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The Gmail Workflow for Journalists

Slice through your inbox

Your main problem is volume - ActiveInbox has shortcuts to help you deal with it.

Take a quick peek at Clear out your inbox, fast to see how to do this.

Focus on Stories

Stop trying to herd cats. Instead create Story folders, collect info in them, discuss it with your colleagues, and move them towards being published.

ActiveInbox makes it really easy to group emails into Project folders, and you can use these to track stories you're working on. (From here on in, I'll refer to projects as Stories).

You can pin the stories you're working on to the Review Bar so they're instantly accessible.

When a story is complete, you can finish it by deactivating the project. To do this, simpy rename the label to prefix it with Old/. E.g. suppose your story was "Dog Bites Cat", behind the scenes it would be the Gmail label P/Dog Bites Cat, which you would rename to Old/P/Dog Bites Cat.

(Without spoiling the fun, there is a lot we can do to make managing stories easier, including integrating Gmail with the other tools your team use. We'll be working on this later in 2012).

Has someone arranged a meeting? Add it to GCal

ActiveInbox makes it really easy to add an event to GCal, and to link the email discussion and the calendar event. (It does this by adding a link to the Event as a Note on the email; and having a link back to your email in the Event details).

Save random tips for later

You can add a 'Some Day' status for emails, so if something is mildly interesting, but not relevant yet, you can track it for the future.

To do this, simply create a new label in Gmail: ! Some Day. ActiveInbox will recognize this and add a button next to Action and Waiting On.

To review your Some Day items, click Some Day on the To Do dropdown of the Review Bar.

If you want to review the bigger picture of "some day" Stories, add your email to a Story (aka a Project - see above), and when you review Some Day items group them by Project.

Stash your thoughts in the email

You'll probably also want to record the reason why you're not making it a story now, and any other thoughts you have when you first read it, for which you can sketch them in a Note (the contact will not be able to read these!).

Know your history with acquaintances

When you start a reply to a tipster, ActiveInbox shows you Previous Emails --
an instant overview of historic conversations so that you a) know who someone is, b) can see if there's a story emerging from all their previous tips.