Update 9/25/14: I now use Mailbox…it’s great, and is way more Inbox 0 than what I describe here. But read on!
I kind of roll my eyes at productivity posts, and yes, this is another productivity post. But, I’m really good at Inbox 0 and have been complimented a few times on my Gmail set up, so…time to share!
In short, my process is like this: open Gmail and see 15 unread messages, process them very quickly by either just marking them read, or by quickly reading then starring to address later. After you address a starred item, un-star it. This is the most important part. The starred section should only be current action items.
It’s all about the Gmail settings – I’m surprised how many people aren’t so familiar with it (also surprised it is taking Google so long to redesign that section). So, first things first:
Navigate to Settings, then Inbox:
Make sure “Priority Inbox” is selected to get rid of those (stupid) tabs. Note that you’ll have to do some more work to mark junk mail read instead of it automatically going into a tab, but I haven’t found that a big deal.
Then select “Options” next to the inbox sections and set them up like above. I limit Unread at 50, Starred at 10, then Important and Everything Else at 25.
It’s most important to keep the starred at max 10. Try to keep an eye on the dates – if you notice everything there is from the past 2 days, you know you need to go through everything.
Filters & Labels
I also set up a couple of filters that label messages according to what email address they go to. That way I can see very quickly which emails need attention immediately – I try to use each address for specific purposes (Gmail address for junk, notlaura.com for work).
Since the first thing you do when opening your inbox is mark as read, wouldn’t it be nice to have a less buried button? Well, you can! Navigate to Settings > Labs, find the “Mark as Read Button” and “Undo Send” options and enable them. Also appreciate the circa 2003 screenshot.
I’m super surprised Gmail doesn’t push this more or make some of the functionality native. Especially the “Undo Send” – isn’t that, like, the coolest?
Anyway, there you go! Happy emailing.