Most people believe that Gmail is great as it is. It does the job: communication, storing messages, and maybe occasional Hangouts chat. But if you’re a power user and Gmail is an essential part of your business, keeping it organized and uncluttered will require some direct actions from you. We’ve gathered seven great tips for using emails effectively and stay on top of your inbox.

1. Forward messages to one inbox

Before you even start managing your inbox, ask yourself – “Which one of them?”. Most of us don’t have just a single email address. There’s your personal inbox, your work email, your “old” or college mailbox, junk inbox, etc. Not all of them are important, but you might occasionally be receiving some messages which require your immediate attention. If that’s the case, then you might find yourself checking multiple inboxes in a row, monitoring them for updates, not prioritizing your work and damaging the overall productivity. There are several things you can do to avoid this.

First of all, completely avoid checking all of your other inboxes, except for the one you use for work. All your social media notifications, sale promotions, and updates should not interrupt your workflow. However, if you have multiple work inboxes (let’s say one is your personal work email, another is your company’s support inbox, etc.) it would be better to at least not keep them all open at the same time. The best solution is to set up automatic email forwarding in Gmail (also known as Gmail mass forward).

Once a new message arrives to, let’s say, your personal email address, it will be automatically forwarded to your work inbox. This means that you can be receiving messages addressed to your multiple Gmail accounts inside a single inbox. This won’t reduce the email clutter, but you won’t be constantly switching between multiple inboxes or missing some important messages on the other accounts.

To set up automatic email forwarding, go to the Settings of the account you’ll be forwarding messages from and open the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab. Add a forwarding address of an account you want to receive messages in and a confirmation email will be sent there. Additionally, you can then configure what Gmail should do with the messages in the source inbox, including archiving them or marking as read.

Congratulations on making your first step towards managing emails effectively!

2. Clean up your inbox

You’ve probably already heard many bits of advice about managing emails effectively and what to do with new messages so they don’t clutter your inbox. They are all great, but what should you do about everything that is already in your inbox? About several years of communication and notifications you’ve never bothered to delete or archive! If you’d like to change that and see your inbox cleared, there are better ways than manually going through the emails one by one.

If you have a lot of unarchived or even unread messages but would like to clean up the inbox, you’ll have to sort out these messages first. And, as you haven’t touched those emails in months, they are probably unimportant or irrelevant to your current activities. Basically, you can delete or archive them without a second thought. It’s generally advised to remove messages that are at least a month old as newer messages might still be relevant. Doing this manually would be a chore, so you can use Gmail advanced search for that.

The search in Gmail is very flexible, allowing you to find all emails meeting some criteria. You can find emails which you’ve received a month ago or earlier. Enter “older_than:1m” in the search bar where “1m” means one month (you can go with 2 just to be sure). Click on the Select button (the one with a checkbox) and select All. This will select all messages on the first page, but if you want to select all messages in the inbox, click on the “Select all conversations that match this search” on top of the search result. Now you can Archive (or even delete) every old message and keep your inbox clean.

NetHunt has a similar advanced search feature, complementing the search in Gmail. You can search through NetHunt CRM folders and records using the same Search bar. The search syntax is very similar, allowing you to find and filter records based on the fields. You can check out the advanced search capabilities of NetHunt CRM in our blog.

3. Touch It Once email management rule

How often do you open an email, read it and… do nothing about it? No, if it demands an answer you’d probably give one, but even after that, the email remains hanging in your inbox. For such cases, there’s another useful email management rule known as “Touch It Once”. It means that once you’ve opened an email, you MUST do something about it and don’t get back to it later. This means that after reading it you must archive or either delete it so it doesn’t clutter your inbox. If it’s some sort of a task for you, you must put it down somewhere else (into your to-do list, put a To-Do label on it, set a follow-up, etc) and then archive it.

As for the times when you’ve replied to a message and need to archive them, you’ll usually have to go back to the inbox and manually archive it. You can simply forget to do so in favor of other pressing matters, so Gmail s another tool for inbox management pros. Enable Send and Archive button in the General tab of the Settings and now, when replying to a conversation, a new “Send and Archive” button will appear next to the usual send.

