Using Gmail to Store Your Reference Information

Want a free and easy way to store all your information?  Stever has the solution

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #180


One of the things I love about our culture of information is that we can learn so much about so many things! But once I've learned something, I don't like to spend the time to relearn it. That's why I take notes and want to be able to access them everywhere. It doesn't matter whether I actually look at them again; I feel safe just knowing they're there..

As you know from my episode on building a master system to organize your life, it’s helpful to store all your notes in one place so you never have to think about where to search for them.

Say, you're attending a concert, and want to take notes so you can write a review for your church newsletter. Or you’re at a social event and want to take ongoing notes about your friends' faults, and send along a helpful summary every week. The good news there is that soon, you won't have to worry about remembering addresses because your social circle will be trimmed down to a much more manageable size. But you need someplace for those notes, so I recommend you put them into your email.

Tip #1 - Capture Your Notes Using Email

Rather than typing your notes in a random file somewhere on your computer or smartphone, email them. But where? If you email reference material to yourself, it will get mixed up in your inbox between this month's sales figures and the announcement of Lady Gaga's latest hairstyle. You'll never be able to find it easily.

Fortunately, Google can help. Visit Gmail.com and create an account you'll use as a repository for all your reference material. Choose a username like MyReference@gmail.com.

Now, when you're taking notes, type them directly into an email message. Then email it to your reference Gmail account, and you'll have it available forever, from any machine with a web browser. These days, that even includes your toaster.

When someone emails you and you want to save it for reference, just forward it to your reference email account. If you want to save files, just forward them to your reference account as attachments.

Tip #2 - Add Keywords to Your Message

To find your reference material, simply search your Gmail inbox. When you send yourself reference material, add a list of keywords to the email. Choose any keyword you think you would use to remember the note.

Include a keyword that gives you the main topic of the note. For example, "concert review." If the note involves people, include their names. Jot down relevant locations, the names of projects, times, dates, and so on. Any time you search for any of those keywords, this reference item will now come up.

[[AdMiddle]When you search, you'll see the note's subject line in the inbox. Use a subject line that will quickly let you know what's in the note, so you don't have to open it to find out. "James's shortcomings" is so much more descriptive than "nose feedback."

Tip #3 - Set Up Automatic Labels

Gmail lets you label your messages. For example, you can create a label “feedback” and use it for all the notes you’ve taken containing helpful feedback about those around you. You can then easily pull up all the notes in that category with one click.

You can also create filters to label your reference material when it reaches your inbox. Click the link that says "Create a Filter" and construct a search that finds the messages you want to label. For instance, if you always include the keyword "feedback" in your helpful feedback notes, search for the keyword and tell Gmail to label all those messages as “feedback.”

I use labels to categorize my reference notes into Instructions, Observations, Ideas for Get-it-Done Guy episodes, and so on. Even though I could just search for those as keywords, giving them labels makes it super-easy to view each category as a whole.

If you use a Mac, iPhone, or iPod Touch, you can set up your reference email account in your Mail program and tell Mail to pull in notes from your reference account. Any email message in your Gmail Notes label will show up in your Notes application. Use a keyword ShowInNotes and create a filter that automatically puts the Notes label on any message with that keyword. Now, simply emailing your reference email address and including the keyword ShowInNotes will make that email show up in your Notes application.

If you want a central place to store your notes, you can spend time downloading, evaluating, and configuring a gazillion software packages that claim to give you central storage. Or, you can just use email. With a Gmail account for your reference information, plus a few finely-chosen labels and filters, you can have a reference system that is easy to search, has tons of storage, is free, can handle files and attachments, and can be accessed from virtually any internet-enabled device.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Google Images

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.