Gmail is full of great and interesting “Labs” that allow you to do things that aren’t officially included in Gmail by default. My all time favorite add-ons are Superstars and Multiple Inboxes. The Google team has recently changed Superstars into a default setting, although you must enable it!
I have 4 different email accounts, ranging from work, personal, and school, all forwarding to my main Gmail inbox. Utilizing Multiple Inboxes and extra stars allows me to organize them all effectively. I have my main inbox for new items that need action, another for “Needs Followup”, and lastly an “Important-Keep” inbox. Doing this allows me to see exactly what I have going on and what I need to do.
-Enable Extra Stars (Settings > General > scroll down and enable some (I use 4))
If you hold your mouse over the different stars, you can see the names. My four are called: "yellow-star", "red-bang", "blue-star", and "green-check". Use these terms in your search fields (see below)!
-Enable Multiple Inboxes (settings > labs> search Multiple Inboxes>)
-After enabling you’ll have a new tab in your settings. Click on Multiple inboxes and you’ll see how it is organized. At the top you’ll see the search query and panel title boxes. At the bottom you’ll see options that allow you to change where these new "inboxes" will be located.
Here’s how I do it: In “Pane 0” I have the search query as “has:red-bang” (red exclamation point) and the panel title as “Needs followup.” Now whenever I click on a star twice it’ll put the red exclamation point and then move it to the lower pane showing me I need to follow up on an email.
In “Pane 1” I have the search query as “has:yellow-star” and panel title as “Important-Keep”, which tells me the emails that I need to be aware of for more than a few days. Now, in order to keep the organization, I ‘archive’ emails that are in the original mailbox that I have moved to a new pane. The emails that are left at the top are ones that need action. I try to keep this inbox at zero emails or as close to zero as possible.
Some other ways to use the multiple inboxes with extra stars would be to have each inbox automatically pull emails sent to one specific email address using the search query "to:firstname.lastname@example.org" or to separate by work, family, and friends!
Here's a link to Google's page listing all of the search features. Any of these can be input into the Multiple Inboxes "Search Query" field and allow for optimal organization.
Do you have any tips for organizing your email inbox?