How to Organize Your Email To Save Time And Boost Productivity

ANNACOLIBRI, how to organize email, web presence, tech savvy marketing, values-based marketing
Use Keyboard Shortcuts For Faster And Healthier Email

If anybody had asked me even three years ago if I would be a Power User, I would have said, “no,” if for no other reason than . . . .

I didn’t know what a Power User was.

Times have changed and so have I. Maybe I’m not the most powerful user on the block, but more and more I try to use technology solutions to their fullest in order to save time and boost productivity.

Today I receive over 150 emails per day.

Duh. Email Takes Time

You are probably better at math than I am, but here goes:

30 seconds times 150 emails = 1 hour 15 minutes and that is if each of your emails really only takes 30 seconds to process.

1 hour, minimum, of email per day is a little daunting, to say the least.

The other aspect of it is that when you are dealing with large volumes of email, it is easy to lose the one that says you are in charge of carpooling — today.

And then the other mothers in the carpool get mad at you and the children are stranded in front of the school and turn to crime and . . . .

Well, you get the picture.

Email Has a Solution

I hate to nerd out on you but if you follow these suggestions, you will be able to:

  • Live out your Super Nerd fantasies
  • Organize your Gmail like never before
  • Get faster with Gmail keyboard shortcuts and
  • Avoid turning children into criminals (maybe)

Let’s get started with Gmail labels.

How To Organize Email Using Gmail Labels

You can think of Labels the same way you think of Folders, except that you can have more than one Label for each email. This feature is convenient if, say, you have a friend with whom you are working on project.

You can label that email “Friend” and “Work.”

Here are some Labels to consider:

  • Family
  • Finance
  • Friends
  • Vacation
  • Work

You can also use Labels to rank emails by importance or time sensitivity:

  • To Do
  • Time Sensitive
  • Pending

Use Labels the way you would use a filing system and organize them in a way that makes sense to you.

Here is a Google Tutorial that explains how to create Labels:

It is a little confusing at first to figure out where the “Label” button is. It looks kind of like a clothes tag:

Gmail Label




Realize, too, that you can custom color your labels.

screenshot of custom colors for Gmail Labels











As a newbie Power User, I wish I could import my own hex tags and choose the colors from my website or other custom colors, but you can still have fun with this!

How To Organize Email Using Filters

Once you have your Labels set up, you can use them in combination with your Filters.

Here is the Google Tutorial for using Filters:

To be perfectly honest, I find the above tutorial a little confusing. Here is one I like better that also explains more how to use Labels in combination with Filters:

Here’s my suggestion:

Don’t go crazy with Filters right away. Start by getting into the habit of using Labels. Set a “no brainer” Filter just to get started.

To manage my children’s complex and changing sports schedules, for example, I set up a Label called “Children’s Sports.”

Next, I set up a Filter for their coaches’ emails. Emails from their coaches are automatically marked as “Important” and Labeled as “Children’s Sports.” That way, I don’t have to label each email by hand.

When I need to retrieve information about sports, I just click on the Children’s Sports Label on the lefthand side of my inbox and, voilà, everything from their coaches appears before my eyes.

Pro Tip: If you want to take the functionality of Filters even further, read this post about 20, let’s say, Powerful Power User ways to use Filters:

Change Can Be Difficult

Adjusting to Labels and Filters is, well, an adjustment.

Like most technology, there is a learning curve that, once you get past it, will save you time and boost productivity.

If, like me, having a full inbox stresses you out, you will use the “Skip The Inbox (Archive)” Filter.

Skip the inbox (archive) screenshot











The potential problem with this is that your messages will be “out of sight, out of mind.”

My suggestion is this:

Schedule one to three times per day (I choose morning and evening) to do a once-over of your inbox, taking a careful peek at Labels such as “Important” and things that have to do with work or kids.

Don’t worry if it takes a little while to get used to Labels and Filters.

Have fun with it!

How To Organize Your Email Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Besides wanting to impress friends and colleagues with your Super Nerdabilities, there are a couple of reasons to use keyboard shortcuts.

They are:

  • Speed and
  • Health

It’s true, using keyboard shortcuts is fast.

All you have to do is try it and you’ll see what I mean.

In your Gmail settings (the gear towards the upper right), enable keyboard shortcuts. Then, hit “shift ?” A keyboard shortcut cheat sheet will pop right up.

You will learn that you can, for example, hit “g i” and go right to your inbox, no mouse needed. And, bonus, you are now officially a Power User — like me!

This brings us, believe it or not, to the health advantages of using keyboard shortcuts.

Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts Health Advantages

Those of you who know me know that, when I’m not blogging or coaching about how to use new media technology for marketing, know that I am a yoga teacher.

Friends, talk about adjustment. I have never been in more pain than when I stopped teaching seven yoga classes a week and giving massages and started sitting in front of a computer all day.

One of the most painful work-related thing I have experienced I will call Mousitis. Mousitis is what happened to my right shoulder from using a mouse all day.

If you’ve never experienced such a thing, all the better.

But, if you are noticing aches and pains, I think keyboard shortcuts will help you lessen repetitive strain because the actions required are:

  • Less “grippy” (not a technical term)
  • More varied and
  • More symmetrical

Avoiding problems like Mousitis help boost productivity because you will feel both happier and more energetic while you’re working and while you’re taking breaks or playing.

Take some time to learn how to organize email using Gmail Labels, Filters and Keyboard shortcuts. I believe you’ll be glad you did.

Your Turn

Do you have any ideas about how to organize email using labels or filters? Have you tried keyboard shortcuts? Let us know in the comments.


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