Gmail provides one of the most useful ways I have found to prevent being overwhelmed by your inbox. A few years ago, our practice switched from Outlook to Google Apps. This is Gmail for business. While I had enjoyed a Gmail account for personal use, our switch to Google Apps allowed me to use what has become one of my favorite email hacks. Controlling the flow of information and how I process it is one of the best ways I have found to manage my time.
With a setting easily accessible the preferences menu, you can tell Gmail to utilize an algorithm to decide whether a message is ‘important’ or ‘not important’. If you have any trouble, check out this help link. This has been invaluable, because I typically will leave anything Gmail doesn’t think is ‘important’ until later, then spend just a few minutes at the end of the day and delete it all in one fell swoop. Clustering tasks like this together is one way to improve your time management and avoid distraction.
How does Gmail decide what is important?
1) Who you email
2) Which messages you open
3) What keywords are common in messages you open
4) Which messages you reply to
5) Which messages you star, archive or delete
Gmail takes a little while to figure out your preferences, but after a few months, I found that I almost never had a message I cared to open slide past the ‘important and unread’ inbox. It also reacts to your tweaks, you can mark that annoying co-worker who directly emails you all the time as unimportant and after a few times, they stay unimportant until you change your mind. Just to be safe, though, I make it a practice to scan the ‘unimportant emails’ at the end of the day and delete them. This 30-second email hygiene task helps when I need to search for an email later.