Google's Gmail Smart Labels: Nice touch, imperfect cure

Google's Gmail launched Smart Labels, which automatically categorize incoming emails. It's a nice touch that can help you scan a monstrous work email account, but probably won't cure overload.

Google's Gmail on Wednesday launched Smart Labels, which automatically categorize incoming emails. It's a nice touch that can help you scan a monstrous work email account, but probably won't cure overload.

After reading, Google's blog post on the subject I hopped over to the Labs tab on my work account. CBS Interactive uses Google Apps. The problem with my work account is simple: There are too many notifications, email threads, PR pitches, traffic reports and other items screaming for my attention.

Smart Labels puts a little green categorization next to a message in your inbox. From there, you can sort them according to Google's categorization. The big takeaway: I just have too many notifications.

Now I use Priority Inbox, but that has been imperfect. I miss stuff. As for filters, I just don't have the time. Google's Stanley Chen, a software engineer, notes:

I have about 100 filters that triage and label my incoming mail, most of my friends and family have all their messages in a giant unfiltered inbox.

Stanley obviously does email for a living. I'm in the unfiltered camp. If I route an email to a folder there's a 99.9 percent chance I'll never look at it.

So for me, Smart Labels are welcome. It's a guide on what to skip.

But the solution is imperfect. My other solution is that I just close the email tab for hours at a time. If there's something seriously important I get an IM. More often than not, problems seem to resolve themselves via email.

In the end, the real solution to email overload is to just quit.