Don't Panic

Andrew Hoog's blog on mobile security, forensics, programming and photography

How I use GMail

Communication is one key component to succeeding as a comany. For me, that means email and other communication mediums are critical to viaForensics success.

My unstructured database

Years ago, when I was still on Outlook and Exchange, I abandoned folders and kept everything in my Inbox. While the Microsoft search add-on was not great, it did a decent job. I reazlied that all the time I had spent organizing emails into folders was better spent elsewhere.

About a year ago, we switched to GMail. The first week was hard but after that, I could not imagine switching back.

Search is king and I've not found any other solution that does it better than GMail (ok, I only tried Outlook so ymmv). So, I use email as my unstructred database. I let data flow in, Google indexes it and at any point in time I can quickly recall that crucial converstaion.

If you've not learned some of the advanced search keywords (like from:some@email.com or has:attachment), it's worth every minute to do so.

Shortcut keys

If you have not enabled GMail shortcut keys, stop and do it now ([Settings -> General] (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#settings/general) -> Keyboard shortcuts). It's a huge time saver. You can tear through email quickly. Some of my daily ones include:

  • e - archive
  • j - next
  • r - reply
  • a - reply to all
  • 3 - delete

While you are in the settings screen, I recommend enabling "Auto-advance" as well. This means you can read an email, reply, archive and automatically moved to the next email without ever leaving the keyboard.

Drowning in emails

As viaForensics has grown, so has my email volume (several 100 a day now). My previous technique was to keep any email I needed to follow up with unread. This obviosuly did scale.

I stumbled across an article by Andreas Klinger entitled, "Don't drown in email! How to use GMail more effectively" and drank the Kool-Aide (mostly).

I now quickly rip through emails, archiving nearly all of them. GMail search is fantastic so I can always find an email I need. If an email takes me more than minute to respond, I flag as Important (yellow-star) and move on. I can then revisit that list daily to make sure I take the time to deal with critical communication.

I also find that I often want to make sure something I delegated is completed. So, I use the orange double arrow to track those.

And I threw in one of my own. I often send or receive pictures of my children and want to be able to quickly see them. So I have a special star setup for them.

The one thing I was not able to do was archive all 70k+ emails. I have a legacy of about 1,700 unread emails that were important at some point and I can't bring myself to archive them. So, I'm slowly working my way back through them.

Hope some of the techniques I use are using for manaing your likely growing volume of email.