Email labels are where it's at and I'll fight anyone who thinks otherwise!

Well – It’s been a while since I wrote (thanks a bunch COVID-19, multiple lockdowns, and home-schooling 🙄) but I haven’t stopped thinking. Of course, what that means is that I now have a blog list longer than my arm which is either brilliant or terrifying, depending on your personality type (handy hint: it’s terrifying).

So, in this mythical half an hour that seems to have shown up while the kids are eating tea, I looked at my lengthy list, ignored all of it, and decided to write about folders and labels for email.

The reason it’s on my mind is that I’ve just finished off a very pleasant 8 hours demolishing a client’s inbox. It had nearly 9,000 unread emails sitting there, and I’ve had the best time sorting and sifting them, bringing it all back under control. I handed it back with only 15 emails in the inbox. Breathed a sigh of satisfaction, a job well done. Pat on the back, Katie, make yourself a celebratory brew.

So, brew In hand, I had a quick peek at Toggl’s blog, as it often talks about productivity, and I’m something of an aficionado. What do I open up? A piece all about how sorting emails into labels (Gmail) and folders (everything else) is a massive, stupid, waste of time. Cue existential crisis. I bet you can’t guess what I’ve been thinking about for the whole of Saturday.

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re wrong. Sorry, Toggl. I love you. I use your time tracking software every day. But I think you’re wrong about labelling and filtering emails and here’s why.

  1. Tidy desk, tidy mind. Inbox zero is a state of mind, a place of peace. My inbox is zen, and I am zen because of it. I know that Gmail’s search capability means that I could leave all my emails in the inbox in a huge messy pile, and in all likelihood still be able to find it with a simple filter, but that’s not the point. The point is that I am in my emails for a large part of each day, and I need to feel happy about that. I need to know that I won’t miss an important one because it dropped off the bottom of the page and I forgot. Inbox zero gives me peace of mind, and for that reason alone, labels have changed my life.

  2. Gmail labels help me to triage my inbox. I get loads overnight. Some of them are awesome (new discovery call, yay!) some of them are boring (I mean, no-one LOVES getting an email about policy renewal) and some of them I will probably never ever open (sorry all newsletters I ever signed up to ever). I have my inbox arranged so that anything I flag with the label ‘action’ stays at the top of my inbox, in my eyeline. Anything I flag ‘waiting’ is immediately below. Then, everything else fights it out below. In this way, I don’t forget about that boring, but really important policy renewal. I can flag it for action and move on, knowing I won’t lose it amongst 50 other emails. The waiting one is good too. It means if I send an enquiry off to someone who doesn’t respond, the email I sent is in my eyeline, and I will remember to nudge them if they don’t come back to me. I know, I know, Google has a nudge tool for that, but it isn’t reliable, folks.

  3. Sometimes I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR. I know, it sounds weird. This usually applies to emails from maaany moons ago (so, before Xmas) when I’ve forgotten who sent them or why. Basically, I don’t have enough info to put into the search engine and get a decent result. If I’ve labelled the email I have a good place to start.

So anyway, there you go. Sorry, Toggl but you’re wrong. Labels are AMAZING. Folders are ok (I’m looking at you, Outlook, you suck, and you know it). I’ll continue to use them for myself, and I’ll continue to use them for clients who are kind enough to let me get my hands on their overflowing inboxes.

So come on then, who can beat 9000 unread? If you need someone to rugby tackle your inbox and beat it into submission, I'm your gal. Call me!
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