Email is a necessity of modern life, but for many people, it’s also a major time suck, taking up hours each day and sometimes even getting completely out of control. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Gmail has emerged as an incredible tool for productivity, not just in email, but for communication, tasks, and more. Check out our collection of great tips for making Gmail your ultimate productivity tool for school, work, and beyond.
Speed Through Your Inbox
Even if you get massive amounts of email each day, it’s possible to get through your inbox in a matter of minutes, not hours, using Gmail’s productivity features.
- Sneak peeks: Skip the step of opening emails if you just want to scan and find important messages. Get a sneak peek of messages by right clicking on the subject in your inbox.
- Enable Auto Advance: With Auto Advance, Gmail makes it go to your next conversation automatically, allowing you to get through messages faster.
- Enable Priority Inbox: Trust Gmail’s Priority Inbox feature to find the most important emails for you. Users report that with time, it actually is quite effective at finding the mail you really want to look at.
- Look for personal level indicators: Find out which emails were sent just to you by looking for personal level indicators.
- Achieve Inbox Zero: Delete, archive, and file messages away so that you’ve always got a clean slate to work from in your inbox.
- Select multiple messages: By using shift-click, you can select multiple messages at once and apply a group action, like deleting or adding a label.
- Use Rapportive: Using Rapportive, you can easily see the details of everyone you’re emailing with, right in your Gmail tab.
- Enable similar name suggestions: Allow Gmail to suggest different contacts when you’ve entered similar names, and make sure that you’re sending the right messages to the right people.
Use these search tips to find the messages you’re looking for with minimal hassle.
- Unread messages: To find all of the unread messages in your inbox, search for is:unread in:inbox, and they’ll all pop up. For future speedy searches, you can set this search up as a bookmark in your browser.
- Take advantage of search options: Really narrow down your search and quickly get to what you’re looking for by using search options like date ranges, attachments, and keywords.
Filters are easily the single most productive feature that Gmail offers, allowing you to organize all of the messages you get, even doing so automatically. These tips will help you make the most of this feature.
- Enable SmartLabels: Let Gmail figure out labeling for you with SmartLabels. You can always help it along if the feature needs to better learn your inbox habits.
- Get mailing lists out of your inbox: Avoid the clutter of mailing list emails in your inbox, sending them to specific folders, or a general mailing list folder to check out later.
- Send social media notifications to a filtered folder: Don’t let your inbox get bogged down with unimportant Facebook messages, just send them to a new filter.
- Create an events filter: Set up a filter to send all Google Calendar events to a filtered folder to keep track of all the events you’ve got coming up.
- Filter forwards: If your aunt has sent you one too many pictures of cats doing cute things, cut it out by having Gmail filter out all emails with FW: in the subject.
Beyond filters, these tips offer even more organization ideas for your Gmail inbox.
- Use stars: Mark a message as starred to indicate that it’s special, using Superstars for more star options as needed.
- Make Gmail your hub: Instead of juggling several inboxes in different services like Yahoo! and Hotmail, just send them all to Gmail and take care of them together.
- Set labels: Remind yourself that a message is urgent or time sensitive with the help of labels that allow you to quickly scan your inbox.
- Back it up: Chances are, your email is fine, but you never know. Save your emails from a productivity-busting disaster by backing them up to your hard drive on a regular basis.
- Convert mail to Docs: Save email conversations in a Google Document with a simple conversion tool.
- Set up a Gmail Drive: Use Gmail Drive to use your email as an online storage space.
- Send & Archive: Keep clutter out of your inbox by using the Send & Archive feature, a great option for users who typically archive messages after sending anyway.
- Create a follow up folder: Be careful not to lose important emails that need to be followed up on later. Put them in a folder that you check on periodically instead of letting them get pushed further down in your inbox.
Check out these tips to find out how you can master your tasks using Gmail.
- Access Tasks from your mobile phone: Turn emails into tasks, then take them on the go, accessing your list from gmail.com/tasks.
- Move emails to Tasks: Don’t let action emails linger in your inbox; send them to Tasks instead.
- Maintain a to-do list: Send yourself to-do messages and store them in a special labeled filter for an easily maintained to-do list.
Learn how to use these shortcuts to speed through your Gmail tasks and navigation.
- Pull up contacts by clicking “To”: In the compose window, click on “To” to get access to your searchable contacts list.
- Use keyboard shortcuts: Shortcut keys like c for compose, / for search, and o for open can help you speed through your inbox with lightning fast speed.
- Mouse gestures, too: Take advantage of the option to use mouse gestures as well to power through your messages.
- Set up default actions: If you typically need to reply to all, save yourself a few clicks and set that option up as your default reply.
- Preview attachments: Instead of fully opening attachments in another program, preview them in Gmail with “View”.
- Disable auto-saved contacts: Keep your contacts list pared down to just the people you really need to keep info on by disabling Gmail’s auto-save option.
- Drag and drop attachments: Quickly attach files to an email by dragging and dropping them, instead of going through file folders.
- Add multiple attachments: Instead of clicking Attach several times, you can add multiple items at once by simply holding down the Ctrl key to select all of the files.
- Copy and paste images: Use Chrome to quickly grab images online and drop them into your email message.
- Create custom keyboard shortcuts: Make your repetitive tasks move quickly by setting up custom shortcuts that are easy for you to remember.
- Send a quick one-liner: Gmail will prompt you to add body text if that field is left empty, but you can skip this prompt by putting (EOM) at the end of your subject line.
Here you’ll find great ideas for better managing your time with Gmail.
- Set up canned responses: Save email templates for messages that you end up sending out on a regular basis.
- Use chat instead: Avoid building a long email trail and just use chat instead, looking for the reply by chat option if that person is online.
- Pick up the phone: Similar to chat, you can avoid a long drawn out email by just picking up the phone, and you can do it right in Gmail.
- Send an SMS: Again, another great way to take the conversation further. SMS allows you to catch someone who may have walked away from their computer.
- Schedule emails: Using tools like Boomerang, you can write emails at 2 a.m., but actually send them out at 9 a.m., keeping your late night work sessions a secret.
- Email from your phone: Get the Gmail app for your phone to answer and read emails anytime, anywhere.
- Change your title to show unread messages: Tweak your Gmail title bar to show your inbox count first so that you can monitor incoming messages without even clicking on the tab.
- Work offline: Take advantage of Gmail’s offline mode to work while you’re on the road, flying, or even left without a connection.
- Set up desktop notifications: Use a desktop notification tool for Gmail to get alerted when important emails come in, instead of having to go back to your inbox to look for them.
- Background send: If you find yourself waiting around for emails to send in Gmail, enable Background Send so that you can move on.
These tips will help you better manage and banish spam from your Gmail inbox.
- Report spam: Don’t just delete and ignore spam; take a moment to mark it as such to help Gmail learn and keep the same spam messages out of your inbox in the future.
- Set up a whitelist: Make sure that your important emails actually make it to your inbox by putting senders and search criteria on a whitelist.
- Use aliases: When signing up for product emails or using untrustworthy websites, use an alias so you’ll know which emails came from that signup. You can also use this alias to set up a filter.