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How To Use Gmail to Organize Your Life

By Edited Feb 28, 2014 2 2

Google is constantly developing new web applications and software to improve your quality of life on the internet.  They have made leaps and bounds in all sorts of technological fields.  However, sometimes we get so caught up in what's coming next with this giant company, that we don't stop and look at all of the features we have access to already.

One of Google's most used services is their email, Gmail.  This is a very popular email service, and for good reason.  They are constantly improving, giving users more space, and integrating other services into the experience.  Included below are just a few of the cool features and organizational tips that you can take advantage of in the Gmail ecosystem.  There are also some more general tips to keeping all of your emails, regardless of client, more organized.

Use Tabs Efficiently

If you have been using this email service for any period of time, you probably have seen the tabs by now.  At the top of the window, you will see that messages are filed in categories like "Primary", "Social", and "Promotions".  You can also click the "+" button to see the "Updates" and "Forums" tabs too.

I recommend that you fully make use of this automatic filing system.  Google does a pretty good job at putting emails in the right places to begin with.  But it's not perfect.  Luckily, you can put unused tabs to good use.  For instance, I have no need for the "Updates" one, but I have all emails associated with my websites go there.  Other email services allow you to create categories for different senders, but by using this Updates tab in Gmail, I can see and isolate any emails that come to me concerning my websites, domain names, hosting, etc.  If you are like me and get tons of emails every day, it can be nice to be able to click a button and then only see the important stuff.

tabs

The "Social" tab is another pretty unused one that can be put to good use.  It automatically files emails from social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.  But really, who gets email updates about their Facebook feed these days?  We all have smartphones that automatically notify us when someone likes our picture.  It's much faster, so getting email updates is pointless.  But you could use the "Social" tab for anything.  To file emails somewhere else, simply right click them and click "Move To Tab".

Quick tip: you can also disable unused tabs through the "+" button mentioned earlier.  Don't worry or feel like you have to find a use for everything if you don't get a lot of emails.

Block It Out / Make Custom Filters

This one's pretty simple.  Gmail has pretty good spam protection, but it isn't great.  If you can't get annoying emails that keep you disorganized away, then block them.  Period.  No more problem.

The best way to do this is to create a custom filter.  To do this in Gmail, click on the email from the person you want to block.  Click the "More" drop down arrow and click "Filter messages like this".  You then click "Create filter with this search" and tell Google you want emails from that sender put in the trash.

This can be used for good too!  You can have Gmail automatically classify emails from your family as "Important" so you never have to worry about missing Mom's message.

custom filters

Star Your "To Do" Items

This tip isn't unique to Gmail, and I would recommend it to you regardless of what email client or service you use, as most have a similar feature.  It's pretty simple- whenever you get an email of something that needs to be done, or you want to remember for later, click on the little "star" outline to the side of the message.  You can then see all of your starred message by clicking "Starred" on the left side column.  Why bother writing all of the work things you need done in a separate to do list application when you could just click a button?

Don't worry about important messages, things that you need to keep and such.  These can be filed under the "Important" section, everyone has one of these automatically, so they will be kept in there.

This way as you get things done, you can un-star them and move them to other places such as your Archives.  Furthermore, when you log in to Gmail, starred messages show up very clear and bold as opposed to everything else.

Start Unsubscribing

Lastly, and probably most importantly, we are going to talk about email list subscriptions.  Obviously this tip applies to everyone, not just Gmail users.

Usually it happens unknowingly.  But slowly, over time, you have probably built up a ton of lists that you are subscribed to, and receive email updates on.  Before you know it, you've got 1500 unread messages, and are getting dozens a day.  This is way too hectic, and I don't have any way of organizing that many emails.

I do however, have a tip.  Cut them off.  As many as possible.  Think about all of the emails from companies that you are getting.  Every time you make a purchase, inquire about a policy, join a website, put yourself on a blog email list, get a forum reply, etc.  There is simply no reason to keep receiving all of these.

If at all possible, I recommend unsubscribing from everything.  The only reason that Amazon, American Eagle, and Auto Trader keep sending you emails is because they know that if you are constantly spammed with messages, it will get them in your head and make you more inclined to make a purchase.  Aren't you spending enough money on impulse buys anyway- why make it worse?

I used to buy a lot of clothes online.  So I was always receiving sales newsletters.  Jeans are on sale this week, sweaters this week, etc.  And then I would end up buying stuff I didn't need.  I had not decided to buy new jeans, I just felt obliged to buy them since the email said they were 40% off.  Stop the madness, start unsubscribing.

 

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Comments

Mar 10, 2014 4:56pm
dixie
Thanks for the post. I must go in and unsubscribe to some sites. Yes it does get crazy going through emails sometimes taking an hour or more daily.
Mar 11, 2014 6:44pm
nazrahim
Good, time-saving instructions to put into more efficient use a tool that is already widely used
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