How to fine-tune Gmail for maximum productivity

Email is a complicated beast. There are so many layers to mull over when it comes to making an inbox manageable, from the surface-level organizational factors (hello, labels!) to the more advanced under-the-hood features (filters, anyone?).

But beyond all of that, even, is the issue of your actual inbox interface. It may seem trivial, but having an interface that emphasizes the functions you use most while minimizing unnecessary clutter can go a long way in making email easier to manage — both in terms of efficiency and for the simple matter of sanity. (I know I feel far less mentally stable after I’ve been staring at an awful interface for an hour!)

Well, good news, my fellow Google-app dwellers: Gmail has one of the most customizable inbox interfaces around, and there’s plenty you can do to make it both visually appealing and primed for productivity. By default, though, the Gmail website is kind of a cluttered mess — and it’s up to you to fine-tune it.

So let’s do a little tuning, shall we? Here are eight smart steps you can take to optimize your Gmail inbox interface and turn it into a more effective home for all of your email-oriented needs.

1. Cut out clutter

First up is that virtual clutter we were just discussing — and goodness gracious, does Gmail have heaps of it.

Take, for instance, the service’s importance markers. Those are the flag-shaped icons to the left of every email in your inbox, sandwiched between the star and the sender’s name. On some emails, they appear as hollow outlines, while on others, they’re filled in with a golden-yellow hue.

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