But this was definitely no solution for the problem. So I recently decided it was time to think about a real solution.
I started reading blogs about how other people organize their mail. Soon I came to the conclusion that all those solutions are good in a certain way, but they didn't suffice for me.
So In this post I'll explain what I do want, how my labels look now and what gmail still lacks.
What do I want?I want to organize my mail so that I don't need to spend much time organizing it (apart from spending quite a lot of time with this now). This means that I have to be able to quickly process and search mail.
The most important things are these:
- I need to be able to access my most accessed labels fastest.
- I don't want an inbox full of mails.
- Things I don't need may not clutter my mail.
- I don't want to spend my time on mail I don't need.
- Be able to decide whether a message is important to read now or if it can wait.
Organizing my labels
When you rename this task, you can also add a timestamp for projects that return every year or every month, or you can sort the label more fine grained.
If you have many labels that are only for personal use, you could create a secondary ordering for example A/me/important.
If you create a label Z/unimportant you should delete that label and archive those mails as they are unimportant anyway! I use the Z label for backups of old mail, or for my starred messages as sometimes desktop mail clients delete all the stars.
The important remark here is that you should only label those messages with a Z that you want to find later, mail that you'll never need again needs to be archived.
You should make a filter for mailing lists. If you make the filter so that you never look at the mail anymore, you should unsubscribe from the list
Things that don't need a label
- all mail coming from one person, you can perfectly fine search for all that mail (from:person) and if typing that is too much, you can still create a quick link.
- unimportant mail.
What with new mail?
I think it's more useful to distinguish between important unread mails and other unread mails. That's why I have always two quick links: "important unread" and "unread". When I don't have much time I only read the important unread messages, and I can always come back to the other unread messages.
If there are then still mails that cannot be processed right away, I keep those mails in my inbox, so that they are always there when I open my mail. But that are the only mails in my inbox.
If you have mail that you don't need it anymore, archive it.
- For abbreviations I use all caps, other words with all small letters. (it doesn't matter what you use, but be sure to use it everywhere to keep things clean).
- I use simple and short names for labels.
- I write drafts of notes/text to myself and mail them to email@example.com. You can use the +note to create a filter and label those mails like this: A/notes. If I want to write nicely formatted text, I use google docs, and reply it to my note (the google docs gadget in labs makes drag and drop possible)
- I also have a filter for unwanted mail to mark the as read and archive/delete them, I use 1 filter for that, so I don't clutter my filters to much (this has the disadvantage that this filter becomes harder to edit if it becomes bigger).
- I don't keep a todo list in gmail because I forget to do those items, I use remember the milk for my todo list which you can integrate in gmail.
What gmail still lacks
Not much! that's for sure, it's becoming more and more feature complete with support for gadgets like google docs, calendar and remember the milk, quick links.
But 2 more things would be great:
- Search labels with wild cards, so you can do something like this: search for "l:L-*" to search for all emails from mailing lists.
- Support for folders in the labels (there are plugins for this though, but official support would be great as the plugins don't always seem to work)
There is one more thing, but I don't think this is really a gmail thing. It would be great if desktop mail clients would now when an email has a double label. Not having to mark those messages as read twice would be great.
ConclusionI've been using this scheme now for some days and I haven't yet found any issues with it. One small thing is that you manually have to change the prefix _ to P for projects that are finished.
This sort of scheme will probably not work for everybody but for me it's great so far!
Now it's time to sort my google reader subscriptions.