My email has become a total mess. I am not much of an email person (I just don't like it) but I only have myself to blame for the hodgepodge of clutter and mess that I call my Gmail Inbox. I let it get this way through laziness and procrastination but no more! Time for some Minimalist Gmail Hacks aka "How to De-clutter Your Inbox". Follow these tips to see how I went from an inbox 5273 with 2111 unread emails to a well organised, structured, no-fuss and minimalist Gmail. My email just got useful again.
Starting Point - The disgusting "Before" shot
Looks pretty bad doesn't it? No, not just the over-the-top bright theme I have activated in a vain attempt to make email fun. Check out those numbers. 2111 unread emails and a bloated inbox of 5273! Crazy. Not to mention all the other useless guff taking up valuable screen space on my 13" Macbook Pro.
The End Point - The glorious "After" shot
Ahhhhh bliss. Look at all that lovely white space, the removal of clutter, and the well organised hierarchical labels. And how many unread emails? Zero. How many emails in my inbox? Zero. Minimalism is a beautiful thing.
Plugins Galore - The Messy Solution
There are plenty of plugins, add-ons, extensions (or whatever your browser calls them) available that will help you tidy up your Gmail. At first, I thought this was the best approach as it let me pick and choose which parts I customised based on which plugins I installed - if I wanted to leave labels visible I could - but it got messy quickly. Not to mention some of the plugins just did not work as intended. Then I stumbled across Minimalist Gmail and I was saved!
Minimalist Gmail - The Saviour
Minimalist Gmail is beautiful add-on written by web developer Matt Constantine when working with Leo Babauta from ZenHabits.net to simplify Gmail. His description sums it up perfectly:
With a few clicks you can get rid of the features of Gmail you don’t use and focus on what matters most for a quicker more enjoyable email experience.
It works, it's free, and it's available for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Here is a quick summary of what you can play around with:
- Remove ads
- Hide the Gmail header/search area but keep it easily accessible
- Remove unnecessary icons
- Hide chat box
- Hide the invite area
- Remove the useless and space-hogging Gmail footer
- And plenty more
If you are looking to trim the fat from your Gmail inbox then Minimalist Gmail is what you need.
Generic Gmail Tips
Here is a quick list of some of the awesome built-in Gmail features, and some of my personal tips, that are great for organising your email inbox:
- Themes - simple is better. Go for elegance not craziness
- Nested Labels - turn this on in Labs to allow nested labels just like a folder structure
- Colour-code - set specific colours to your labels for easy visualisation of your emails
- Move Icons (in Labs) - this puts the attachment icon on the left of the email title making it easy to scan to find attachments
- Keyboard shortcuts - I cannot believe I was not using this. It is amazing. Turn it on in Settings and start learning how to speed up your email processing
De-cluttered, but not forgotten
With Minimalist Gmail and my Gmail tips you can turns your unorganised and bloated inbox into an elegant and useful email tool. But it will not process your emails for you! So how did I take my inbox from 5273 to 0 and read 2111 emails so quickly? With some simple email productivity rules, explained in Email Kills Productivity - Stop Wasting Your Time.