Gmail is the e-mail service provider of choice for millions of people, including me. It has become not only the most-used personal e-mail system but also a strong business e-mail system. Whether it is your way of staying in touch with your child’s school, other mom friends, or even your friends from back in school, I am willing to bet 80% of you use Gmail.
I was one of the early adopters of Gmail, back in 2004. Those days, you could join Gmail only through an invitation from an existing user. The streamlined, minimal interface of the system was like a breath of fresh air among the cluttered interfaces of Yahoo! and Hotmail. User-friendly Gmail soon spread like a wildfire among the young and the old.
Here are 7 amazing Gmail hacks that will improve your productivity.
7 Essential Gmail Productivity Hacks
Fair warning: This is an image-heavy post. I plan to replace the image series with video clips. But until such time, thank you for your patience and support 🙂
Create Alias-Based Filters
Did you know when you sign up for Gmail, you actually sign up for multiple IDs or aliases? For example, when I signed up for [email protected], I get [email protected] and [email protected] free. Similarly, my husband uses a “.” (dot) between his first name and last name, but if by mistake, someone misses the “.” he will still receive the email. Cool, eh?
But, here’s something even cooler. You can take advantage of these punctuations to filter your emails. Suppose you are a work at home mom and you do not want to create a separate work email ID (provided your personal email account is not [email protected]), you do not have to. Simply create an alias on your existing email ID using either a “.” or a “+” and add a distinguishing keyword.
For example, I will receive emails from my personal emails at [email protected] and business emails (I freelance) at [email protected]. All from the same email account. Similarly, you can come up with aliases for maybe your website, your child’s school, your college reunion group, promotional emails, etc.
Here’s how to create an alias-based filter.
Remember to provide the correct alias email ID. For example, while you are signing up for a new application, sign up using [email protected]. Create a filter for this alias. That’s it. All incoming emails on this ID will automatically get filtered as per your chosen conditions.
Categorize and Color Code
I am sure you all are aware what categorization means. If not, categorization is a technique to sort items or tasks into like groups. The sorting is based on certain preset conditions. For example, on your master list of To-Do items, some are work related, some are house chores, some are school related, etc.
Remember the Eisenhower Decision Matrix? That’s also categorization based on priorities.
Similarly, the emails you receive can be sorted into various categories. Gmail provides an option to set up your Inbox based on certain keywords and display them as tabs. It’s the default setting of all new Gmail accounts. But if you want don’t have it active and want to try it out, here’s what you need to do:
I do not like using this setup because the sorting is based on very broad categories (not Gmail’s fault; they have to keep it broad to fit all users). I like to filter using my own categories (see the previous tip).
On Gmail, you can categorize using two methods:
Assigning labels to your emails helps you locate them quickly. My account is quite streamlined, but if you tend to have many categories, using labels can help you sort, scan, and locate them visually. You can also use the labeling system to create a To-Do list. For example, I have a bright red label called “ACTION REQD.” I assign this label to emails that need follow-up: either a reply or a printout, etc. Similarly, I have labels for items that add to my income or expenditure.
Stars and Icons
Instead of using simple color-coded labels, Gmail also allows you to use pictorial labels to sort your emails. To do this, use the Stars and Icons features provided by Gmail.
For example, for emails that need your attention or it is a high priority item, use the red exclamation triangle icon. Alternatively, use a red star or multiple stars. It is up to you how you want to use the stars and icons.
Remember you can use only the active stars and icons.
How many times have you sent an email and immediately realized you forgot to add a detail? It happens. I have done it a few times.
Luckily, the Gmail team does not look down upon people like me. They have just the thing to save us embarrassment. The Undo Send feature allows you to recall your email within 30 seconds of sending. Trust me, that’s time enough to realize what mistake you have made 😀
Ready to save you some embarrassment?
If you do not find the feature in the General tab, look for it in the Labs tab and enable it.
Use Preview Pane
How many of you have used Microsoft Outlook? I have not since I quit my full-time job, but one feature of MS Outlook that has stayed with me is the Preview Pane. Seeing a preview of anything helps you decide whether you want to invest more time in diving deeper.
Think of it this way: would you go watch a movie that has a crappy trailer? I bet not unless someone is holding a gun to your head or you have nothing better to do.
So, when I discovered the Preview Pane feature in Gmail, I was over the moon. Here is how you can activate it too.
Create Canned Responses
Emailing can eat into your time faster than you think.
Think about it: not every email needs your immediate response. However, you do not want your subscribers or clients to hear crickets either. What’s the solution then?
You can create standard responses to similar queries.
Appreciation/feedback from subscribers? Send them a standard “Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate you.” note.
Too many frequently asked questions from subscribers? Send standard responses with relevant answers.
Inquiries from brands about your portfolio? Send them a standard package email.
You can save a lot of time by sending these pre-typed standard responses. Gmail calls them “Canned Responses.” Here’s how to create your own canned responses.
Now, every time someone sends you an email about something you have answered several times previously, just use the saved canned responses and be done with just a few clicks.
Create Tasks from Emails
Gmail is no longer just an email service provider; it’s a productivity tool.
That’s right! You can create a basic To-Do list right in your inbox. You don’t need a separate task manager anymore. Let’s see how.
Isn’t that cool?
As if the aforementioned features were not enough, you can integrate a number of third-party extensions to power Gmail even more. Here are a few of my tried-and-tested recommendations:
- Zapier is a tool that allows you to create triggers and actions to automate your emailing requirements, such as creating labels, creating To-Do lists, etc. It allows you to create actions that native Gmail features do not.
- Boomerang is an exclusive browser extension for Gmail to schedule outgoing emails. As a blogger, you may already be using this feature for your marketing emailing system, such as MailerLite, but now you can do it for your personal emailing system as well.
- FollowUp is a browser extension that not only schedules emails but also alerts you when someone opens your email. In addition, you can also set up reminders for…you guessed it, follow-ups.
What are some of your favorite Gmail hacks or integration? Share in the comments below.