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Time to Tame Your Inbox For the New Year

Cheers to a clean email inbox in 2015!It’s that time again where everybody resolves to make the coming year a fresh start. If one of your goals for 2015 is to declutter your inbox and take back control of your workflow, read on to discover how you can shape Gmail to your liking.

Often times, simply emptying your inbox is not enough to stay organized and is instead a temporary solution at best. Soon you start to get bombarded by advertisements and newsletters, and the important work you need to do can easily get lost in the mix. Luckily, there are several easy ways to get and stay organized.

All methods begin with going through the first several pages in your inbox and taking action on any necessary messages. Begin by selecting all messages in your inbox, marking them as read, tagging them if needed and archiving them. The goal is to (at least temporarily) get your inbox down to completely empty. This will make starting with one of the following organization methods much easier.

Read what’s important first

One of the easiest ways to get organized is to use a method of marking messages in your inbox as ‘important’ when they come in. These messages can easily get lost in the mess of email swamping your account. Over time, Google will eventually learn which senders or information you think is most valuable and mark it as important for you. If you receive automated email messages, setting up filters and labels is the quickest way to get those messages where they need to go.

Filters and labels are easy to set up and can move all ads and newsletters out of your inbox, clearing up room for more important, actionable items. Simply follow the instructions to get started with labels and combine it with the instructions to utilize filters with your labels.

Read it all first and come back to the messages that matter

Another method of staying organized is to use a different inbox type to view all of your messages. Gmail’s default category view is rather smart, but it might not have the look you would like. Try instead to use the ‘Unread first’ inbox. Simply go to your Gmail settings, click ‘Inbox’ (in blue) in the top tabs, and from the first drop down option under ‘Inbox type’, select ‘unread first’.

With this setting, as you read each message in your inbox, it will no longer be on the top section of your messages. If you need to reference a particular conversation later, you can star messages to remind yourself to take action on them. They will then show up in a separate section on the left side of your inbox called “Starred”. I personally use this method to quickly sort through emails I need to read, while also marking any that I need to return to at a better time.

Turn your email into a to-do list

Lastly, the most complicated, but arguably one of the most flexible and organized methods to managing email, is the multiple inboxes Gmail Lab. This lab is similar to the ‘unread first’ inbox type, however instead of just an unread and starred section, you can further sort your messages into more actionable groups, such as ‘Needing Response’, ‘Due Today’, ‘Follow-Up Tomorrow’, and ‘Follow Up Next Week’. Andreas Klinger has a wonderful write up on his website about how to turn on and configure Multiple Inboxes for your own Gmail.

Hopefully one of these strategies matches the type of workflow you prefer and can give you the best path to success in 2015! 

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Originally published on January 05, 2015

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