Organizing Your Gmail Inbox with GTD labels


Where I live it’s hot in the summer,  it often rains in the afternoon and you can almost see plants grow in the garden. Unfortunately,  it’s not only the plants – the same can be said for the weeds. Yesterday I pulled a weed out of a flower pot that was the size of a small,  thorny bush!

I swear it must have grown that much in a week!

You can go out in the garden an pull weeds,  but the next morning it seems like they are all back again. That reminds me of my inbox. Once you start paying attention to how and where you spend your time, Im sure the inbox is a time thief of gigantic proportions.
The other day I read a forum post where someone said “I’ve had to start unsucbscribing from most gurus – they just try to sell me stuff”.
I was pleased to see that I’m not alone.
For weeks now I’ve been on am mission of unsubscribing from newsletters I no longer read,  people who send me nothing but sales pitches  (you know who you are),  and topics I no longer have time to read. But even if I’m on a mission to unsubscribe to non-essentials – the inbox is still a bit of a chore every day.
A couple of months back I found my way to GTD.  I read the book, sort of went through the process,  but what ended up remaining with me was the sorting of the inbox.
The way you sort items into next action, to do, errands, some day, projects etc. in GTD works really well for me.  At least in the inbox.
As you know, I use gmail.  I love that I can label and colorcode, but most of all, I like that I can send emails from different email addresses.  If you’re running several websites, this function alone is a life saver.
I created special GTD labels in my inbox @next_action, @todo, @project, @reference, @waiting. I’m using the sign “@” so that the labels got placed first in my label list – above my other labels such as “joe”, “recipes” etc.
I also have an embarrassing category called @read – I’ll get back to that one in a little bit.
I label or delete or archieve things in my inbox with this system.  I try to not keep anything in the inbox other than next action items.  The problem is always to make a decision on what to do with a particular email.
Do I want to keep it?  If so, should I label it @reference, @read, @todo or @next_action? The @read is not a GTD category, it’s one that I had to create for myself because I couldn’t decide what to do with some of my emails.  Those end up in @read.  Usually it’s a newsletter or press release or something I would like to take a look at – just not today.
Really,  I should be able to not use this @read category at all – but it’s a middlestep for me, while I get used to this process.  Hopefully I’ll be able to reduce the amount of @reads I get so I don’t have to sort emails twice.
Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break – and realize that to make change takes time – so that’s what I do with my @read folder.  I know my system isn’t perfect, and I’m still working on ways to refining it.  I’ll make sure to keep you updated on the progress.
For me, it was a great step forward when I actually had…gasp!…an empty inbox after a session of cleaning.  Even though it only lasted for 10 minutes. Now if I could only get to the garden in the same shape.


One Response to “Organizing Your Gmail Inbox with GTD labels”
  1. Dan says:

    For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

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