Once upon a snow day a few weeks ago, I decided enough was enough. I had to take control of my inbox, and I probably was not going to have a better opportunity to do it. Like so many of us now, I don't sit at a desk (I don't even have a desk) and my job is fairly mobile. I receive on average 75-100 emails a day, and will often come out of a one-hour meeting with 25 fresh new ones staring at me in bold. If I don't address them at some point during the day, I am forced to spend 1-2 hours after my little one goes to bed just playing catch up in addition to the laundry, meal prep, and the other household chores that we all have to do. It can quickly snowball and suddenly I am caught up in it, being crushed by the avalanche. Emails can seriously take over your life! As with any task that I assign myself, I first had to do my research. I spent at least an hour (ok, maybe two) searching the World Wide Web for ideas and advice on how to tame this monster. We use Google for Business at Puckett's, and as an early Gmail adopter I've always considered myself pretty good at navigating its settings. That being said, these tricks were all fairly new to me and have helped me obtain the mythological "inbox zero" on a now regular basis. Which leaves me with time to watch the latest Scandal while folding that laundry.
Here they are:
send + archive
This has been a game changer. Once you are done replying to an email, you can use the "Send + Archive" button and it will automatically archive your email, just a search bar away if you need to retrieve it. If you are super organized and like to keep things filed into folders, then you can label it at the top before send + archiving.
This is a built-in feature for Gmail. To activate, go to Settings (the gear symbol in the top right corner), and then halfway down on the General tab select "Show 'Send + Archive' button in reply"
ps - if you are looking for that "Undo Send" feature, head over to the "Labs" tab. It can be a lifesaver!
Gmail allows you to organize your inbox in a variety of ways. The one that works best for me is a Priority Inbox. When you select Priority Inbox in your Settings, you can customize what order you want your priorities. I get my "Important and Unread" emails first so that I can address them quickly. You can teach Gmail what is or is not important with the little yellow tabs to the left of the email. Bonus: if you use the Gmail app on your smartphone or tablet, they will be organized in the same way.
Oftentimes, my well-intentioned colleagues will loop me into an email as an FYI. Then the conversation continues without me. And it keeps going, and going, and going... And I keep getting all the new emails unnecessarily. There is a little lesser-known feature in gmail called "Mute". I love you guys, but I use it frequently. It doesn't delete the email thread in case you do need to refer back to it at some point, it just archives it and prevents it from getting to your inbox.
boomerang for gmail
This one isn't a built-in feature, but it integrates so well with Gmail that it might as well be. Boomerang for Gmail is an amazing tool and it's free, though there is a premium option. It serves two main functions: 1) You can schedule emails to send at a later time and 2) you can "boomerang" an email after X amount of days (or weeks or hours) if someone doesn't reply to you, or even regardless if they do reply. It pops back into your inbox after the designated amount of time. This is great because I used to keep things in my inbox as a reminder that I needed to follow up if I didn't hear back from someone. No longer necessary!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much unroll.me has helped me clear out and consolidate all those subscription emails, which I wrote about here.
I swear to you, I now answer my emails quickly and efficiently on a regular basis, and I'm less stressed because of it. A Claire with a clean inbox is a happy Claire.
What do you think about these suggestions? Have you tried any of them? Do you have any of your own?