Using Gmail

Back when I was corporate I quite liked Outlook but these days I use only Gmail. In this post I will describe my setup and how I use it.

The browser
Prism – a distraction free browser – is great for Gmail as my mailbox is separated from all the browser windows and tabs that seem to open as by magic during my work day… Does it happen to you too?

You’ve got mail!
I have no email alerts. I only check new mail when I’m not busy doing other stuff. I even have an icon for Offline Mail on my desktop, if I need to access information while working – without getting sidetracked by new mail.

Inbox Zero
Inbox zero is what keeps me sane. It’s not very complicated – whenever I check my inbox I will read (or skim) the emails it and for each email I will decide wether to delete it or label it, archive it or do some action.
Small tasks I do at once, other tasks may need more time or more information so they have to be postponed.
If this is the case I will label the email, add a star, archive it and forget about it for the time being.

Gmail really isn’t worth using without Labs. Go try it!

Stars & Superstars
A normal, boring, yellow star marks a work task.
A red star is marks lovely things; an invitation, a dinner date
A green star marks voluntary work tasks
A blue star marks….
All these coloured Superstars can be found via Labs.

Multiple Inboxes
Another Labs feature. I have 2 inboxes.
The first is my empty inbox – Inbox Zero.
The second is my all stars inbox where all the emails I have starred are listed. A kind of to-do-list.

Using labels is like tagging. I label almost every email I receive.
Labels are listed alphabetically but I’ve added another layer by labelling my emails with 1 – xxxx for private stuff, 2 – yyyy for email lists, 3 – zzzz for work projects and so on.
Work stuff is low on the list so I can check my private emails at weekends without getting sidetracked by work.
Out of sight is out of mind!

Email from mailings lists are filtered, labelled, archived and in some cases even marked as read.
Email from clients are filtered, labelled, starred and archived so they do not appear in my first inbox, but my second inbox.
Newsletter emails are filtered, labelled and archived and will only be read if I have the time.
I often add new filters as it really helps me organise my email.

Multiple email accounts
I have 5 email accounts and I access all via gmail.
Emails are always answered from the same email account.

Offline access
This is really smart! Sometimes my laptop and I find ourselves in a space without wifi, but I can still access all my email and even compose new mails while offline. I also like having a copy on my own computer and not only in the big google cloud in the sky.

There is a long list of gmail shortcuts. I started by learning a few and then adding a few more every other week. Shortcuts helps to prevent RSI. These are my favourites:
c – Compose
e – Archive
l – Label
? – show keyboard shorcuts help
g then a – takes you to ‘All mail’
g then i – returns you to the inbox

Every emailer should have a signature with contact details, website url, twitter name and other important stuff!

Out of office-message
is not relevant as I do not work in an office, but I do use the Vacation Time feature when I’m offline for more than a day or two.

Other tweaks:
Mark as read
Go-to label
Send and archive
Hide unread counts – no need to get stressed over the huge amount of unread emails, eh?
Navbar drag and drop – I just love costumising!
Flickr previews
Google docs previews

Yeah, and sometimes when I’m bored I look at ‘All mail’ and let myself be overwhelmed…

Getting organised. Or should I say: Staying organised?

I try hard, I try very hard to stay organised.

Boxes. Photo by Lisa Risager

The Problem
I hate being told what to do and when to do it. I hate clutter.
I also procrastinate. And I collect.

Web Apps or Paper & Pen?
I love webapps – Tadalist, Remember The Milk, Fogbugz, Delicious, Flickr, 23, Tumblr, Posterous.
I also love writing lists in gorgeous notebooks.
A stack of notebooks. Photo by Lisa Risager

Getting Organised
I love decluttering and organising. Categorising and tagging. Boxing stuff. I can spend weeks getting organised.

Avoiding the Subject
As I said before I hate being told what to do. Even if it is a web app kindly reminding me to… Have you ever decluttered your entire bedroom because your self-created todo-list told you to go buy a present for your friend’s birthday? I have!

The cycle then reaches the point where I realise that I’ve started ignoring the To-Do-List Web App Of The Month and as a result getting absolutely nothing done. I then start organising my kitchen cupboards even though the problem is the clutter on my desk.

Starting Over
I hate clutter. I can’t work when my desk, my mind, my computer, my life is cluttered. So I try out new solutions. Spend weeks putting everything into a new fancy system. In short, procrastinating instead of getting things done.

A Solution?
I think I’ve finally found what works for me.

  • To Do List: Teux Deux. It’s so very simple, but does excactly what I want it to do. Looks pretty too.
  • Memory & Links: Evernote. After loading links to Delicious for years but never being able to find them again I really enjoy Evernote because saving pictures with links makes it much easier for me to use.
  • Email, To Do List & Archive: Gmail with Labs features (Flickr preview, Multiple Inboxes, Superstars, Send & Archive)
  • Memory, Planning, Brainstorming: Mind42. I make lots of mind maps.
  • Using my pretty coloured pencils and my lovely notebooks.
  • Documenting cool stuff with my camera.

And finally: Just doing it.

PS – P52 is what helped me write this post!