Be a Gmail Superstar, Part 1

For me, a clean inbox = a happy mind. I just can’t focus when my email is cluttered with messages I need to respond to, mixed in with newsletters and reference emails for Savvy Blog Services.

After months of trying different systems, I finally hit on a way to keep my inbox organized and free of clutter.

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I have six inboxes. Yes, six.

1. First priority emails. Things I need to address ASAP.

2. Second priority emails. I need to respond, but it doesn’t need to be done TODAY.

3. Third priority emails. Need to address, but not as important OR I’ve responded and am waiting to hear back from the other person.

4. Reference emails. Links or Twitter direct messages people have sent me that I will need to reference in the next week or so.

5. Savvy Blog Services. All emails regarding the blog(s) I am currently working on.

6. My regular inbox. All new emails go here first.

It helps SO much to be able to know at a glance which emails are the most pressing. When I have a few minutes to respond to emails, I don’t have to waste any time sifting through a crammed inbox to find the important ones.

Here’s how to do it:

1. First, go into Google Labs. You can do this either by clicking the green flask in the upper menu of your Gmail, or go to Settings–>Labs.

2. Enable Multiple Inboxes.

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3. Enable Superstars.

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4. Click save.

5. Go to Settings –> General. Choose which superstars you want to use. Drag and drop them into the order you’d like. You’ll want 1 superstar for each inbox (except for the regular Gmail inbox).

I use yellow stars for first priority, green stars for second priority, and purple stars for third priority. Blue stars go with reference emails and orange stars are assigned to Savvy Blog Services emails. I also keep the green checkmark and red exclamation point active so that emails are easier to find in their folders.

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6. Click save. Go to Settings –> Multiple Inboxes.

7. Each new inbox gets a “pane.” For each inbox enter “has:color-star” for the search query and add a title. Be sure there are no spaces in the search query or it won’t work.

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8. Decide where you want the inboxes to be placed (above, below, or beside the main Gmail inbox) and how many emails you want shown in each. I prefer to have my multiple inboxes above or below, rather than to the side because of my smaller laptop screen.

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9. Click save. Now go through your inbox and start organizing your emails. The order in which you placed the stars back in step 5 is the order in which the stars will show up when you click the star icon to the left of each email. Just keep clicking until you get to the star you want.

10. Archive your emails. Once an email is starred or I don’t need it anymore, it gets archived. Your emails will still be accessible via the search bar or labels, but aren’t taking up space in the inbox.

Phew! It looks like a lot of steps and a lot of work, but once you have the system set up, it will make a world of difference in your email efficiency.

Coming up in part 2:


Unread emails at a glance

And more!


  1. says

    Oh this is great, Julie! My inbox is notoriously messy, and I always feel so much better when I can keep track of the important things & stay organized πŸ™‚ I’ll have to play around with this tonight…. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. Kelley says

    Wow, this has to be better than our old Wiscmail system… that was awful! Haha

    I use folders too. Everything that needs to be done stays in my inbox, otherwise it goes in its designated folder. I can see how this would be super nice though too… sometimes my inbox with “things to do” gets more full than I would like I get overwhelmed.

    Granted, I can’t use gmail with my work email, but the concept is great.

    Nice thinkin’ Jules πŸ™‚

  3. says

    I’ve been trying to figure out the multiple inboxes forever!!! I thought I was only able to get 3!!! You’ve changed my email forever! Thanks so much, can’t wait for the next topic!

  4. says

    I know that I’m not using my g mail account to anywhere near its full potential. This is a brilliant article on how to use it better.

    I always find it depressing when gmail is full and cluttered looking – can never find what I want. Will definitely implement your ideas – have to confess I was not aware of many of these.

  5. says

    I know this is an older post, but I just wanted to let you know this helped me significantly! My gmail has been growing a little out of control and decided it was time to figure out how to improve it. Thanks for sharing!