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Optimize Your Email Workflow: How to use Gmail more Efficiently


Fahad Cheema - April 16, 2020 - 0 comments

If you’re reading this post chances are, like me, your inbox is also cluttered with hundreds to thousands of unread emails with the numbers increasing each day, even right now while you’re reading this post. Have you ever come across these scenarios:

  • You had to reply back to an email but thought you will do it later and lost track of it in the midst of all the junk in your inbox.
  • You are awaiting a reply to an email you sent earlier but forgot to follow up because now it’s gotten way down your inbox for you to remind about it.
  • You have an upcoming travel plan or event and you’re sure you had the tickets and details for that in your inbox but now you’re not able to find it.

If any of these rings a bell to you then you’ve come to the right place. Although most of you would have gotten used to the frustrations caused by these scenarios but why make your life uncomfortable when you can eliminate them in the first place. Believe me, by the time you’re done reading this post your whole experience of using Gmail will get so much better that you’ll actually start enjoying checking your emails.

Btw: This technique is not something I came up with. In fact, I learned it from Andreas Klinger through one of his blog posts so thanks to him for bringing me into this habit.

Overview of my Gmail

Optimize Your Email Workflow

This is what my Gmail inbox looks like right now. I have been using it for more than a month now and you won’t believe how effective it has turned out to be. This is how I use Gmail now:

  1. All the new emails come in the inbox on the left
  2. Once I read an email, I assign a star depending on the action that email requires e.g If I want to reply back to an email later, I will assign it a yellow or red star and then put it in the archive so it goes away from the inbox and starts showing up in the Reply inbox on the right as a reminder.
  3. In case you read the email and replied instantly or it doesn’t require any action then just put it into the archive without assigning any star and your inbox is back to zero.

This way you won’t be overwhelmed, your inbox will look neat and you will actually be able to go through all the emails you get. Isn’t that perfect? Here’s how you can also achieve this without using any third-party plugins but just Gmail itself.


Step by Step Guide

Remove the Social and Promotion Tabs

Go to the cog icon on the top right of your inbox and click configure inbox

Settings option

In that uncheck all of the tabs

Remove the social and promotion tabs

Set Display Density to Compact

Go to the cog icon on the top right of your inbox and click display density

Set display density to compact

In that select the compact view option

Select Your Stars

Go to Settings > General and you’ll see the stars section

Select your stars

Over here select the stars you want to use for your actions. Just drag the stars you want to use and put them into the In use section. I use:

  • Yellow and red for needs action/reply – This will be for all the emails that require me to do something or save for later to reply back.
  • Purple question for awaiting a reply – This will be for all the emails that I got back to and am now awaiting a reply.
  • Purple star for scheduled – This will be for all the emails that remind me of my upcoming events e.g trips, calls, payments etc.

Enable Multiple Inbox Layout

Go to Settings > Inbox and in the Inbox type select Multiple Inboxes. After that, you will see additional options show up to configure your multiple inboxes

Enable multiple inbox layout

Based on the stars you’ve picked, assign each star to the relevant action you want to use it for as shown above. To find out the names of the stars just take your mouse on the star and it will show you the name you have to use. You can also use a combination of stars to represent one inbox.

Now reload and voila you have multiple inboxes for each action.


Bring your Inbox to Zero

Wait! We are just not done yet. Now I know you must be wondering, what about the huge abundance of emails that already exists in my inbox. Well for that go through the first 2–3 pages of your inbox and mark the important emails in the relevant actions (If you want to go even more pages you can but mostly your recent emails will be done in the first 2–3 pages).

After that select all of the emails in your inbox (once you select the emails on the first page it will ask you do you want to select all 1,320 emails so click that) and put them into the archive

Now your inbox will be brought down to zero and all of the important ones that require action will be on their relevant inboxes on the right.

The next time when you receive a new email all you have to do is go through it and if it needs to be put under an action just assign it that star and put it into the archive. If no action is required then just read it and put it into the archive. Repeat

P.S Always keep your inbox on the left empty so you are aware of the new emails that come in and are able to go through them easily

P.P.S This layout is only available for Gmail in the browser and not on the mobile version. On mobile just read your emails and when you get the time to sit on your laptop/desktop then repeat the filtration process. That’s what I do.

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