it. This means they see a “live” document and can make any edits or comments they need to. This saves having different versions of the same document hanging about – instead there is one document which changes as it needs to and is always findable in the same place. And it saves on clogging up my inbox with tons of attachments.
- I use my signature block not only to provide contact details, a website link and social media links but also to provide information on my working hours, any upcoming holidays etc. I do use an out of office when I’m not working, but it would be a massive pain in the bum to switch it on when I finish work every afternoon and switch it off every morning!
I’ve read this article on the Guardian website, but I’ve not tried most of the tips in there and I can’t tell if they would actually be useful. I prefer to get tips from people I know work in a similar way to me.
So have I missed anything? Do you use something I’m not? Or do you use these tools in a different way? I feel like with some of them, especially GMass, I am not using them to their full capability so if you use it in a different way do please let me know!
This post is a partnership with Nakturnal.