This setup was inspired by Andreas Klinger's "Don’t drown in email! How to use Gmail more efficiently." His approach treats Gmail like a functional to-do list without using another app. Six years in the making, and I've never turned back!
1. 💌 From your inbox, click the Settings Gear and then See all settings
2. ⭐ Before manipulating the Inbox settings, select the three Stars
For to-do's, follow-ups, and reference material, I use the yellow-bang, purple-question, and blue-info (respectively). You set these by clicking in the email and rotating to the Star you want.
💡 I also remove the default yellow-star.
3. 📬 Once you've selected your Stars, head on over to Inbox settings
4. 🤹Change your Inbox from Default to Multiple Inboxes
You have the option of utilizing five additional inboxes, but I only use three.
5. To keep your primary inbox front and center, put your new inboxes to the right.
You will still have a primary inbox for inbound messages. It's on you to triage into the other inboxes.
6. ❕ Set up your To-do Inbox with yellow-bang
When an email enters your inbox, mark it as To-do if it's a longer task you want to revisit later. Anything that takes less than two minutes, should be handled in the moment and not enter this To-do Inbox.
7. Set up your Follow-up Inbox with purple-question
The Inbox tends to be where emails your respond to or are awaiting someone's response live. Once you receive the reply you needed, remove the purple question.
8. Set up your Reference Inbox with blue-info
This inbox is where I usually put emails I want to revisit from time-to-time. It can be a great newsletter, a motivational note, or a process I follow. This is where I keep all the prized artifacts of my Inbox.
9. You're done Click Save Changes to see the magic come to life.
Now, you get to add emails those inboxes by starring them with the appropriate marker. You can add as many emails as you want, but it will likely only display 10-15 (this setting can be changed).