Killer Gmail Tip: Keep Track of “Waiting For” Emails

Ever email someone hoping for a reply, never hear from them, then forget about your original email? That forgetfulness could cost you a lead or a deal. Here’s the system I’ve developed to keep track of emails I’m waiting to hear back from.

Many years ago, when I was enslaved to the Windows platform, I used ACT! — a great contact and task management tool. One of the things I loved about it was you could easily create a follow-up task each time you contacted someone. Then, if you haven’t heard from them for a week or so, you could ping them a reminder.

After losing track of too many emails I needed to hear back from, I developed this system in Gmail. Here are the steps you need to set this up.

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Setup (you only need to do this once)

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Step 1: Create the 1 WAITING label

In Gmail, Click the Settings link in the top-right of the page, then click Labels, as below:

waitinga.jpg

Look for the Labels section down the page. It will look like this:

waitingb.jpg

  • Type 1 WAITING into the box and click Create. (You’ll wait to put the 1 in front so that it sorts to the top of your labels list, making it easier to click.)
  • Go back to the main Gmail page by clicking the Mail link in the left navigation area.
  • Look for 1 WAITiNG on the left and click the small box to its left. Assign it a colour. I recommend white text on bright red background so that emails you’re waiting for really stand out in your inbox when they arrive.

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Step 2: Set up Multiple Inboxes

To keep your eyeballs on emails you’re waiting for a response from, use the Multiple Inboxes feature in Mail Labs. Here’s how to set it up.

First, click the Mail Labs icon at the top right of Gmail (it looks like a small green beaker to the right of your email address):

waiting_top.jpg

Scroll down the long list of labs features until you find Multiple Mailboxes.

waiting_mm.jpg

Click Enable. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click Save Changes.

waiting_mm2.jpg

Click the Settings link at the top of the page again, then click the Multiple Inboxeslink.

Type in the information exactly as it appears below:
is:1 WAITING — note: make sure there isn’t a space between is: and 1.

waiting_mm3.jpg

Click Save Changes at the bottom, then ?bo back to the main Gmail page by clicking the Mail link in the left navigation area.

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Usage

Now that it’s all set up, here’s how to use it.

Step 1: Send your email as usual

waiting1.jpg

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Step 2: Apply the WAITING label in Sent Mail

  • Go to Sent Mail and find the email you just sent (it’s probably the one at the top).
  • Click the checkmark box to the left of the email.
  • Pull down the Labels menu.
  • Click the box beside 1 WAITING.

waiting2.jpg

Your email should look like this. Notice that it now has a bright red 1 WAITING label.

waiting3.jpg

Go back to the main Gmail page by clicking the Mail link in the left navigation area.

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That’s It!

You’re all set up! Your screen should look something like this:

waiting_final.jpg

You now have two areas on your screen — regular emails and important emails that you’re still waiting for a response from. I like this view because it keeps those emails front-and-centre in my mind.

When someone replies to one of these marked emails, it’ll show up in your main Inbox as per usual, with the bright red flag. Reply as per usual and, if you no longer need the flag, just select the Labels menu again and click 1 WAITING to turn the flag off or click the X beside the red label.

Enjoy!

  1. Great idea. Quick question, though. Instead of manually adding the label to the sent mail, couldn’t one just use a filter?

  2. Great idea. Now if Google Labs will come up with a way to “LABEL and SEND” in one button, you could eliminate the trip to the SENT mail.

  3. I use star (superstars) instead labels. Where each star type refers to something.

  4. Thanks for this tutorial – it’s perfect for people like me. :)

    How about creating a filter that is activated by emails from you that contain the word “await” or “waiting for”… It works pretty nice.

  5. I’m glad you took a stab at this.

    First, @Joe King, I’ve been waiting for to be able to label an outgoing email forever!

    Second, this may work for many people but my biggest problem with this is keeping all of these emails/thoughts you are waiting on in your inbox (basically) and in your head. This causes mental clutter. You tend to worry about things you can’t really do anything about. My suggestion is archive (hide) these emails you are waiting on, as long as they are labeled “Waiting” and set up a weekly reminder email to check your “Waiting” label. This way, you will only have to think about this possibly long list of things you can’t do anything about, only once a week. If at that point they are not resolved, then you can ping the person you are waiting on again.

    Lastly, including people’s tweets/retweets as comments kind of kills the point of comments, IMHO. I had to look through all “30” comments to find two people who actually had something to say.

  6. You don’t need multiple inbox for this. Just apply a label.

  7. I´m doing the same thing, but with superstars (enable more stars types on Gmail Labs). Thanks for sharing!

  8. Why not cc yourself on these using a ‘+’ alias (e.g. johndoe+waiting@gmail.com) and then set up a filter to label and archive emails to that address?

