I receive a lot of e-mail each day. So much that I had to come up with a system to keep track of it all. Inspired by the many different approaches that are shown on lifehacker.com I came up with one I feel comfortable with.
For my e-mail setup I use Gmail and 2 features from Gmail Labs: Multiple Inboxes and Superstars.
I use superstars to categorize the starred items into three catagories:
indicates that I have to read the info in this e-mail message (usually long reads)
indicates that I have to answer a question
indicates that I have to act on this message or (if it takes too long) add it to my To Do list
With the use of the Multiple Inbox lab I have added two inboxes: one that shows all my starred e-mail and one that shows all mail tagged with the label “■ Followup” (the ■ makes sure it stays on top of the add-label-dropdown when viewing a message).
When I enter Gmail the first thing I do is to process the e-mail in my inbox. I either read/act on them straight away (if it takes only little time) or I star and archive them (removing them from my inbox). My inbox will therefore always be empty (so-called Inbox Zero approach).
As I am a keyboard-addict I will flip through my inbox in the browser-interface with the use of the S-key to apply stars and the ‘[‘ and ‘]’ keys which stand for archive current message and go to prev/next message.
The Gmail app that comes with Android 2.2 (Froyo) has an Auto-advance setting that shows the next message after you have pressed the archive button on a message. This allows me to use a similar approach on my phone to process my inbox.
To Do (is:Starred)
This list contains all my starred images that I have to read, answer or act on.
Follow Up (label:■-followup)
Here are all messages listed that I am expecting a reply on. Usually I have a check-for-reply task related to this in RTM with a due-date as deadline when I have to check the e-mail again for a reply.
Why not use Priority Inbox?
Since a few days Google introduced Priority Inbox to Gmail with a neather solution than the multiple inboxes lab. Too bad it restricts the top view to always show a subset of your inbox (important-tagged, unread etc) or show a specific label. By doing so it places the other part of my inbox below my To Do and Follow Up views and thus dividing the e-mail I have to process with 2 views.