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5 Gmail Filters to Get You to Inbox Zero

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5 Gmail Filters to Get You to Inbox Zero

The elusive Inbox Zero. It’s the moment when you have all of your “inputs” somewhat dealt with and the the slate is clear for you to concentrate on what is truly important. Some people think that it’s simply getting your entire email inbox to no emails. If that is the case, I could do that pretty easily by selecting all email and trashing it.

That’s not necessarily the point.

Inbox Zero is a state where we have our decks cleared, have the right things in the right places, and we can start to work on what is important. But, we can use some hacks to get us to this state a little bit easier everyday.

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Use the 5 Gmail filters to help clear out your inbox, achieve Inbox Zero, and free up the time and space to get done what really matters.

  1. The “you email me too much and you are going to get ignored” filter.This is one of my favorite filters that I have ever used and by far the one that gets the most use. Basically, if you get too much email from someone and you don’t want to see it in your inbox day-in and day-out, add the sender to the “From:” field in the filter.
      Using OR statements to combine email addresses
        Archiving and labeling email

        Depending on how much you really don’t want to see this person’s emails, you can either trash the email immediately (essentially turning this filter into a blacklist), or be a little more humane and give the email a “Review” label for later review.

        As more and more people keep sending you more and more email that you don’t want to see, you can simply add them to the “From:” field in the filter preceded by an OR operator.

      • The newsletter review filterSome people like getting a bunch of newsletters; really, they all aren’t that bad. One thing that I can’t stand is diving into a some unprocessed emails and seeing a newsletter that seems interesting. 30 minutes later after I have read it and probably clicked through to watch some video or comment somewhere else I wonder where time has gone.

        It doesn’t have to be this way. One way to clear out a bunch of these emails is to search the content of the email for “unsubscribe here OR unsubscribe”. Since it’s “unlawful” for individuals and companies to send email that you signed up for without an unsubscribe link, chances are you are going to catch most if not all of these newsletter emails this way. After you find these emails check Skip the inbox (Archive it) and choose which label you want to give it (I go with something like Read/Review). Now you can review these newsletters on your own time.

          Search for unsubscribe here OR unsubscribe

        • The social reviewIn the same vein as the last filter, if you get a lot of email notifications for social networks and you still want to receive and review them, you can set up a filter with a subject search of all of the social networks you are involved with. For instance you could say “facebook OR twitter OR linkedin OR google+ OR”, you get the idea.

          You can then Archive these and give them a label. Sometimes, a filter like this can be overzealous, like if you are waiting on an email with the subject of “Facebook wants to buy your company for a billion dollars”. But, as long as you review this label every couple of days you won’t lose anything important.

        • Get notified fastAll of these filters are great, but what if you are waiting for a specific email from someone and you don’t want to keep checking your inbox every 30 seconds? Well, then you can set up what I like to call “the poor man’s AwayFind”. All you need is a cell phone for this.

          Set a filter with the To: field from the email address you are waiting on a message from. Then, set the search to foward to a different address. Instead of forwarding to another email address, you are going to set up an forward address to your phone number. Follow this format of address for your carrier.

            Add a forwarding address
              Forward the important email to your phone

              I’m with Verizon, so my address is forwarded to 1234567890@vtext.com (couldn’t get the MMS address work). Gmail will send you a confirmation code, confirm the email address, and boom: you now get text notifications of any sender you deem as important.

            • Set yourself up to keep projects aliveOne of the best things that I have learned from GTD is to keep a “waiting for” list. It allows me to keep track of everything that I have outside of myself pending to be done.

              I have an @Waiting label in Gmail that I use all the time. Anything that I need to follow up on gets this label. I move a lot of email here manually, but you can set up a filter that can apply this label automatically when you send an email.

              Create an email with the From: filled out as your email address and the content of the email searching for something like “_wf_” (without the quotes). Then assign this message an @Waiting label. When you send an email to someone that you want to track it as something you are waiting on, after your signature simply type “_wf_”. After it sends it will be caught by your @Waiting label for further follow up.

              Waiting for filter will keep your projects alive

              Getting to Inbox Zero isn’t as hard as you think. Use these Gmail filters to set up your system so you can concentrate more on important work rather than checking your inbox.

              (Photo credit: Mailslot via Shutterstock)

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              More by this author

              CM Smith

              A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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              Last Updated on October 7, 2021

              Are You Addicted to Productivity?

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              Are You Addicted to Productivity?

              “It’s great to be productive. It really is. But sometimes, we chase productivity so much that it makes us, well, unproductive. It’s easy to read a lot about how to be more productive, but don’t forget that you have to make that time up.”

              Matt Cutts wrote that back in 2013,[1]

              “Today, search for ‘productivity’ and Google will come back with about 663,000,000 results. If you decide to go down this rabbit hole, you’ll be bombarded by a seemingly endless amount of content. I’m talking about books, blogs, videos, apps, podcasts, scientific studies, and subreddits all dedicated to productivity.”