  9. OK, here is a way that can apply an automatic label when sending, although i have not tested it. There is a feature in google where you can send email to your inbox by using your gmail address with a plus symbol at the end of your email address before the @ sign. For example if your email address is omar@gmail.com you can send any emails to omar+alias@gmail.com. Any text after and including the plus sign is dropped and will be delivered to your inbox (this is a good way to track which sites send spam). So if you add a BCC with your own email address but add +waiting, so in this example omar+waiting@gmail.com,you can add a filter to automatically add labels to emails with that address in the BCC field. Once again I have not tested this, but see no reason why it wouldn’t work

  10. An easier way to do this is to Bcc yourself on messages that you want to go to the waiting label. Instead of your regular email address you can a +waiting between your regular email username and the @ symbol. Then use a filter to apply a label. So your email address will look like joe.blow+waiting@gmail.com. Gmail will let you add all of types of additional words to your email address.

  11. I wrote the service http://www.FollowUp.cc for almost this exact purpose: to be reminded of emails you need to follow up on (if the person doesn’t respond)

    The great thing is you set the reminder in the CC or BCC field of your email. So much easier! In addition, once those reminders are in your address book over time, it’s literally like one click reminders. Really flexible, I think you’ll like it. (It was written about on LifeHacker recently too).

  12. does the red 1Waiting labeled email appear on both inboxes, also the regular one ? is there a way to not show in inbox. I guess with the name+waiting@gmail.com you can set up rule to assign label 1Waiting and remove from Inbox … I like that best.

  13. “Why not cc yourself on these using a ‘+’ alias (e.g. johndoe+waiting@gmail.com) and then set up a filter to label and archive emails to that address?”

    Thank you for reminding me about this option :) great solution!

  14. I had to use the filter: “label:1-waiting ” to get it to work. Just using “is:1 Waiting” returned no results….

  15. gotta love this, thanks for the tip.. although i used ~Waiting instead of 1 WAITING, looks cleaner. Also try to the right of the inbox.

  16. Nice touch with ~. Thanks.

  17. You can go one step further and automate this a bit more. Create a filter such that any mail to your.name+waiting@gmail.com to skip Inbox and Apply Label of ‘waiting’. Then when you reply to an email that you want labled you can just bcc it you your.name+waiting@gmail.com and then it will get tossed in to that label for you.

    Thanks for the tip.

  18. Thanks!

  19. Etacts.com can be integrated in Gmail

  20. “is:1 WAITING” didn’t work, but “label:1 WAITING” did. Any thoughts?

  21. That’s odd. It works for me. Maybe there are two subtle different Gmails running around.

  22. Excellent hack! And it can be used for so many things… I just set it up with two inboxes for a “to do” list (used to keep actionable emails in my inbox) and articles I send myself to check later (sorted via filter).
    Thanks a lot, I think this will be almost as important as when I discovered Bacn a couple of years ago. Yes, I love this trick that much. We’ll see how it holds up after a couple of weeks…

  23. Great tip – any way to get the name of the RECIPIENT to show up in the list of emails. Right now I see a list of emails that all have my name next to them as the SENDER – need to go through each manually to review.

  24. Unfortunately not. Gmail doesn’t have a way for you to add/chance columns.
    :-(

  25. Hey Tod, you mention you used to use ACT! Can I ask what CRM you are using now, if any? I’m looking at HighriseCRM, but not sure if I want 37Signals to have more of my money. I already use Basecamp. I wish Highrise and Basecamp were one product.

  26. I’m using eSpeakers but transitioning to Highrise. eSpeakers is excellent
    for speakers but expensive and doesn’t have very good API integration with
    anything else.

    And yeah, I wish they would combine some of them — or at least offer links
    at the top of the page to jump back and forth.

    At tMedia, we transitioned from Backpack to Google Docs.

  27. Hey you know with the new Priority inbox you could use the “Waiting” label in one of the sections…least I think so. Trying now.

  28. I feel like continually refreshing to see if I’ve got it yet. WANT!

  29. Tod, I love this idea – thanks a tonne! I’ve already found it enormously useful.

  30. My pleasure! :-)

  31. The Priority Inbox replaces the need to create a multiple inbox. Simply tag the sent email with “Waiting” and create a Priority Inbox for the Waiting tag.

  32. Yep, Google was reading my mind. ;-) Or you could Star the messages you are waiting to hear back from.

  33. I prefer to use gmail as it was intended. Your inbox should be clear except for emails that you are waiting on. Don’t have a reply? Go to your sent items and move the single message you sent to the inbox. Star it if you need to.

    You people with massive amounts of email in your inboxes are living in the 90’s.

  34. Sorry to rant, but “Priority Inbox” is a result of people still using gmail in this style, in a way it was not originally designed for. I’m tired of it being in bold text at the top of mine. [/rant]

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  12. Tracy H-I - doing this right now! http://bit.ly/cFXh89
  13. AboutOne LLC - Super simple trick for making sure you don't forget you are waiting for a response to an email. http://ow.ly/2qX0I
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  16. fred first - Very handy gmail hack: create "WAITING FOR REPLY" mailbox. Clear setup instructions. http://bit.ly/9YloXm
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  26. Taryn Merrick - Fantastic tip to keep organized with deliverables in Gmail utilizing Multiple Inboxes http://bit.ly/dCwrE4
  27. Taryn Mac VA Merrick - Fantastic tip to keep organized with deliverables in Gmail utilizing Multiple Inboxes http://bit.ly/dCwrE4
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