Email Overwhelm: Making Gmail Work for You

Years ago receiving an email was exciting, so you’d enjoy taking time to craft a reply.

Today, our inboxes are crammed full of emails. Many of us maintain multiple email addresses, which complicates the already complex daily ritual of deciding which unread messages are important and need to be addressed immediately, which can wait, and which can go directly to the trash. For many educators opening an email can be a burden because the task of determining what needs to be addressed and what doesn’t eats into the time needed to prepare for another school day.  

In their new book Hacking Google for Education, Brad Currie, Billy Krakower, and Scott Rocco give you 99 Hacks in 33 chapters, covering Google in a unique way that benefits all stakeholders.

The inbox in Gmail doesn’t have to be an unmanageable and overwhelming experience.


Using Gmail Features to Organize Emails

Gmail is more than an email service. Its amazing features will organize your email and your time. It will quickly control your inbox and end your struggle with organizing and filtering emails. Get familiar with the search box at the top of your Gmail page. This versatile tool has multiple functions to get you organized quickly and to filter emails.  

Clicking the downward triangle to the left of the blue search button opens up a world of options in your Gmail. The first of these search your email.  By clicking on this button you search your email by specific default folder  or by the folders you establish – its default is “All Mail.” You can also search only unread emails or those you have already reviewed. This search option will prove useful when you are looking to clean out your email inbox immediately.

You can also search for emails that have attachments, a specific size, or are from a specific date range. Once you get comfortable with those  Gmail features, you can take filtering further by creating custom filters for your emails so Gmail works for you.

Apply This To Your Classroom

Create folders for each of your classes.  One of the main reasons we lose control of our many inboxes is that we don’t take advantage of email features that organize incoming messages. Any classroom teacher would benefit from developing folders that store emails after you answer them. You can organize these folders by subject (for example, Science Class), or by period (for example, Period 4  World History).

We also suggest you add the school year or some way of identifying sections: Pd 4 WH 2017-18 would represent period 4 World History in the 2017-18 school year.

Creating a folder is simple: Click on the box to the left of an email, which will give you access to a row of features,  including a folder. Select the folder feature, click “Create new,” and name the folder.

If you want to take your organization a step further, use the “Nest label under” feature to put the folder inside another folder. From this point on you can simply drag messages into the folder or click the box to the left of the email and then identify which folder you want to send your message to on the folders icon.

Creating folders and putting emails in those folders will help you organize and declutter your inbox so you can find emails faster. It will also help you get your inbox to the often unattainable zero unread messages goal.

Apply This To Your School

Create labels for grade-level staff, departments, and/or committees. Every school organization consists of many different groups: grade-level groups, subject-specific departments, various committees, parent organizations, and outside affiliations.

One of the best ways to keep track of the information regarding these different groups is to create labels for your emails.

The process of creating a label is identical to creating a  folder. Labels identify types of emails, such as emails from staff members, whereas folders serve as a place to hold those messages.

To create a label, click on the box to the left of the email you want to label. Then, find the label tab to the right of the folder tab at the top of your screen. Clicking on it will allow you to create a new label and manage existing labels.

Scott found two exciting things about using labels. First,  you can put more than one label on an email. Second, once you establish a label for a specific sender, that label is automatically put on the email when it is sent to your inbox. This makes putting it in a folder that much easier.

You need to develop a system for your labels. Just as with your folder names, you need to create a structure. Although it’s up to you, it’s a good idea to include the group or organization. We suggest not including a year since labels are for specific senders and may span more than a year. For example, you may be on a professional development committee that is not limited to one school year.

Apply This To Your District

Create a filter for emails coming from a specific person or organization. If you work at the district level,  many different people and organizations email you.

If you’re on a number of mailing lists, emails from organizations or businesses can really clutter your inbox. You can manage all types of emails by creating filters for them and letting Gmail work for you as they come into your inbox.

Creating a filter is as easy as creating a folder or a label. First, click on the upside-down triangle in the Gmail search box. Then, input criteria for the search you want to do. It can be a specific email address sending you the message, a  specific subject that many people are responding to, or any of the other choices the search box gives you as filtering criteria.

Once you have the criteria in the search area, you  will notice at the bottom of the drop-down menu there is  a feature called “Create filter with this search.” It will turn blue once you enter the criteria.

Using filter criteria, you can weed out emails from particular senders by clicking on “Delete it.” If you want to attach a label, click on “Apply the label” and then identify the label from the drop-down menu. You can highlight essential messages with the “Always mark it as important”  option.

Don’t be limited to just one filter. You can put multiple filters on emails.

Controlling Inbox Chaos

Opening your inbox in Gmail doesn’t have to be an unmanageable and overwhelming experience. By organizing it with specific folders, using labels,  and creating email filters, you will get control of those emails.

You’ll also get back the time you used to spend reading through messages and figuring out what to do with them. Use that time for more exciting educational endeavors.


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