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gmail_logoSo far, in How To Turn Gmail Into a Multitasking Machine (Part 1) How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine (Part 1) How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine (Part 1) Read More and How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine (Part II) How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine (Part II) How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine (Part II) Read More , we’ve covered almost all the basics of fully utilizing your Gmail account to organize your busy life.

Now, we’re rounding out the last few loose ends: figuring out how to integrate the rest of your multi-tasking into your Gmail window, and finally, how to maintain your system.

5. Filling The Sidebar

add gadget

The sidebar is a really great place to keep information handy. If you use Remember The Milk, Toodledo, or any other to-do list that has an iGoogle gadget, you can use the “Add Gadget By URL” option that we enabled earlier in Labs. You can find this option under the Gadget tab in Settings. Also, if you like to keep a calculator, weather, stocks, or anything else to reference on hand, iGoogle has an extensive gallery of gadgets here.

quick links

If there are emails that you are always looking for or searches you are always running, Quick Links is a great feature to have. All you need to do is navigate to that email or complete that search, and click “Add Quick Link” in the Quick Links box. Then enter the title of the page view, and you’re done!


This feature is great also, for keeping projects you are working on, on hand. I frequently email myself research, and correspond with my bosses about work, and if the emails are directly related to a project I’m working on, I add a quick link to it so I don’t have to keep digging for the same emails to reference information I need for my project.

go to labels

If you find yourself putting the search for emails tagged with a certain label into this box, you might think about going back to #3 of Part 1’s post: Setting Up Labels. However, if your intention is to leave your sidebar as uncluttered as possible, then you can enable the “Go To Label” feature in Labs. Then, simply by typing “g”, then “l”, you can type in the label you need to access to quickly run a search for that label.

Your daily agenda for Google Calendar should already be on your sidebar, since we activated it in Labs earlier. If you are part of the crowd that doesn’t use Google Calendar, hopefully you use something that syncs with Google Calendar. Then, you can read up on how to sync GCal with Outlook or iCal.

6. Multiple Inboxes

Multiple Inboxes is a critical feature for this system, since you will need to keep the emails tagged Gmail/Action and Gmail/Hold on hand for easy reference. Since we enabled the Multiple Inboxes feature in Labs earlier, there should now be a Multiple Inboxes tab under Settings. There, you simply enter a search query to determine what you’ll see in each of your inboxes, and name it appropriately.


If you’re not familiar with Gmail’s Search function (which is highly unlikely), I’ll give you a quick rundown of a very important feature: specifying the type of keyword you are typing. For example, if you are looking for all of the emails that are addressed to a certain email (for example, if you incorporated another mail provider into Gmail), you can search for all emails sent to your other address. With the HAS: query, you can even specify what type of attachment the email you are searching for has.

There is an extended list of Gmail’s queries here.

Gmail’s search is definitely a very robust and powerful tool, so learn it to your own advantage. I swear, it will be of use some day.


Now that you have everything set up, you need a good system to manage your email inflow. First, look at the unread emails in your inbox. Are there any that you want to delete off the bat? If you answer YES for a certain newsletter or sender’s email consistently, you should consider asking that sender to stop emailing you. Regardless of what your packrat instincts tell you, you most likely will NOT need that email for reference in the future.

Now, starting from the first unread email, scan it quickly and determine if its something that needs to be taken care of right away. Following the GTD principle of filing tasks, if it is an email that can be taken care of in less than two minutes, do it. Otherwise, label it for the appropriate category and, depending on whether you can take care of it with the resources you have on hand, or need to wait for someone or something else before you can take action, file the email into the Gmail/Action or the Gmail/Hold label.

If an email references a task you need to do, type it into your to-do list, which should be right next to you, in the sidebar. If it references an event or meeting you’ll need to attend, add an event into your GCal gadget. Conversation strings that you are holding, which you have already responded to, should go into your Gmail/Hold label, since you are holding the email for the time when the sendee responds.

From now on, make sure you sort or delete each and every unread email that arrives. The main idea is to keep as few emails in your inbox as humanly possible, and file your emails in the category(s) most appropriate for it, by tagging each email with the relevant labels. Then, go through your Action inbox at least once a day, and complete/respond to everything that you have time for at that moment. Don’t forget to go back later, and eliminate everything else! By taking this type of dedicated approach to pruning your incoming email, you can make sure that you’re staying on top of the things you need to do.

So hopefully, throughout this series, I’ve given you a few useful tips for maintaining your email, and inspired you to perhaps take control of your inbox. If this article didn’t quite tickle your fancy or spark your imagination, there’s plenty of other literature out there to provoke your interest. Perhaps within the pages of MakeUseOf, you’ll find the key you’ve been looking for to organize your life. Good luck!

  1. Shanda Renee
    September 20, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Ok nevermind I was able to use the 'view source' option.

    • Angelina
      September 21, 2009 at 9:42 am

      I'm glad you figured out how to embed gadgets XP When I was setting up, it took me a while too, especially to find urls for my gadgets.

      How are you liking the system?

      • Shanda Renee
        September 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm

        Since I switched to Google Chrome, I was only able to implement 'Filling the Sidebar' part of your system. I feel more productive already. Thanks for asking!

  2. Shanda Renee
    September 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm


    Thank you so much for all the organization tips. I switched to Google Chrome sometime ago but I managed to make use of most of your tips but I am stuck.

    I am not sure how to add the gadgets to my gmail sidebar. I tried using 'get the code' when selecting a gadget I want to use, but when I past it into 'add a gadget by url I get a 'Invalid gadget specification. Ensure URL is correct and the gadget does not contain errors.' error.

    Please advise with clear instructions.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Broker Boyce
    September 19, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Been using Gmail since it's inception with IE then Firefox and now Safari. Never had a crash because of it. We now use it for our staff emails, docs, etc. Fantastic! Thanks for the tips (1-3). I will be sharing them with all our staff.

    • Angelina
      September 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm

      Aww I'm flattered! I hope you see some improvement in efficiency XP (although... the first few days, not so much, while everyone is still implementing the tips and getting used to processing email differently).

  4. Vertx
    September 17, 2009 at 9:31 am

    What labels do you suggest/use for good organization.

    I have been hesitant to move my messages from my inbox, I label them as follows:

    AUTOMATIC [for ongoing auto-sent newsletters, messages etc]

    however I don't know if there are 'sub-tags' for each folder, for example in work I can also label the one shot without marking it both 'work' and 'projectname'

    • Angelina
      September 17, 2009 at 8:01 pm

      First of all, thanks so much for sticking with this series! ^__^

      As for sub-tags, there isn't REALLY one, but if you download the better gmail 2 extension for firefox, you can enable "folders4gmail," which allows you to nest your labels. What this does is allow you to make labels such as Work/ProjectName, which puts the label ProjectName into the Work folder. However, this doesnt label the email both Work and Projectname; it just allows you to make separate Work/ProjectName1, Work/ProjectName2, etc labels (where Work would be the folder, and ProjectName1 and ProjectName2 etc are the labels within that folder).

      As for what I suggest for you to label your emails as... there's nothing that works for EVERYONE, so just experiment, and try to see what you like the most. In my own experience, I prefer labels as specific as possible, so I can micromanage more. For example, rather than have an Event-Related tag (although you could do that too), I would have a, for example, Work/Meeting tag. Also, I strongly suggest having Action and Hold labels, so you can keep track of the things you need to do as soon as possible. If you'd like, take a look at part 1 of this series. I talk a bit more about labeling in there; i think it should help you :]

      good luck!

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