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Managing Your Workflow Pt. I: Setting Your Workspace & Gmail Inbox Up For Success

We all have too much to do, and so success in our roles is dependent on our ability to leverage a workflow that helps us make sense out of the chaos and ensure that we're always working on the most impactful task possible.

Setting Up Your Workspace

A good workflow starts with your workspace. It's extremely difficult to stay efficient if your workspace isn't set up correctly. That entails the following:
  • A dependable, fast laptop (we recommend a refurbished MacBook Air)
  • Reliable high-speed internet
  • A solid desk (we recommend a standing desk, specifically the Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk)
  • An extra monitor that is big enough to comfortably allow you to compare two windows side-by-side on the same screen (we recommend this 32" Acer w/ blue light screening)
  • A monitor stand of some sort: The top of the screen should be at—or slightly below—eye level.
  • A laptop stand
    • We recommend keeping your computer on a stand to the left of your monitor, and using your laptop screen only for music listening and the Slack app.
    • Keeping your laptop at least an arm's length away from your eyes also helps prevent headaches (more tips here).
  • An extra mouse, keyboard, and any other peripherals: Any peripheral that makes you more productive is worth the investment. 
Please talk to your manager if you'd like help setting your workspace up for success.

Once your workspace is set up for success, the next step is to dig into your Gmail.

Setting Up Your Gmail

Your organization starts with your email; we all receive so many inbound messages that if we don't stay on top of them, we'll drown.

Keyboard Shortcuts

This success starts with keyboard shortcuts. To turn on your keyboard shortcuts:
  • Open your Gmail
  • Click the cogwheel in the top right part of the screen
  • Select 'Settings'
  • Scroll halfway down the screen (or use command + F) and check the box next to 'Keyboard Shortcuts' to turn them on.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click 'Save Changes'
The next step will be to turn on custom keyboard shortcuts. The advantages of installing this feature are twofold:
  • It allows you to personalize your keyboard shortcuts.
  • It allows you to see exactly what your keyboard shortcuts are.
To install custom keyboard shortcuts:
  • Open/refresh your Gmail
  • Click the cogwheel in the top right part of the screen
  • Select 'Settings'
  • Select 'Advanced' (from the top navigation)
  • Scroll down to 'Custom keyboard shortcuts'
  • Click 'Enable' next to that feature
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click 'Save Changes'. Your email will reload after doing so; that's expected.
Viewing and personalizing your custom keyboard shortcuts:
  • Click the cogwheel in the top right part of the screen
  • Select 'Settings'
  • Select 'Keyboard Shortcuts' (from the top navigation)
While all of the available keyboard shortcuts can be very helpful, there is one that is particularly relevant to the our recommended workflow, and that is 'Archive and go to next conversation'. It's '{' by default. We recommend switching the shortcut with the 'e' that's assigned to 'Archive' by default, so that row of shortcuts looks like this after your edits:


When you're done setting up these shortcuts to your liking, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click 'Save Changes.'

Templates (FKA Canned Responses)

There is one more add-on that we highly recommend installing: Templates (FKA Canned Responses). Templates allow you to save any email to re-use as often as you'd like. To install Templates,
  • Click the cogwheel in the top right part of the screen
  • Select 'Settings'
  • Select 'Advanced' (from the top navigation)
  • Scroll down to 'Templates'
  • Click 'Enable' next to that feature
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click 'Save Changes'. Your email will reload after doing so; that's expected.
Using Templates:

When you type a response that you think you'll want to re-use at a later date, do the following before you send the message:
  • Click the dots in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • Select 'Templates'...
  • From there, scroll down to select 'Save draft as template...
  • Then 'Save as new template'
  • Then give your response a title (that you'll remember when referencing this subject again) and save it.
The next time you're asked a similar question, or would like to use your template again:
  • Click the dots in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • Select 'Templates'.
  • Select the response....

... to populate that response into the body of your new reply.

From there, you can edit the response to personalize it to that specific situation.

Parity With Other Accounts

Since all of your inbox management techniques should quickly turn into habits, it's important to set up any other personal accounts in exactly the same way as your work account. You don't want to have to stop and think about which account you're using before using a shortcut.

Other Resources

This article highlights two specific resources to enhance your daily email workflow. Beyond these labs, there are countless other resources and add-ons for your inbox available online, but be careful: Extra tools don't always lead to more productivity, and there are plenty of email hacks and add-ons that conflate an empty inbox with a productive workday. 

The Next Step: What To Do With Your Emails

Now that you have your workspace and email set up for success, let's talk about what to do with all of the emails you receive. 

Head on over to this article to learn more: Managing Your Workflow Pt. II: Mastering Your Inbox.
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