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Gmail productivity tip: This cool trick helps you focus on a batch of email messages

If you're working across a whole bunch of email messages for a project, this hack will give you a way to focus in on just the key messages you need to work with.

Here's another quick Gmail productivity trick. The scenario is this. You have a project you're working on. It requires aggregating information from a bunch of email messages that may be scattered among email boxes and labels. You only need to focus on that set of messages for a short time, but while you're working, you need that focus, or you're going to spend your afternoon bouncing all over Gmail.

Here's what you can do.

See also: How to back up your Gmail: The ultimate guide.

First, hit the Gmail gear icon, click See All Settings, and then go to the Labels tab. Scroll down below all the system labels and find the Create New Label button.

Now, create a label and call it BUMP!. I like "bump" because it reminds me of the forums practice of bumping a message to the top, but in this case, it's practical because it's at the beginning of the alphabet and will be visible on your Gmail sidebar. I like the exclamation point because it's attention-grabbing, which is advantageous because it helps keep the focus on that particular label.

Set the BUMP! label status to "show if unread". This will mean that the BUMP! label stays hidden unless you put your active project information into it, which keeps it from being distracting when you're not using it.


Now that you have your BUMP! label set up, you can use it.

You can assign items to labels in a variety of ways, but I like to use the toolbar at the top of the Gmail screen. That's because the BUMP! menu is hidden until you put your first unread item into it. So go ahead and do that. Find your first unread item that pertains to your project, click the label icon, and then select BUMP! and hit Apply.


Now, you'll see the BUMP! label on your sidebar. Go ahead and change the color to something vivid (I like red, so it stands out).

Go through your email and assign all the messages related to your project to the BUMP! label. Once you're done, you can click on the label and be dropped into a list that consists just of the email messages you want to concentrate on.


Now, do your project. In my case, I was gathering information from vendors and editors for an article I was working on. Once I was done with the article, I was done with the BUMP! label as well.

I like to both clear and archive my messages when I'm done with the BUMP! focus. To do this, I select all the items in the BUMP! label and mark them as read. Then I hit the Archive button. And then, finally, I go back up to the label icon, and deselect BUMP! from the list and hit Apply.

Once done, those messages will be filed and the BUMP! label hidden until you have the next project you need to gather messages for and focus upon.

More Gmail quick tips:

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