7 Tips for a Tidy and Organized Gmail Inbox
In my position as an Account Coordinator, my daily workflow revolves almost entirely around email - understanding client requests, asking questions, passing along information to our creative and web teams, etc. Since I spend so much time in Gmail, it needs to be a functional and efficient place to work.
I still may not be taking advantage of EVERY useful add-on and feature now, but over the past year I’ve developed a useful system for optimizing my inbox, and I wanted to share the tips that I’ve picked up.
These are just a few of the ways I keep up with my accounts and tasks using Gmail. These make my inbox a well-oiled machine for crossing to-dos off my list and making sure I don’t miss anything. It is essential to prioritize having a clean inbox with as few emails as possible. For me - what’s in the inbox should be what’s on my plate. Any more than that will often make me feel overwhelmed and less productive.
The first step in my system was to set up inbox labels to serve as folders to file past emails.. I have a label for each client, and these live in the left sidebar of my inbox. Once an email is addressed and out of my hands, it goes into its appropriate label. As a very visual person, I like to label my folders with specific colors and emojis to help my brain associate which client I am working on at the moment. Labels make my life so much easier when referencing past work we’ve done for a client.
2. “Waiting Room”
The “Waiting Room” is one of my favorite strategies for inbox management. I have a label called, “Waiting Room 🛋️” where I store pending items. If it’s out of my hands and with a designer, it’s in here. This allows me to be more aware of the status of all projects I am working on. It does require some maintenance - I have to run through it once a week or so to make sure it's current, but it helps me remember everything that is going on. Once these tasks are completed, I file the emails in their appropriate client labels.
3. Inbox Layout
I’ve tried a couple of different layouts for my inbox, but my current preferred layout is “Unread First.” This way, I can use the inbox even more effectively as a to-do list - if I make sure to keep up with putting old emails away in their folders, then the unread are my pressing to-dos, and the read can stay in the inbox until I’m able to address them.
I use stars to provide more information about an email if I am not able to address it right away. I currently have it set up with 4 stars:
! → I mark most of my emails with ! when they come in, and this signifies that I have something I need to handle in the email
? → Signifies that I have a question about this, and will need to receive an answer from someone before I am ready to proceed with it
★ → I don’t really use this one, but it is a default
✓ → Signifies that something is complete, proofed, and ready to send to a client
If you’ve never checked out the Gmail sidebar, definitely take a look! This features smaller versions of Calendar, Keep, Tasks, Contacts, and the ability to add more add-ons. I have started using the Tasks panel to track my time to enter for the day. It’s often helpful to jot down a quick note in Keep if I don’t want to open a new document, and it’s more in sync with the rest of the Google products. You can also drag emails over to Tasks to add them to your to-do list, making it easier to return to in the future.
Snoozing is a recent feature I've started using to help me remember to do things that are a little further out. For example, if a client needs us to update their website’s hours for a certain holiday, I will snooze that email until the day before so it is fresh in my inbox. This is helpful for calling attention to important tasks that can’t be taken care of on that day.
7. Schedule Emails
Similar to snoozing, I like to schedule emails to myself if I have upcoming tasks that I need to complete, but I don’t want to clutter my inbox with too many emails.
Although your job may be different, I hope that some of these tips will help you use your inbox more effectively! Do you have any Gmail tips to organize your inbox? Let us know in the comments below.