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Use Gmail’s Priority Inbox to Create Multiple Inboxes

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Gmail Priority Inbox
source: Jason Rogers

After the initial buzz from Google’s launch of Priority Inbox for Gmail, the feedback from users has been varied. For email users who receive hundreds of emails, being able to separate the truly important emails has definite benefits, and there’s no doubt that Gmail does this job well.

But other users suggest that simply unsubscribing from email newsletters and other junk mail is enough to keep control of their inbox, and for them, the benefits of Priority Inbox are limited.

I don’t personally use the “priority” aspect of Priority Inbox. However, I can’t imagine going back to the pre-Priority Inbox days either because it’s become an integral part of my email strategy.

In fact, there are several uses for Priority Inbox that you may not have thought of yet. To use any of these, I recommend turning off the priority tags. You can do this by visiting the Settings menu and clicking on Priority Inbox and then selecting No Markers:

priority inbox settings

And yes, you can use the Multiple Inboxes feature to achieve these same things, but the Priority Inbox interface is much cleaner and less cluttered.

Manage Multiple Email Addresses

For freelancers or entrepreneurs working on a variety of projects, being able to manage multiple inboxes is an important part of your email strategy. With Priority Inbox, you can actually separate emails by incoming email address to help you batch tasks rather than bouncing around from project to project as new emails come in.

To do this, start by creating filters to filter incoming email to separate labels based on the “To:” email address.

Then, click on the dropdown arrow next to each section label in your Priority Inbox and then on More Options, which will open up your full list of labels. Select the label you’ve designated for each inbox to create separate sections for each email address.

A downside to the current Priority Inbox setup is you’re limited to four sections. I hope they’ll add the capability to add a few more in the future!

Use Your Inbox as a To-Do List

Rather than separating my emails by incoming priority, I use Priority Inbox as a to-do list.

I currently use all four sections, which are set to:

  • Unread
  • Starred
  • Projects (a label)
  • Everything else

New emails to my main (non-project specific) email address show up at the top. As I read emails, I answer and/or archive as many as I can. For those that require further action, I mark the urgent/important tasks with a star and less urgent tasks with the Project label. These messages are then filtered to those sections. If I read an email and don’t take action, it shows up in the Everything else section, and I can then go back through and do something with them later.

A downside to this method is I still have separate email addresses being filtered to individual labels, and if there were a few more sections in Priority Inbox, I could use it for multiple inboxes as  well as to manage tasks and projects.

Separate Categories of Emails

You could also use Priority Inbox to separate out certain categories of emails. For example, if you subscribe to blogs or newsletters by email, you could filter those messages to a label called Newsletters and then add that label to one of the sections in your Priority Inbox. If you’re on a committee or part of a group that sends lots of emails, you could also create filters for these and add them to your Priority Inbox rather than having to click through each of the labels in your sidebar to check for new emails.

The beauty of Priority Inbox is its flexibility, which allows you to customize it for your unique email needs.

Do you use Priority Inbox? Have you found another creative way to use it?