Organise your Gmail Inbox For Increased Productivity (and Fun) (Part #2/3 )

Get more of your time back by immediately implementing these small, time-saving tweaks. While you’re at it, you can make your inbox more pleasurable to look at.

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Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

This writing is part #2/3 of a mini-walkthrough on how I organise my Gmail inbox. Read in part #1 How I “Zero My Inbox” for the system I follow to keep my inbox as good as empty.

These are the settings we will adjust:

1- Make templates with pre-written messages for recurring topics

If you often get the same request and reply with the same answer, why not automate (part of) it?

When I come across an issue, I typically try to solve it with a Google Sheets template. The first template I shared publicly for tracking expenses worked (and is working) really well for me, so I decided to share it with whoever might need it in a Medium article. People can have a look at the template, and then make a copy of their own if they like how it looks and give it a try for themselves.

I soon started receiving requests for edit access regularly. To prevent this from happening, I put instructions in the Medium article, so readers will know how to get access to it, and added a short text to the title of the template, as well as some visuals that show you where to click.

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The “how to use the template” helper.

I reply to every request with a very similar message. I thank the writer, send them a short how-to-copy tutorial via email, and often tell them to contact me in case they need any further support. That usually does the trick, since I barely receive follow-ups on this email, so I assume that it helped. I could omit the edit requests by sharing a link that takes people straight to their copy, but I’d rather have them look at it first, and then decide whether or not they want to use it.

How to make an email template?

In your Gmail inbox, start composing a new email as you normally would. Type out your generic reply. When done, click on “More options” (the three vertical dots in the lower right corner, next to the trash can). Scroll up to “Templates”. Then click “Save draft as template” > “Save as new template”. In the popup, name your template, and click the “Save” button.

Steps to follow to make an email template in Gmail.
Steps to follow to make an email template in Gmail.
Follow the steps, starting with the 3 dots with “More options”.

How to insert the newly made template?

After creating one, the template will always be at your disposal. This time when you click on “More options” > “Templates”, you will find the template you just saved in this list by name. Click on it to insert it. Now you won’t ever need to start from scratch again when writing a longer but generic response.

What if I want to make adjustments or change something?

First insert your template by following the previous steps. This time, instead of “Save as new template”, you will click on one of the existing templates to overwrite it. See the headings of the dropdown menus.

2 — Automatically archive emails

If certain emails are always archived in the same folder, you can send them directly to this folder without your manual interference.

You find the archive function (or “label” as it’s called in Gmail) in your settings. In the upper right corner, click on the gear icon “Settings” > “See all settings” > “Filters and blocked addresses” > “Create a new filter”.

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Click on the “Settings” icon, and follow all steps above.

First you have to choose what your emails should get filtered by. In the example below chose to sort by sender. Anyone on this list who sends me an email, their emails get archived straight away.

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Anything from Ryan & co should not reach the inbox, and get a label “Reading List” to be archived there.

For example: I want all educational emails to not appear in my inbox (“Skip inbox”), and go straight to the Reading List folder, where I will go through everything later (“Add label”). So I check those two boxes, and attend my reading list when I want.

It depends on what you want and where (in which folder) there’s a need for reducing incoming email volume. Best is to have a look at your inbox to see where it could use some cleaning or reorganising.

3 — Change the colours and icons of stars

I promised fun, didn’t I?

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The different colours and shapes of the star.

If you are into colour coding and visual stimuli, this is for you. Instead of the default yellow plain star, there are more colours and also icons to choose from.

These extra nudges help make emails stand out more in the inbox. You can find them in “Settings” > “See all settings” > “General”. Scroll all the way down in this tab. Drag the colours and shapes you like from “Not in use” to “In use”. Don’t forget to click the “Save changes” button at the bottom when you’re finished.

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4 — Add emojis to inbox labels

Did you know you could do this? When inside your inbox, in the left column, hover over one of your existing labels. A popup will appear where you can edit the name of your label. Press control + command + space (on Mac) for the emoji keyboard and insert the ones you like by clicking on them.

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Which would you prefer?

I like to archive all the things. There’s indentation running several levels deep. The emojis in my labels help me to faster find the labels I’m looking for. And they make the inbox look more cheerful.

Inserting templates as a reply and automatically placing emails in their designated folder saves me time. The coloured stars and emojis in the label names give my eyes a feast and make the little girl inside me happy each time I look inside the inbox.

Overall, I hope there was one thing in this mini-walkthrough that you found useful. There’s one final part coming up that I took out of this writing, namely setting up a “zap” to automatically reply to incoming emails.

As always, thank you for reading!

Written by

Writing my way to progress. Topics: personal growth, life lessons, tooling & (failed) ventures.

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