We send and receive lots of emails daily. Many of the messages we receive are important ones requiring some further action or reply – but most of these emails are automatic notifications and updates from our social networks and subscriptions. How to make sense of all this clutter? How do we not miss something really important in that mess?
There are a lot of ways to. For example, you can use scheduled reminders not to forget to get in touch with the person again. Or you can schedule emails and delay replies in Gmail or use Gmail Priority inbox to reduce the clutter. And of course don’t forget our Ultimate Guide To Gmail for plenty of tips on how to make the most of Gmail.
This post looks at one such tool that helps you better organize your Gmail inbox (by taking the full advantage of Gmail labels). ActiveInbox, formally known as GTDInbox and GTDGmail, is a handy Gmail companion that makes the proper use of Gmail labels to help you get your inbox better organized.
Step 1: Install & Set Up ActiveInbox
The first thing you will need to do is to install the tool. It is installed as a regular browser addon and can run on FireFox and Google Chrome.
After installing the tool, you will need to create your first Status labels that help you turn emails into tasks. Status labels are regular labels in Gmail – you can add or remove them later to suit your needs as you start using ActiveInbox.
After this is done, you will see the following taskbar on top of each of your emails:
Playing With New Label Types
Basically, what the tool does is rearrange your existing labels to make your inbox easier to manage. You can see it in action in this video :
With the tool you’ll be encouraged to mark every message using the main three status labels:
- Action: Track important emails until the tasks are completed;
- Some day: Track email you don’t know how to deal with but feel they are too important to be deleted or ignored completely;
- Waiting on: Track emails that you plan to reply in the nearest future.
Once you choose any of the statuses, the message becomes trackable via ActiveInbox’s sidebar.
This is the key to safely emptying your inbox: give your actionable emails Status, archive them and use your sidebar to track them until they’re complete.
You can now quickly load the list of messages which, for example, are waiting for a reply and even preview them in the pop-up screen:
From there you can also change the status label or archive the email as done or skipped.
Projects & References
While status labels categorize the emails as tasks based on which action they require, projects are meant to organize your messages thematically. You can turn your existing labels into projects or create new ones:
Reference labels are meant to make your messages easy to retrieve later, e.g. R/MeetingNotes, R/Invoices, R/Receipts.
Browse Emails More Efficiently
Apart from helping you to organize your inbox, the tool also adds a few nice features that let you quicker dig into each specific email conversation:
- See ‘previous emails‘ for compose/reply view
- Browse related emails in conversation view
- See ‘Contact History‘ popup on right-click on a contact
- Preview emails in the inbox and search results on right-click
The best thing about the tool is that you can use it “as much as you want of it”. ActiveInbox’s preferences hiding behind the About & Help link in the sidebar let you set every bit of the tool feature range:
Tips and Tricks
All in all, the tool does a great job helping you make sense of your Gmail (or Google Apps) inbox. Here are a few helpful tips to make the most of it (note: you can do most of these with Gmail even without the tool but with ActiveInbox it seems just so much more fun):
- Don’t check your inbox multiple times a day and reply to each new one – it is so inefficient. Better set up status and project labels to let your inbox get sorted by itself.
- Never forget to follow-up: let your emails hang in the “Waiting on” folder until you hear back.
- Set up Gmail filters for all “service announcement” emails (Facebook notifications, Twitter updates, etc.) to put them into a special label and archive automatically. That way you can read them when you want to, but they don’t clog your inbox.
Do you think this tool might help you organize your inbox? Please share your thoughts!