A practical guide to achieving Inbox Zero with Gmail

Email overload has a serious impact on productivity, the attention span and stress at work. In our previous article, we analyzed email overload ramifications and proposed a 7 steps methodology to contain it.

Today, we’ll take a more practical approach and look into the tools you can use (with Gmail) to both reduce the number of emails you receive and accelerate their sorting. We’ll first look into Gmail’s built-in features and then propose some tools to extend them.

GMAIL BUILT-IN FEATURES

Before we look into the solutions to extend Gmail’s functionality, let’s see what we can do with the built-in features. Over the years, Google added several functions to help its user prioritize and sort their email flow.

HIGH-LEVEL CATEGORIZATION WITH “INBOX”

Inbox is a new product released to the public in 2015. Its goal is to sort your emails into categories.
Inbox is now available in two different ways: you can use it as a replacement for Gmail, by going on the Inbox website.

The standalone product has up to 8 bundles: Trips, Saved, Purchases, Social, Updates, Forums, Promos, and Low Priority. Out of the box, the accuracy of the bundling is not exactly top-notch, but it can get better as you refine it.

Inbox brings many other exciting features, such as batch-archiving email, snoozing the important one to respond later or creating reminders without leaving the app.

If you would rather keep all the other features offered in Gmail, you can also activate Inbox on the regular Gmail website. Just go to the ⚙️ on the top right > Configure Inbox. There are up to 4 categories available with the Gmail version: Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums.

THE IMPORTANT FEATURE

In Gmail, there are several built-in prioritization systems among which the important flagging. It looks like a yellow flag next to your email.

There are two ways to use it:

  • By default (on the new Gmail Inbox), you can manually flag each mail as important or not.

  • In Settings > General, activating the personal level indicator setting will have Google automatically tag the emails for you. You can still interact manually with the tagging, and it will improve the precision of the automated tagging.

UNSUBSCRIBING MADE EASY

Thanks to a little script, it’s possible to unsubscribe from newsletter without even leaving your mailbox and with just a couple clicks. Il will unsubscribe you automatically from emails that to which you gave a specific label.

It just takes a couple minutes to set it up:

  1. Copy the sheet on your Drive and open it.
  2. Click the Gmail Unsubscriber arrow at the top of the sheet and then configure. You’ll have to authorize the script and then pick a label. That’s all the script needs to work.
  3. Now go to your mailbox and label any unwanted email as unsubscribe. Every 15 minutes, the script goes through your mailbox to unsubscribe you.
  4. The Google Sheets will populate itself with all the services it unsubscribed you to.

You can thank Amit Argawal for the script.

This hack is quick to set up, easy to use and can potentially save you much time. Use it to the bone!

GOING FURTHER WITH LABELS

Labels can prove to be super useful for more than just cleaning up the undesirable. You can create as many as you may need and nest them. Labels are particularly helpful because they are integrated with other Gmail features such as the filters, the search or the Priority Inbox (Settings > Inbox > Inbox Type).

The Priority Inbox structure your inbox into up to 4 sections (the default is Important and Unread, Starred, Everything Else). You can mix it with your custom labels.

MASTERING GMAIL SEARCH OPERATORS

Ever spent way too long looking for an old email? Thanks to the star or the important label crucial information should already be segregated from the rest of your mailbox. Sometimes it’s not enough: this is when the search modifiers come into play.

The modifiers are incredibly potent because they can be stacked with one another indefinitely: any information you remember about the mail can be useful to find it back. For instance, label:important has:drive has:document before:2017/06/10 {subject:dinner subject:lunch} will search for emails with either lunch or dinner in their subject line, labeled important, containing a Google Drive document and sent/received before June the 10th of 2017. Search modifiers are plentiful and pretty straightforward. The full list is available on Google’s documentation.

EXTENDING GMAIL

MEETING SCHEDULING

You’re scheduling many meetings for your work, and the back and forth is becoming a hassle? There are several ways to go around this issue.

The first and most natural to implement is to adopt an action-oriented writing style. Think about the intent — what you’re trying to achieve — when you’re replying to an email. If the goal is to set up a meeting, offering several meeting time option from the first email can help remove unnecessary steps. We covered action-oriented writing in another article. It can be used for anything and not just emails.

While this simplifies the email flow, you still have to check your calendar every time before suggesting potential meeting times… Unless you get some help.

LET AN AI ASSISTANT HANDLE THE BACK AND FORTH

If your working in sales or any other field requiring to book several meeting each day, you can consider getting helped to save more time. There are AI scheduling assistants that can help you deal with the meetings overload.

The process is quite straightforward. These AI assistants, such as Kono or Amy connect to your Google Calendar. When you want to schedule a meeting with someone, you add the email address of the assistant in the cc field. The bot will then reach out to your recipient offering several meeting times. Once your recipient reaches back to Kono/Amy to confirm, the meeting is automatically added to your calendar.

With Kono, there is even a Slack bot that can quickly schedule meetings with your teammates in a single command such as: @kono schedule meeting with @Bob and @Robert next week. The bot also handles rescheduling if needed.

SNOOZE, SCHEDULE AND FREEZE EMAILS WITH BOOMERANG

Boomrang helps you to make sure your emails get a reply, and you don’t forget about any of them. It comes with several features allowing you to:

  • Schedule email to send later
  • Remind you if you don’t hear back from someone after sending an email
  • “Boomerang” emails which is a bit like snoozing: your email is archived and comes back in your inbox at the time you choose.

  • Pause your inbox which stops new email from coming into your inbox until you’re ready for them. You can set up an auto-responder for the bounced emails and set up exceptions that bypass the pause.

GWAP LIKE YOU MEAN IT

All the previous tools we mentioned are built on the existing Gmail inbox to make it more structured and provide additional features to handle the flow of incoming emails better.

At Gwapit, we have a different approach to this issue. We know that each company is different and has its email processes, so we let our customers create and share custom filters (“groups”) to sort the incoming storm. The benefits are apparent after the setup phase.

Screenshot of Gwapit’s main dashboard with all the notifications coming from different apps

Gwapit goes above simply managing your emails notifications. It connects to your workspace apps to regroup and prioritize your notifications flow. We currently support Gmail, Slack, Github, JIRA, and Confluence.

Gwapit is currently in beta, build it with us.

read original article here