Using Labels to Keep a Clean Inbox

May 23, 2018

Using Labels to Keep a Clean Inbox

May 23, 2018
using labels to keep a clean inbox

As I wrap up my sixteenth year of teaching, I have been reflecting on all the things I do to lower my stress level. Because teaching can be very stressful, as you well know.

One of my biggest stressors is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to manage: tons of paperwork, stacks of materials to organize, hundreds of papers to grade…and an constantly over-flowing email inbox. 
Here’s my biggest problem with school email: there are so many things that cannot be addressed immediately. 
I click through my mail, I read, and I think…
“I’ll tackle that one later.”
OR, “I can’t even THINK about this right now!”. 
OR, “I can’t delete this until next trimester when we go on that trip.”

And this list goes on and on.

Next thing I know, my inbox has 8,452 emails! 
(I didn’t check, but I’m fairly certain that’s an accurate number. Or even higher.)
I’ve tried to tackle this problem before, using a few tips that helped me keep on top of my mail. I shared those in this older post: Inbox Overflowing? Quick Tips to Put Your Mind at Ease. And those strategies definitely helped me keep on top of my mail. But there was still all those emails that couldn’t be addressed immediately.
So this year I turned to labels.
I am very fortunate my school uses gmail for our work email. Gmail has a very easy way to setup and color-code labels for your inbox. I’d like to share the steps with you here, even if you don’t use gmail at your school…hopefully you can use a labeling system as well!

To create my labels, I first thought of some categories that would cover all of the emails I tend to keep. IEPs and Parents came to mind first, as those are emails I haver to save for the entire school year. I decided to make labels for ELA and Math, as we tend to get assessment information and workshop emails I like to keep for those subject areas. Events is a good label for field trips, fundraisers, and assemblies. Students is a newer label I just created, as a place to store any Google docs my students share with me (in case I don’t have a chance to add them to my Drive at a particular time):

To create these labels, you will need to click under the More arrow, on the left-hand side of your inbox. Add the bottom of this sidebar, you will see Create new label:

Once you click on the new label, you will find a pop-up screen where you can enter the label name. I write mine in all caps for a clean look that stands out in my inbox:

(I don’t nest my labels since I only use six categories…nesting would be very helpful for any subcategories you want to create however).
You can see the new label I created for Report Cards (not actually a label I use, just an example here):

The label won’t be assigned a color unless you choose to add one. To do so, click on the right side of your new label and you will see an arrow and a menu appear. Choose Label Color:

You will see pre-selected label colors, as well as a place to add a custom color. I try to select some bright shades with a white font:

The custom colors have a bit more variety, but you can’t choose any html color you would like:
For the example, I chose a bright purple with a white text color: 
Once you have set up all of your labels, you are ready to get organized! As new emails come in, you can read them and discard…
Or you can click and drag an email you need to save to the label where you would like to store it:

When you click on a label in your sidebar, you will find all the emails you’ve saved under that label. If you open a particular email, you will see your color-coded label at the top:

If you’d like to remove a label, click on the right-hand side of the label and select Remove label:
And that’s it! Once you have all the labels you need, it will be easier to delete and store ALL of your email…so your inbox will become a calming sight for your teacher eyes:

Color-coded, digital organization in Google is always a huge stress-relief for me. I keep my grade book online and sort all subjects by color (it automatically averages too, which is a HUGE timesaver):

I also color-code my subjects and display all of the important information for my students each day, from materials needed to the steps to take during a class. Not only does it help me know exactly what I am doing in a given lesson, but it also keeps my students on the same page (and there are no more questions about what they need or what we are doing next!):

Do you like to organize your teaching digitally? Please share your tips with us!

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  • So I managed to avoid shoving things into random places...mostly 😂 #classroomorganization #kindof #randompaperplates #andnapkins #iteachfourth #iteach4th #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram
  • All packed up and ready for summer!! 😅 Best wishes to my friends still wrapping up their school years! #summertime #canbarelymove #classroomorganization #iteachfourth #iteach4th
  • Two of my dear friends and colleagues retired today. I worked on teams with both over the years (one in 4th and one in 5th) and they’ve both been my next door (classroom door) neighbors. They’ve taught a combined total of 74 years!!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀We had an outdoor luncheon on our school patio to celebrate their years of dedication to our school. The theme was beachy/nautical and it was so fun to set up...I found most of the decor at the Dollar Tree! We had tons of candles, shells, flowers, and a fishnet with class photos from over the years. (Don’t mind the masking tape on the table in that last photo, it was a bit windy 😂). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀It was a happy and sad kind of day 💕 #retiringfriends #cantimagineschoolwithoutthem #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram
  • A little progress with packing up.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀I am really trying to get rid of anything we haven’t used in years and pack up everything in its place. We’ll see if I shove things randomly away when I run out of time next week 😂!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Are you packing up next week?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀#classroomorganization #classroommanagement #iteachfourth #iteach4th #iteach456 #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram
  • Do you ever feel like you make MORE of a mess as you clean out your classroom?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Today was our students’ last day and I stayed for a bit to get things cleaned out and packed but I got so overwhelmed I finally just left. It can wait, right?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀#classroomorganization #notpicturedhere #ineed50daystocleanmyroom #wegetone #iteachfourth #iteach4th #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram
  • Anyone still in school? Our students’ last day is tomorrow and I’m feeling all the emotions right now!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀I got this sweet framed gift from one of my students today 😍😭 Getting myself ready for tomorrow’s whirlwind of emotions!!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀If you are wrapping up school soon, best wishes! And if you are already on break, happy summer!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀#almostsummerbreak #iteachfourth #iteach4th #iteach456 #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram

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