4. Use stars to mark important messages

There are several ways of helping yourself in remembering to get back to a certain email later. You can mark an email as unread so it would stay in your inbox, but you’ll have to do so each time you open that email just to check what’s so important about it. Another more convenient option is to star a message. You can do so in one click and it’ll allow you later to easily find and group those messages. While it’s a good option, it still lacks some flexibility.

By default, Gmail allows you to set a single star (a yellow one) for Gmail messages. In case this is not enough for you, you can enable more stars and some other symbols for marking your messages. Go to Settings and, under the General tab, you can manage the available stars options. This includes other colors and some other symbols which would attract your attention and categorize your messages. But there are obvious downsides to Gmail stars: you’ll have to cycle through them all before you get to the one you want and there’s no way to make Gmail sort by star color if you want an additional layer of organization.

NetHunt CRM tip: Use Follow-ups

Follow-ups in NetHunt CRM are similar to the native Gmail stars, but help you to organize emails and records even better. You can set color-coded flags for records and emails and NetHunt CRM will create a follow-up for it. But the most important aspect of Follow-ups is that you can set a date for them, letting you quickly create tasks with due dates. Follow-ups are all grouped by due dates and it will make Gmail show tasks in the sidebar where they are easily accessible.

5. Organize messages using labels

Sometimes it comes as a surprise that there are no folders in Gmail. So the question arises: how to manage Gmail inbox without folders? You can’t create one and store emails inside like you do with files in Windows or macOS. As an alternative, Gmail suggests you use labels. They help you to tag emails, organize and find them faster by those tags. One major advantage of labels over folders is that an email can have several labels, while it can not be a part of several folders. This makes it easier to categorize messages when they fall under different categories.

Gmail has several labels preconfigured by default (inbox, drafts, archived and everything else in the left sidebar is, technically, labels), but you can create your own labels. Go to Settings and open the Labels tab. At the bottom, you can create a new label and add it to the sidebar. This would allow you to assign custom labels to every message you need. Additionally, you’ll see those labels in the inbox which is great for navigation.

NetHunt CRM tip: folders, records, and display fields

You can create folders in NetHunt CRM. These folders store records with attached emails and other information in the record’s fields. The data from fields can be displayed inside emails similar to labels. Unlike static labels, this information is always up-to-date, allowing you to check the status of the emails (for example, if you’re managing sales in the inbox, NetHunt CRM will show you in which pipeline stage the contact is). This makes NetHunt an effective Gmail email manager in addition to being a customer relationship management system.

6. Use canned responses for recurring messages

There are often times when you need to send the same message over to different recipients. You can either have a separate document with drafts of such messages or paste in old messages from Sent. But this isn’t very comfortable, as it’s always better to the necessary draft exactly where you’ll be using it, i.e. in the email compose window. For this purpose, you can enable canned responses in Gmail Labs.

One of the most popular Gmail inbox management tips is to go to Settings and under the Labs tab enable Canned responses. Now, after composing a message, you’ll be able to name and save that message for later use. Canned responses are available by clicking on the arrow in the bottom left corner of the Compose windows. This gives you a quick access to templates, allowing you to quickly send often used messages or to provide standardized answers to frequently asked questions.

7. Create searchable email subjects

As good as the search capabilities of Gmail are, even they can hardly help if you don’t remember anything about the message to use as the search query. You can always try searching by a name, date or apply search filters, but still, that is if you remember some details about the message. To completely remove a “remembering” part out of your emails and to especially improve the email management for small business, you need to use a system which will work for you every single time.

It’s always better to compose as detailed subject lines for emails as it’s appropriate. If you’re managing sales through email, do not send messages with subject lines like “Nice to meet you” or “Follow-up about the offer”, not only because they are irrelevant and might seem spammy, but also as they carry no organizational substance. Always state the contacting reason as clear as it’s possible. A subject like “Meeting with J Smith on 21 October 2016 about the special offer” immediately explains everything and it’s easier to search because you’ll remember at least the topic, or date, or a person and it’ll make it easier to search in the list of emails if Gmail doesn’t immediately suggest the correct message.

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