How to be Productive as an ADD/ADHD Designer – Gmail Edition


Let’s face it. Being productive, organizing your tasks and projects, and staying on top of your work can not only be a drag, but impossible at times. I would know first hand as I truly believe I struggle with either ADD or ADHD, but what creative person doesn’t struggle with these attention disorders? I find that it was difficult to figure out how to plan out my work, social life and personal projects without feeling overwhelmed.

I heard about about GTD techniques (Getting Things Done), and how to implement a process in your life to stay somewhat organized. I decided this week that I was going to try to focus in on getting my life a little bit organized and developing some type of system. Through my process I realized there were a few things that the brain does not like, and that is when there is no system, and multi-tasking. (boy does it not like THAT).

I am not going to talk about all the things I have done in one post as I am still learning different ways. But the beginning definitely had to start in my mail. I used to use Apple Mail, then I moved to Postbox, and while both are robust platforms, after a few HD fails, and lost data, I found that it was easier to have web-based mail. This brought me to Gmail, since I use it for all my 15 emails (yes you read that right). Owning several online ventures, while using Google Apps, I have become quite familiar to the Google platform. Since I spent most of my time on it, I had to figure out a way to find a “home” within the Google OS (might as well call it that).

Here are 7 tools that I use to streamline my process in GMail (click any of the pics to enlarge):

1. Using “folders” or labels. – By using labels, this allows me to achieve “Inbox Zero” by putting things in their place and not having them solely in my inbox. If you use a native email client on your computer (IMAP is preferred), these will convert to folders so that the organization is not lost across platforms.


2. Using Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Voice and GChat as email widgets – If you use any of the “Google Goodies”, it’s very convenient to have these stored on the side as to not leave the platform. The greatest part about this is being able to access docs quickly, or add appointments to your Calendar easily (you can put “7p Wednesday – Call with Jim”, and it will add it for you). And of course if you like to be interrupted, having GChat turned on, allows for those interruptions that we love and adore so much.


3. Weather Theme – Activating themes in GMail is definitely a beautiful enhancement, but what about something that can actually be useful? The “Tree” theme actually shows you the weather outside. This is especially useful since Freelancers never really see outside, or know what is happening on the outside. The background changes as the weather does and lets you know what the weather is out side. One of the most useful themes I have ever seen.

4. Google Labs – This is found in Mail Settings > Labs tab. It is where you activate Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Voice and Google Chat windows. I found a lot of great goodies here, but the most useful ones that have helped me are:

Canned Responses – save templates so that you don’t have to write your emails over and over again.



Undo Send – When you are in a hurry, your fingers go fast and you can sometimes press send buttons way to fast… Here’s a tool to help.

Quote Selected – The iPhone and Apple Mail already does this, but it’s a great feature to have when you need to refer back to something and want to cut down on the short cuts.




5. Priority Inbox – Just like GMail filters your SPAM, it can also filter out your best mail from your okay mail. It allows you to set priorities, and learns over time as you select what is priority so that if you want to check your mail for that “important email”, you can get to it quickly and efficiently.

6. Google Multiple Sign In  – Possibly the best thing that I discovered (last week) is that you can finally sign into as many Google accounts as you want! This is one thing that I always wished they could do so that I didn’t have to use a native application, so with finding this information it has been a life savor!

First you have to enable your account for Multiple Sign In (This is found in your Account Settings)


Then from there you can switch to different accounts (Downfall: It will ask you to login each time you quit your browser)

7. BONUS: Away Find – If you are anything like me you check your email 50 times a day, this is a no-no to productivity. The goal is to get it down to 2-3x/day. I know, impossible right? Away Find keeps your mind at ease by helping to filter your messages. You can set up which emails are important, or your VIP senders, a link for people to write to you if it’s urgent, as well as syncs to a mobile application that they offer or texts you urgent emails. It’s very useful, and a great idea. I’m giving it a try this week, and I hope to stick to it. So far my email checking has gone significantly down. I hope to continue using it in hopes to cut down on email anxiety. (Yes it’s real)

So these are tools I use for my email. Next week I’ll talk about Mac Apps that I use to help me stay focused. I would love to hear what helps with your productivity below, and if you have any tips or critiques on what I already wrote!

Comments (2)
  • Nadia S.

    July 31, 2011

    Awesome blog! Very informative and very helpful tips. You may be on to something here. Consultation may be in your near future! Keep it up!

  • Tatiana Scott

    August 1, 2011

    Putting this in my “to implement asap” folder and going to do just that! Well done!

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