Using GMail As A Task Manager

15th February, 2010 in Emails

GMail (see previous blog) is many things to different people, but a few things everyone agrees with is it's simple, efficient and flexible. I emphasise flexible because you can configure it to work that suits your needs. I use it not just for email but as my Task Management System.

To use GMail as your task manager, you will need to:

  1. Setup Superstars or Labels for different priorities
  2. Setup Multiple Inboxes to show the emails assigned the Superstars or Labels

Add Superstars and Multiple Inboxes to Your GMail

Click on Google Labs (the green beaker in the top right menu ) and you will see a list of useful features you can enable to improve your GMail.

  1. Find Superstars and enable it
  2. Find Multiple Inboxes and enable it.
  3. Click Save Changes at the bottom

Setup Superstars

Now you have added the Superstars feature, you can choose the Stars that you want to use for your email messages. At the time of writing there are 12 icons to choose from:-

  1. First decide what priorities you need to assign to your emails, and then choose the stars to represent them. For example, I use the following:-
    • Urgent - Red Exclamation
    • Medium - Red Star
    • Low - Orange Star
    • Whenever - Yellow Exclamation
  2. In Settings click on the General tab
  3. You will see the Superstars row which displays the stars you can choose from
  4. Drag the required images to the "In Use" row and drag what you don't need to the "Not In Use"
  5. Click Save Changes at the bottom

Now when you view your messages, you can click the star icon to the left of your messages to assign a star, and keep clicking to move through the order of stars you have setup.

So now you can assign different stars to the emails you will need to be able to group the stars together in "panes", and in the order of high to low priority.

Multiple Inboxes

Multiple Inboxes is not the best name to give for this feature. It is not in fact Multiple "Inboxes", but is multiple "panes" on your Inbox page that show emails that match a certain criteria. You can add any search, label or star criteria to one of these Inboxes and it will show the emails that match your criteria. The intention is to setup an Inbox for each of your stars.

  1. In Settings, click on Multiple Inboxes (you should see this tab once you enable it in Labs)
  2. You will see 5 rows of boxes for the "Panes". The boxes are for the "Search query" and the "Panel title".
  3. For the Search Query you need to enter the search query that represents the Superstars. For example, entering "has:red-bang" (without quotes) will show all messages that have the red exclamation. To find the right term for the star, hover over the star to see the name pop up, and this is what you use. I've included the list below.
  4. For the name, enter the term you want to assign for the stars, for example, my red-bang (red exclamation icon) is for Urgent email, so I name it "Urgent".
  5. Make sure to enter the information in the boxes in the order you want them. So my "has:red-bang" for "Urgent" messages is in the top so its displayed in the top pane.
  6. Choose how many to display in a pane
  7. Choose whether to show the panes Above, Right or Below your main Inbox. I choose to put mine above so I see my tasks and priorities as soon as I reach my Inbox page, and no need to scroll down.
  8. Click Save Changes

GMail as Your Task Manager

Now when you go to your Inbox you should see the new panes you have setup, and within them the emails you have assigned the stars to.

Using Labels

You don't have to use stars of course, you can use Labels. By going to Settings and the Labels tab you can create Labels named after your priorities, then create the Multiple Inboxes to show the labels (for example, by entering "label:urgent"), and then assign emails the Labels. I find assigning superstars much quicker (one click) than assigning Labels so I don't use them.

Removing the Email / Marking as Complete

Once the email has been dealt with and you no longer need it in the pane, just click the star to the left of the email to remove it. You may need to click Refresh above the pane in order to refresh the view. The email will be removed.

Hope that helps!

Search Query For Superstars

  • has:red-bang (or l:^ss_cr)
  • has:yellow-bang (or l:^ss_cy)
  • has:red-star (or l:^ss_sr)
  • has:yellow-star (or l:^ss_sy)
  • has:orange-star (or l:^ss_so)
  • has:blue-star (or l:^ss_sb)
  • has:green-star (or l:^ss_sg)
  • has:purple-star (or l:^ss_sp)
  • has:blue-info (or l:^ss_cb)
  • has:orange-guillemet (or l:^ss_co)
  • has:green-check (or l:^ss_cg)
  • has:purple-question (or l:^ss_cp)

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