Email Loveliness

Introducing my recipe for email loveliness! While this precise configuration may not suit you perfectly, it's been working very well for me the past few months and has really allowed me to get closer to the GTD ideal without pain.

The Big Idea

The step-by-step config instructions are the below, but first, the concept. Many don't like the idea of mixing email with ToDo lists, but I think it's do-able. Assume that all email is a ToDo, and that you email yourself ToDo items that are to be done while at the computer. Use GMail's concept of 'Multiple Inboxes' to give yourself five categories of email.

  1. A true inbox of new email
  2. Do it Now - list of items (items with an expiration date)
  3. Waiting for - issues where you require a response
  4. Do it - items that needs to be done, but do not have an immediate expiration date
  5. Some day, Maybe - items that you've thought about doing, but don't necessarily have a need to do them.

Tactically, each box is setup to show mail/items marked with a different type of star. Note: various stars are available via the superstars extension. As email comes in, you either reply, mark with the appropriate star, or just read. Then archive message. Keyboard shortcuts let you cycle through the stars to get to the right one by repeatedly hitting the same key. If after reading the message you realize that you need to be reminded of this, add an event to your calendar via the calendar gagdet. Note: Make sure you've set the calendar to include a reminder to all events that emails you 2-days before the event. I also mark 'informational' messages with a star and leave it in my inbox. That way when I check my GMail on my mobile device, it'll be readily accesible.

At the end of the day, the only thing that's in your inbox are messages that still need to be replied to, and informational messages that should be handy. Now when you periodically review your lists, you'll see older items fall to the bottom and you'll easily be able to remove stars to make the messages disappear. I normally have 10 message in 'Inbox', 'Do It Now', and 'Waiting For'. I have 20 in 'Do It', and a growing list in 'Someday Maybe'.

To round out the power of GMail as your communication center: add a Facebook and Twitter gagdet, and you should be good to go.

Purists might not appreciate the wiggle-room, but the best system is the one that works for you.

Example of this in action

  • U2 Concert

    • Bought tickets from ticketmaster so I received and email from ticketmaster, archive it.
    • Use calendar widget to create an appointment, I'll get an email from my calendar 2 days before the concert.
  • Friend's Wedding

    • Bought airplane tickets, so I got an email from the airline
    • Mark it with a blue star - the reservation code will be handy from my blackberry for when I check in at the airport.
    • Create any additional reminders on the calendar
  • Replacing the air filter

    • I created a repeating event on my calendar to remind me to change the air filter every few months.
    • When I get the email, I mark it with a "Do It" star and archive it.
  • American Express

    • Got a reminder from American Express to pay my bill.
    • Mark it with the "Do It Now" star and archive.
  • Bought a camera on EBay

    • I bought a camera from ebay and ebay and me a note.
    • Mark it with a "Waiting For" Star and archive it.
  • Cosby Show

    • You remember a random episode of the Cosby show and figure you'd like to watch it.
    • Email yourself the note, mark it as "Someday Maybe" and archive it.

How to set all this up:

Settings -> Labs

  • Enable the following:

    • Youtube previews in mail
    • Picasa previews in mail
    • Superstars
    • Multiple Inboxes
    • Search Autocomplete
    • Navbar drag and drop
    • Signature Tweaks
    • Add any gadget by URL
    • Google calendar gadget

Save Changes

Settings -> General

  • Turn on Keyboard shortcuts
  • choose your superstars

    • I chose yellow exclamtion, red exclamation, purple question, blue info, blue star, and yellow star
  • show indicators
  • snow snippets

Save Changes

Settings -> Multiple Inboxes

  • Pane 0: has:red-bang -- do it now
  • Pane 1: has:purple-question -- where is it?
  • Pane 2: has:yellow-bang -- do it
  • Pane 3: has:blue-star -- someday maybe
  • Maximum page size: 20
  • Extra panels positioning: below the inbox

Save Changes

Settings -> Gadgets

Adding gadgets by URL:

Posted: February 25, 2010 | | comments

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