Before you implement the Gmail tips, tricks, and tools covered in this book, it’s important to take some time to identify your current email challenges, clean up your inbox, and devise a new system for managing your email.
A FOUR-STEP PROCESS FOR RESOLVING EMAIL OVERWHELM
A four-step process can help you get out of email overwhelm. Following this process helps you get the most out of this book and create a personalized Gmail management system that takes advantage of all the latest technology available to you, yet is customized to the way you work and the email problems you need to resolve.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR EMAIL CHALLENGES
Before making any changes to how you use Gmail or implementing any new tools, take some time to think about what your current email challenges are. If you purchased this book, you obviously want to save time by becoming a more productive Gmail user, but there are obstacles in your way.
Which of these common problems do you identify with?
- I’m overwhelmed with the volume of email I receive.
- I check email too often looking for important messages.
- I’m using only basic Gmail features and haven’t had time to learn and implement anything new.
- I forget to respond to important messages.
- I’m not able to find old or archived messages.
- I read the same messages multiple times before taking action.
If you’re like most people, you could probably check off several of these items. Before I started using my current Gmail system, I was overwhelmed with messages (thousands of them in my inbox) and spent too much time checking for critical messages.
STEP 2: ANALYZE THE AVAILABLE SOLUTIONS
After you identify the email challenges you want to resolve, read through this book with an eye to related solutions. Solving your email challenges is often a combination of implementing the following:
- Gmail features you’re not currently using—Many Gmail users don’t go beyond the basics of sending, viewing, and responding to messages. Effectively maximizing the potential of Gmail features such as labels, filters, tabs, stars, and Gmail Labs tools can make a big difference in your email productivity. See Chapter 3, “Maximizing Gmail Efficiency,” and Chapter 4, “Using Gmail Labs Features,” to learn more. In addition, Chapter 5, “Using Inbox by Gmail,” covers Google’s time-saving email management app.Figure 1.1 shows an example of filters, a popular and powerful Gmail feature.
Gmail third-party tools—Numerous third-party tools exist that extend Gmail’s functionality and connect it with other popular applications. Chapter 6, “Extending Gmail with Third-Party Tools,” and Chapter 7,“Extending Gmail with Browser Tools,” introduce you to many of these tools.Figure 1.2 shows an example of a popular third-party tool, Boomerang for Gmail.
FIGURE 1.1 If you receive a lot of messages, using filters can save you hours a month.
FIGURE 1.2 Schedule email to send later and track messages with a third-party tool such as Boomerang for Gmail.
- Email productivity methodologies—You can’t control your Gmail inbox with tools alone, no matter how innovative or powerful they are. You must combine them with a solid email management process. See “Processing Your Email,” later in this chapter, to learn how to create a system that works for you.
STEP 3: PERFORM A ONE-TIME INBOX CLEANUP
Next, delete any messages you obviously don’t need from your inbox and unsubscribe from any newsletters you don’t read. This one-time task will help purge your inbox of unnecessary items before you start organizing it and implementing the tools and techniques described in this book. See “Cleaning Up Your Inbox,” later in this chapter, for more information.
STEP 4: IMPLEMENT AND FINE-TUNE YOUR NEW EMAIL SYSTEM
After reading this book and getting a first-hand look at the available Gmail features and tools, select and implement the ones that best meet your needs.