              Like so many other people, I’ve also fallen into this trap. For years I’ve been on the lookout for trends and hacks that will help me work faster and more efficiently — and also trends that help me help others to be faster. I’ve experimented with various strategies and tools . And, while some of these strategies and solutions have been extremely useful — without parsing out what you need quickly — it’s counterproductive.

              Sometimes you end up spending more time focusing on how to be productive instead of actually being productive.

              “The most productive people I know don’t read these books, they don’t watch these videos, they don’t try a new app every month,” James Bedell wrote in a Medium post.[2] “They are far too busy getting things done to read about Getting Things Done.”

              This is my mantra:

              I proudly say, “I am addicted to productivity — I want to be addicted to productivity — productivity is my life and my mission — and I also want to find the best way to lead others through productivity to their best selves.

              But most of the time productivity means putting your head down and working until the job’s done.” –John Rampton

              Addiction to Productivity is Real

              Dr. Sandra Chapman, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Center for BrainHealth points out that the brain can get addicted to productivity just as it can to more common sources of addiction, such as drugs, gambling, eating, and shopping.

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              “A person might crave the recognition their work gives them or the salary increases they get,” Chapman told the BBC.[3] “The problem is that just like all addictions, over time, a person needs more and more to be satisfied, and then it starts to work against you. Withdrawal symptoms include increased anxiety, depression, and fear.”

              Despite the harmful consequences, addiction is considered by some experts as a brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and ends in compulsive behavior. Regardless, society tends to reward productivity — or at least to treat it positively. As a result, this makes the problem even worse.

              “It’s seen like a good thing: the more you work, the better,” adds Chapman. “Many people don’t realize the harm it causes until a divorce occurs and a family is broken apart, or the toll it takes on mental health.”

              Because of the occasional negative issues with productivity, it’s no surprise that it is considered a “mixed-blessing addiction.”

              “A workaholic might be earning a lot of money, just as an exercise addict is very fit,” explains Dr. Mark Griffiths, distinguished professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University. “But the thing about any addiction is that in the long run, the detrimental effects outweigh any short-term benefits.”

              “There may be an initial period where the individual who is developing a work addiction is more productive than someone who isn’t addicted to work, but it will get to a point when they are no longer productive, and their health and relationships are affected,” Griffiths writes in Psychology Today.[4] “It could be after one year or more, but if the individual doesn’t do anything about it, they could end up having serious health consequences.”

              “For instance, I speculated that the consequences of work addiction may be reclassified as something else: If someone ends up dying of a work-related heart attack, it isn’t necessarily seen as having anything to do with an addiction per se – it might be attributed to something like burnout,” he adds.

              There Are Three “Distinct Extreme Productivity Types

              Cyril Peupion, a Sydney-based productivity expert, has observed extreme productivity among clients at both large and medium-sized companies. “Most people who come to me are high performers and very successful. But often, the word they use to describe their work style is ‘unsustainable,’ and they need help getting it back on track.”

              By changing their work habits, Peupion assists teams and individuals improve their performance and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overarching strategy of the business, rather than focusing on work as a means to an end. He has distinguished three types of extreme productivity in his classification: efficiency obsessive, selfishly productive, and quantity-obsessed.

              Efficiency obsessive. “Their desks are super tidy and their pens are probably color-coded. They are the master of ‘inbox zero.’ But they have lost sight of the big picture, and don’t know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness.”

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              Selfishly productive. “They are so focused on their own world that if they are asked to do something outside of it, they aren’t interested. They do have the big picture in mind, but the picture is too much about them.”

              Quantity-obsessed. “They think; ‘The more emails I respond to, the more meetings I attend, the more tasks I do, the higher my performance.’ As a result, they face a real risk of burnout.”

              Peupion believes that “quantity obsessed” individuals are the most common type “because there is a pervasive belief that ‘more’ means ‘better’ at work.”

              The Warning Signs of Productivity Addiction

              Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you think you may be succumbing to productivity addiction. After all, most of us aren’t aware of this until it’s too late.

              • Can you tell when you’re “wasting” time? If so, have you ever felt guilty about it?
              • Does technology play a big part in optimizing your time management?
              • Do you talk about how busy you are most of the time? In your opinion, is hustling better than doing less?
              • What is your relationship with your email inbox? Are you constantly checking it or experience phantom notifications?
              • When you only check one item off your list, do you feel guilty?
              • Does stress from work interfere with your sleep?
              • Have you been putting things off, like a vacation or side project, because you’re “too swamped?

              The first step toward turning around your productivity obsession is to recognize it. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s time to make a plan to overcome your addiction to productivity.

              Overcoming Your Productivity Addiction

              Thankfully, there are ways to curb your productivity addiction. And, here are 9 such ways to achieve that goal.

              1. Set Limits

              Just because you’re hooked on productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely abstain from it. Instead, you need to establish boundaries.

              For example, there are a lot of amazing productivity podcasts out there. But, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them all in the course of a day. Instead, you could listen to one or two podcasts, like The Productivity Podcast or Before Breakfast, during your commute. And, that would be your only time of the day to get your productivity fix.

