10 Steps to a Gmail Makeover

It all started a couple of weeks ago at the Google Teacher Academy for Administrators. Hank Thiele and Cory Pavicich did a fifteen minute segment on how to effectively use your Gmail. I have to admit, that even though I’m a major Google Apps user, I was still pretty much relying on Microsoft Outlook to keep myself organized. I must have been crazy.

When Hank and Cory started speaking I had over 14,000 e-mails in my inbox. I am happy to report that as of today, just about 14 days later, I am at inbox zero. Here’s what I did:

1. Archiving
I was not archiving my e-mails at all. When you archive an e-mail it moves out of your inbox, yet it will still come up in your search results. All you have to do is click the Archive button when you are in an e-mail or select a group of e-mails and click More Actions – Archive.

2. Delete
Once I started searching through my e-mails, I realized how much junk was in there. I deleted all the Mailer-Daemons and the solicited coupons /ads / catalogs that had expired.

3. Labels
I created three Labels (or folders) for my mail. The easy ones to quickly lower the number in my inbox were Labels for Twitter, Facebook and my administrator. I started with Twitter and did a search for anything from Twitter and then created a label named “Twitter” and moved it all there. I then did the same thing for Facebook and for my boss.

So, I am proud to say that about 30 minutes after Hank and Cory were done with their presentation, I had reduced my inbox from over 14,000 to about 8,000 just with the first 3 steps.

Over the next week or so I took the following actions to further reduce and organize my inbox:

Filter by e-mail address, subject, keywords, etc.

4. Filters
I created filters for mail coming in and applied them to existing messages. I took a look at the mail each day to see what I was receiving and created Labels and then filters based on what was appearing in my inbox. This took a few days as different e-mails come on different days of the week and it’s easier to organize your inbox a little at a time.

5. Mark as read
I went into each of the Labels that I had created and selected all the mail in the Label. I then “marked as read” and Archived all the messages in each of the Labels to ensure that none would remain linked to my inbox.

6. Colors
Since I accumulated numerous Labels, I began color coding them based on my personal system. But the colors are definitely helpful and if you use the filters, much of your mail will appear in your inbox with the colored Label attached to it. This helps me make a decision quickly as to whether or not it needs my immediate attention.

7. Delete some more
It did get to a point that I was not sure which Label to move some e-mails into and I did not want to make a “Miscellaneous” Label, so I needed to either select where to put things or make a decision as to if it was okay for me to permanently delete them. It was tough at first, but did I really need registration confirmations from January 2008?

8. Starred messages
Since I was used to using the feature in MS Outlook that allowed me to flag e-mails for follow-up, I needed to find a replacement in Gmail. The Starred messages feature in Gmail would accomplish exactly what I needed with a couple  of additional features. I took a look at what I had marked in Outlook that still needed attention and Starred it in Gmail. I then click on the “Starred” button and was able to view all of my Starred messages regardless of their Label.

9. Check out a few more things
Subscribe to the Office Gmail Blog to keep on top of new features as they are released as there is an entire Gmail Labs section that is worth taking a look at. While logged in, click on Settings and then on the Labs tab. Here you will see all the Gadgets that have been developed for Gmail. By default, they are set to “disable”, but you can choose those that you would like to enable and then click “save changes”. One that I chose to enable was the “Green Robot“. It changed the icons in the Google Chat window to indicate whether someone was chatting from an Android phone (which I frequently do).

10. Be Decisive
Hank gave a very wise piece of advice. He suggested that when you get a new piece of e-mail, make a decision about what to do with it. Give it a Label. Read it. Delete it. Archive it. But, don’t just leave it there. It took me 14 days to whittle down from 14,000 e-mails to zero. I feel like I’m going to be more responsive to people now as they are not going to get lost in the shuffle. Well, I hope so anyway.

Do you have any Gmail tips to share? I would love to hear them. Please share them here.

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My Droid, My Dream Come True

Image Source: http://www.productqas.com

I’ve been using my Blackberry 8830 since November 2007. I got it around the same time lots of my techie friends were getting their iPhones, but I refused to switch providers as my family has four lines and it was just too much to go through that kind of hassle. I’m sure you understand.

My Blackberry did everything I wanted it to. I was able to communicate through e-mail, Twitter and ultimately Facebook as well. But as time went by, browsing became an issue. The model I had did not have a built in camera and the multimedia functions of it were just not fulfilling my needs. So much so that when I was in my own home and other Wi-Fi environments, I got in the habit of using my iPod Touch to access all of my social networks and communication needs.

Then came the Droid.

This is an early holiday gift from my husband. (You’re welcome Chris. Now you don’t have to go shopping for me.) After reading and researching the Android Market and checking out the many features of the phone itself, I took a field trip to my provider’s store this past Sunday. Here are the initial features that sold me:

  • 3G network
  • camera (by the way it’s a 5 megapixels)
  • video camera
  • 3.7 inch touch screen
  • pre-installed apps (like Facebook and YouTube)
  • Wi-Fi capable

I turned off my Blackberry forever. It was funny. A few days later my 6-year old asked me if I missed it and I realized that for the last couple of years she’s known me to pretty much always have it with me. But the answer was easy. I didn’t miss it at all.

I walked out of the store, got in my car and just for fun used the Google Maps with Navigation over speakerphone to get home. The voice over the Droid gave me ACCURATE, turn-by-turn directions to get right to my driveway. Not that I won’t still use my Garmin GPS, but it’s nice to have an alternative.

One thing that the gentleman at the store explained to me is that I would no longer be able to use Microsoft Outlook to sync my Calendar and Contacts. Bummer. So, when I got inside, I fired up my computer and exported everything out of Outlook and imported everything into my Google Account. This is something I had planned to ultimately do anyway, I guess I just needed a reason. Check this out:

  • Google Over the Air updates – no need for a wire to sync your phone – it happens over the air and automatically – Holy Cow!!
  • Integrated Google and Facebook contacts – so someone calls me and I see their Facebook picture
  • Rotate the Droid and the screen changes to landscape, rotate again it goes back to the portrait orientation
  • Android Market
Image Source: http://www.dialaphone.co.uk

I’ve been downloading and using a few of the apps from the Android Market. There are about 10,000 apps there. I realize that for you iPhone users, there’s still no comparison, and I’m not writing about the Droid to bring it into the classroom, but because it’s such a great productivity tool for me. So here are the apps that I have downloaded and used so far with thanks to Damian Bariexca and Paula White:

  • Twidroid“twidroid is the industry-standard twitter client for android and among the most used twitter applications across all platforms. it’s available as a free and commercial pro version that supports all twitter features as well as functionality that is customized to the capabilities of android devices.”
  • Flashlightsimple white screen allows you to see in dark places
  • Mother TED“Mother TED allows you to watch the latest TED videos based on Themes, Talks and Tags.”
  • Where“WHERE is a bundle of cool GPS apps all wrapped into one. Are you looking for the hottest restaurants, jonesing for your next coffee fix, or need a cheap fill-up? Maybe you want to know the local weather, traffic or headlines? Whatever you are after, WHERE has it.”

It’s not quite yet a week. I have so much to learn. I’ve been bookmarking some great resources and I plan on posting more on the Droid in the near future. If you have one and care to share your experiences or some apps that have been helpful, please do. If you are thinking about getting one,  don’t hesitate to ask me about mine.