Two quick tips for managing your overflowing Gmail inbox

Managing an overflowing inbox is not just a Gmail problem, but Google Apps does offer a few ways to get your incoming email under control.

Email is a great communication tool, but that is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the ability to communicate very effectively; the curse is that those communications can overwhelm your ability to manage them. This problem is not peculiar to Gmail, but Google Apps does have a few tools that will help you manage your inbox.

Note: I am using the Google Enterprise edition of Gmail. These features have to be activated by your organization's IT department. Further, this does not necessarily apply to free personal Gmail accounts.

Inbox style

The first tool is a feature introduced on July 7, 2011, called inbox styles. There are now several style tabs displayed across the top of the Gmail inbox, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

New inbox styles

The styles include:

  • Classic
  • Important first
  • Unread first
  • Starred first
  • Priority Inbox

You can read about the styles in the Official Gmail Blog, but the Priority Inbox is really the only one that needs further explanation. With the Priority Inbox clicked important and unread messages appear at the top, then starred messages, and then the rest. You can customize these settings for even more control.

Depending on what kind of messages you receive, you can go a long way to managing an unruly inbox with these inbox style features.


The other Google Apps tool you can use to regain control of an overflowing inbox is the star system. By default you can only mark a message with one kind of star in Gmail. But you can add more stars and other icons to your arsenal through a simple change to the settings.

While in Gmail, click the gear icon in the upper left corner and navigate to the settings screen. On that page (Figure B), you will see an area called Stars. Change the Preset choice from 1 star to 4 stars or go hog-wild and click the all stars link.

Figure B

Change to add more stars

Now you have more choices for marking incoming messages and you can develop your own system for prioritizing messages. This requires a little planning on your part, but it can be very effective when managing your incoming email.

Have you got a clever way to manage your incoming messages in Gmail? Help you colleagues by sharing your best solutions to an overflowing inbox.