              2. Create a Not-to-Do List

              Essentially, the idea of a not-to-do list is to eliminate the need to practice self-discipline. Getting rid of low-value tasks and bad habits will allow you to focus on what you really want to do as opposed to weighing the pros and cons or declining time requests. More importantly, this prevents you from feeling guilty about not crossing everything off an unrealistic to-do list.

              3. Be Vulnerable

              By this, I mean admitting where you could improve. For example, if you’re new to remote work and are struggling with thi s, you would only focus on topics in this area. Suggestions would be how to create a workspace at home, not getting distracted when the kids aren’t in school, or improving remote communication and collaboration with others.

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              4. Understand Why You Procrastinate

              Often, we procrastinate to minimize negative emotions like boredom or stress. Other times it could be because it’s a learned trait, underestimating how long it takes you to complete something or having a bias towards a task.

              Regardless of the exact reason, we end up doing busy work, scrolling social media, or just watching one more episode of our favorite TV series. And, even though we know that it’s not for the best, we do things that make us feel better than the work we should do to restore our mood.[5]

              There are a lot of ways to overcome procrastination. But, the first step is to be aware of it so that you can take action. For example, if you’re dreading a difficult task, don’t just watch Netflix. Instead, procrastinate more efficiently,y like returning a phone call or working on a client pitch.

              5. Don’t Be a Copycat

              Let’s keep this short and sweet. When you find a productivity app or technique that works for you, stick with it.

              That’s not to say that you can’t make adjustments along the way or try new tools or hacks. However, the main takeaway should be that just because someone swears by the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.

              6. Say Yes to Less

              Across the board, your philosophy should be less is more.

              That means only download the apps you actually use and want to keep (after you try them out) and uninstall the ones you don’t use. For example, are you currently reading a book on productivity? Don’t buy your next book until you’ve finished the one you’re currently reading (or permit yourself to toss a book that isn’t doing you any good). — and if you really want to finish a book more quickly, listen to the book on your way to work and back.

              Already have plans this weekend? Don’t commit to a birthday party. And, if you’re day is booked, decline that last-minute meeting request.

              7. Stop Focusing on What’s Next

              “In the age when purchasing a thing from overseas is just one click and talking to another person is one swipe right, acquiring new objects or experiences can be addictive like anything else,” writes Patrick Banks for Lifehack .

              “That doesn’t need to be you,” he adds. “You can stop your addition to ‘the next thing’ starting today.” After all, “there will always be this next thing if you don’t make a conscious decision to get your life back together and be the one in charge.”

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              • Think about your current lifestyle and the person you’re at this stage to help you identify what you aren’t satisfied with.
              • By setting clear goals for yourself in the future, you will be able to overcome your addiction.
              • Establish realistic goals.
              • To combat addiction, you must be aware of what is going on around you, as well as inside your head, at any given time.
              • Don’t spend time with people who have unhealthy behaviors.
              • Hold yourself accountable.
              • Keep a journal and write out what you want to overcome.
              • Appreciate no longer being addicted to what’s next.

              8. Simplify

              Each day, pick one priority task. That’s it. As long as you concentrate on one task at a time, you will be less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of tasks. A simple mantra to live by is: work smarter, not harder.

              The same is also accurate with productivity hacks and tools. Bullet journaling is a great example. Unfortunately, for many, a bullet journal is way more time-consuming and overwhelming than a traditional planner.

              9. Learn How to Relax

              “Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but, banning obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” writes Leo Babauta. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax.” Don’t worry about being hyper-efficient. And, don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

              “But what if you can’t motivate yourself … ever?” he asks. “Sure, that can be a problem. But if you relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be happier.”

              “And if you work when you get excited, on things you’re excited about, and create amazing things, that’s motivation,” Leo states. “Not forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to, on things you don’t want to work on — motivation is doing things you love when you get excited.”

              But, how exactly can you relax? Here are some tips from Leo;

              • Spend 5 minutes walking outside and breathe in the fresh air.
              • Give yourself more time to accomplish things. Less rushing means less stress.
              • If you can, get outside after work to enjoy nature.
              • Play like a child. Even better? Play with your kids. And, have fun at work — maybe give gamification a try .
              • Take the day off, rest, and do something non-work-related.
              • Allow yourself an hour of time off. Try not to be productive during that time. Just relax.
              • You should work with someone who is exciting. Make your project exciting.
              • Don’t work in the evenings. Seriously.
              • Visit a massage therapist.
              • Just breathe.

              “Step by step, learn to relax,” he suggests. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything.” For that statement, sorry Leo, I say productivity isn’t everything — it’s the only thing.” However, if you can’t cut loose, relax, do fun things, and do the living part of your life — you’ll crack in a big way — you really will.

              It’s great to create and push forward — just remember it doesn’t mean that every minute must be spent working or obsessing over productivity issues. Instead, invest your time in meaningful, high-impact work, get into it, focus, put in big time and then relax.

              Are You Addicted to Productivity? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

              Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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