Wrangling your Inbox to make it work for you.

Most people these days find email is a chore! An inescapable part of being an educator is the daily management of your inbox. This tip which is based on using google email accounts will also work with outlook based email with some minor differences.

First a bit about how Google mail (gMail to its friends) works. All the mail that comes into your account or is sent from your account is kept in a main folder (label) called All Mail.
You can find this folder by clicking the more button and it will be in the next section down.

The all mail folder is a good place to start if you have lost a message and need to locate it.
The next thing you need to know is that folders are called labels in Gmail. They work the same way as a folder with one main difference: messages in gmail can be labeled with more than one label!
To label a message click on the message checkbox and then on the label menu.
In my example the message is labeled Classroom Messages (yellow) and also updates.
So bonus tip you can color code your labels and make them stand out in your inbox.
Ok with all this in mind you can use labels to your advantage to organize your email before it makes it to your inbox. To make this part work you are going to have to ask your email senders to help you by putting the right message title in any emails that they send to you.
Lets imagine I am a teacher that is asking for parents who have questions about homework help. I would ask them to put [Homework Help] in square brackets in the message subject line.

It might look like 

Now we can setup a Label for Homework Help. Click Create New Label in the sidebar below the All Mail
Now we have a place to put those messages we need a filter to label the message for us. Select a message that has the correct subject line. Now choose “Filter messages like these” from the More menu.
On the next screen put [Homework Help] in the Subject line and click 
Create Filter with this Search The next screen lets you choose options.

Choose Apply the Label and select Homework Help from the list.
Toward the bottom choose also apply to matching messages and it will label any existing messages with that label. (use this feature to apply labels to your old messages)
Click create filter.
The next time you get a message from that parent about homework help it will show up in your inbox already labeled “Homework Help” you can read the message and click the archive button, safe in the knowledge that the message is saved in All Mail and visible when you click the Homework Help label in the sidebar.
I now have most of my mail automatically labelled and it has allowed me to wrangle my email to more manageable levels.
Now back to my comment at the beginning. If you are in Exchange email (Outlook) these filters are called rules and can be found in the account settings. Unfortunately you cannot have a message in both the inbox and in the folder. You will have to remember to go to that folder periodically and read all the unread messages.


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