With everybody from Britney Spears to the New York Times talking about Twitter these days, I have been thinking a lot about the tool that I have seen from novelty to necessity over the last 2 years.
Twitter has become a great source of ambient intimacy for me. I use it to keep tabs on my close friends and network contacts, enabling greater connection when we meet face to face. I know what they have been up to and what is important to them.
This is my best friend Ryan Hoffman on his second season in the Ski-chair after an injury at work left him paralyzed from the waist down. Ryan is a true inspiration and lives life to the fullest, despite all challenges. Apologies for the crappy video quality, it was taken with my point and shoot camera 😉
Gmail Labs just rolled out a new gem for gmail users and I had the inspiration to use this as a supplement to the online side of my personal GTD system. I use Gmail for all my email and organize all of my business around a detailed labeling practice. Multiple Inboxes sparked an opportunity to refine my system.
Ok, this one gets a little dicey for GTD purists so bear with me.
I know the holy grail for GTD masters is the fabled ‘inbox zero’ at the end of the day and especially at the end of the week. I am personally a big fan and adherent of this principle of GTD so why on earth would I want more inboxes!!??
The first thing you have to do to use Multiple Inboxes for GTD is forget that the name is “Multiple Inboxes.”
Think of these as, Multiple folder dashboards or something. The goal is still (and always is)inbox zero for the real inbox.
I am currently practicing using Gmail tasks as my GTD action Items with mixed results. Gmail tasks are easy to use, but they exist outside my email workflow and thus require additional energy to maintain integration. I just moved off of Things for mac and iPhone, and may actually move back (though things is technically a workflow breaker as well.)
So back to Multiple Inboxes.
Since most of my “follow-up” actions are email related, I set up one additional “inbox” to show my “status=follow up” emails. I have a label S/ FollowUp that I automatically tag to anything that needs further action in the future without a definite date. It’s like an ongoing tickler file, somewhere between someday/maybe and action.
This status label is very important to my work as a freelancer, where I often get referrals or send out bids to clients and will benefit from following up with them at a future date.
So here is the tricky part I ran into, how to get the content you want into the new “inbox.” There are no real instructions for this as Multiple Inboxes is a labs feature and not yet fully supported.
I tried inputing “Label: S/ FollowUp” in the field for the additional box, the name of the desired label as it appears to me and it didn’t work. There is a little syntax thing that happens in Gmail labels that can hang you up here.
Click on the label you want in the extra box. This will bring up all the emails with that label. Notice in the search box the way the label is displayed. For me “S/ FollowUp” becomes “S–FollowUp.
Copy/paste this tag into the Multiple Inbox field and your new box will show all the content with that label. I set the Extra Panel Positioning to be “below the inbox” so it is less of a distraction when I am working. Save the changes and refresh your browser.
If you are using the same system as I do, you will see a new box below your inbox with all the messages you have tagged for follow up. On daily review you can skim these and respond to any that are timely.
This system is brand new to me so I am still reviewing it for effectiveness. Let me know If you have any suggestions or innovations using Multiple Inboxes.
I have been emailing habitually since 1995 and the creation of my first Hotmail account. Over the years I have accumulated new email address, let old ones die and woven an intricate system of forwards, pop fetching, labels and filing systems and filters.
Using gmail, my system was really effective…until I decided to move.
Inspired by some insightful feedback from a good friend, I decided to take my principle email identity over to a brand new hosted gmail account, casey[at]caseycapshaw[dot]com. I no sooner started the process when I realized this would be more complex than it appeared.
Fetching old Emails
I found a great tutorial for pulling emails into the hosted gmail account. Figured I would pull all 27k emails from my old email “hub” (using the “get mail from other accounts” feature in Gmail) into the new one in case i needed anything from the archives. At the time of writing this, it is actively pulling mails. We’ll see if they all make it.
The main problem with this is that I have a system of labels in my old gmail hub that neatly parse all the archive emails so I can find old things easier. I can find a way to preserve the labels through the transfer so I bit the bullet and will rebuild labels anew. The start of the new year is a good time to purge filing anyway right. If I really need to find an old thing, the labels will still be active at the old gmail hub and I can go login there to find them.
I had no idea where some of the mail I had forwarded to my old gmail account was originating or how to tie all this to my new email profile. This called for a map.
I mapped out all my accounts and the forwarding/pop/imap action happening in each. This wasn’t too hard as I had most of them forwarding to the gmail account anyway. It’s just a matter of pointing them to the new account. This web of forwarding seemed to be the most important job to tackle first. I would worry about organization later.
In my new account(we’ll call C-mail for now) under setting>accounts, I added all the email accounts and verified them so I would have the ability to “send from” those email addresses within C-mail. That’s how I had it set at my old gmail so as not to confuse when replying to an email that was forwarded in. I did this while all the accounts were still pointing to the old gmail to make the verification process a one stop affair.
One at a time, I logged in to all my email accounts and reset the forwarding to point to C-mail. It helped to use Safari for these accounts and leave C-mail open in Firefox.
For the accounts that are in gmail or hosted gmail, this can be found under settings>forwarding and pop/imap. I set mine to forward and ‘leave a copy in the inbox.” I then created a filter to “mark as read” all emails that come to that address (this is just a personal preference, you could just as easily leave them unread.)
Then came the labels. This got a little ugly.
I use a system for my labels in gmail. P/ projectname for active projects, OLD/ projectname for old projects. I also have an S/ Action and an S/ Reference for status. I am going to try out gmail’s new task feature with this transition so I may no longer need action and reference.
Finding no elegant way to make the transfer, I simply copied all my existing labels from the old gmail into a spreadsheet. I created new labels, one at a time, in C-mail corresponding to each of my P/ project labels.
I replicated my filter system, which automatically applies project labels based on the account the mail was sent to. Something sent to contac[at]thenewmanpodcast[dot]com get the handy label P/ The New Man right when it comes in the door, saving me a few cycles a week. I only had about 10 filters in use so I just replicated them manually.
Contacts and Calendars
Calendars were easy. I simply added the C-mail account to all the calendars I had access to “make changes and manage sharing.” I had to request an invite under my new C-mail account from two calendars that had been shared with my old account.
Contacts were easily exported from gmail and imported into the C-mail account. The one problem is that it did not preserve my “groups” so I will have to recreate these if I want them in C-mail. If anybody has any suggestions on this, please leave it in the comments.
Wow, that was geeky! But I feel so much better about my unified email system and updated personal brand. I updated my system map for my own reference and ended up with 11 email accounts, all integrated into a streamlined and efficient Google hosted mail account under this domain.
Branding is preserved across multiple projects and domains without any of the hassle of multiple logins. My personal brand feels more solid and professional with email under my own domain.
If you would like help setting up your own system, email me at casey[at]caseycapshaw[dot]com for an analysis.