Email Productivity: My GMail Secrets

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by _rockinfree

With all the talk I’ve been doing recently, I thought I would write two final articles on how I actually process email. This week I’ll talk about GMail, which is how I process all non-employer email. Next week I’ll talk about Outlook and how I manage my email at work.

One Inbox

For all of my email addresses, everything goes to my GMail account. For non-Gmail accounts, I either POP the email from the server into GMail, or I set up an auto-forward so that the email comes into the same inbox.

This may seem confusing, but all of these emails have different email addresses. I know that all email from the blog is going to be from “”. All email from newsletters will have a “+newsletter” in the email address.

With this information, I can use the next item to filter my messages.


Labels in GMail are like folders, except that you can have multiple labels on the same item. I have labels set up for Processing, Blog, Girl Scouts, Current Projects, Reference and Archive.

GMail also lets you have child labels. So under Processing, I have labels for Action, Moderate, Read, Respond, and Waiting For.


Most of my email is filtered when it comes in. Email that is from the blog domain gets tagged with a “Blog” label. If it comes with the newsletter suffix, it is put in the Read label.

This allows me to quickly sort most of my email into various places, and I only end up dealing with 10-15 unclassified emails a day.

Quick Links (Google Labs)

Quick links make it possible for me to save searches so I can use them over and over again. Why would I want to do this, you might ask? Because most of the searches I do are long and tedious.

For example, I want to know everything that is in any of the Reference sub-labels, but is not tagged with Reference as well. Same with Archive and Blog. Then I have an “unlabeled” quick link that finds all the email that are not tagged Blog, Reference, Archive, one of my current projects, so that I can classify them.

I also have a quick link set up for email that I have sent from the blog that I haven’t categorized. This helps me keep track of everything going out of the blog.

Canned Responses (Google Labs)

Much of the email that I get has basically the same response. If there is a request for information for the Girl Scout meeting, I select the canned response with the details and use that as a starting point. For a Friday email that I send out for a group I belong to, I use the same start and finish text, stored in canned responses.

If there is a request for guest posting guidelines, that goes out from a canned response, as do responses to requests for me to review products for which I (or you) would have no use for.

These saves me a whole lot of time. It’s like an auto-responder that I can customize if I wish.


Boomerang for Gmail is not a native GMail option. It is an outside service. I discovered it when I was looking for a way to send email in the future. My Friday email commitment means that an email has to go out by 8 am on Friday, and I knew there was no way I would remember that on my own. Boomerang allows me to send the email out at a later date and time.

What Boomerang also does is allows me to automatically have email pop back into my inbox on a certain date. As I talked about in Simplify Responding to Email, it keeps me on top of my Waiting For items. It can also remind me if I haven’t heard back by a certain day – an even better way to handle Waiting Fors!


I’ve been a user of Catalog Choice for years. This service allows me to get off mailing lists and have people stop sending me regular mail that just ends up in the recycling. A few months ago, Catalog Choice sent me an email about a service called Unsubscribe.

Unsubscribe lets me unsubscribe from emails with one click. No more hunting the bottom of email lists looking for the button. Or even worse, using the button and finding it didn’t work, for whatever reason. Unsubscribe takes care of it, and allows me to file a complaint with CCAN if I can’t unsubscribe from the list because there is no link, or the link is broken.

It saves a lot of time for me.

What GMail features/labs/add-ins do you use to make it easier to process your GMail? Share below.

Photo by _rockinfree



  1. says

    As someone coming from Outlook to now doing everything in Gmail – it’s been an interested road making the switch. I am working on putting everything into one gmail account – but want to wait until I sort what’s in there now and get that number a little lower – less the new accounts get lost in the muck.

    A friend of mine introduced me to Active Inbox – which I really like. It helps so much with organization and labels. And creating a to-do list.