Last updated July 26, 2016
I use Gmail for all of my email. There are so many cool things it can do, plus, its integration with other Google products like Calendar and Drive, as well as non-Google products like Evernote and Dropbox (referral links*), make online work much more efficient.
Gmail is free and only requires a Google account. If you don’t have one, sign up here.
Here are some of my top Gmail tips:
1. Use canned responses to save time
Canned responses are email templates. They allow you to quickly insert chunks of text into emails, without having to type things over and over. I did a full tutorial (with video) in my post, How to Set Up Canned Responses (Email Templates) in Gmail.
2. Use “Send & Archive” to save time
The Send & Archive feature allows you to both send an email reply and archive it at the same time. It’s killing two birds with one stone since typically you would send a reply email and then archive it with another button click. It may sound trivial, but trust me, every second saved adds up!
Related: My productivity tips
To enable “Send & Archive” in Gmail, click the gear icon just below your picture in the top right of your screen. From the dropdown, select “Settings.” Once you’re on the Settings page (the “General” tab should be selected at the top left), scroll down until you see the “Send & Archive” section and choose the “Show ‘Send & Archive’ button in reply” button. Save your changes.
Now, whenever you are sending a reply email, the “Send” button will look like the image below. You’ll see you still have the option to simply “Send” but if you no longer need the email in your inbox, send it and archive it in one fell swoop.
3. Use filters to tame your inbox
Filters allow you to assign certain criteria to email messages so they are dealt with automatically. For example, let’s say you receive a weekly email you want to label and archive automatically so it doesn’t clutter your inbox. There are many ways you can set up filters, but the basic process is this:
In Gmail, click on the message in your inbox that you want to work with. Click the “More” button at the top of the window and choose “Filter messages like these.”
At this point, you will be taken through a step-by-step process to apply the criteria you want. You can apply filters to emails that come from a specific email address, contain certain words, is a certain size and much more. Once you’ve filled in your criteria, click the “Create filter with this search” link in the bottom right corner of the window.
In the next window you’ll be asked what you’d like Gmail to do with those filtered emails. For more filter options and info, check out Gmail’s Help Center.
4. Create a signature with clickable links
Go to your Gmail settings by clicking the gear icon in the top right corner of your screen just beneath your picture. Choose “Settings” from the dropdown menu.
On the next page you’ll be on the “General” tab (indicated at the top of your screen). Simply scroll down to the “Signature” section and compose your signature as you would in, say, WordPress. This is rich-text enabled, meaning, you can link, add images, format your text and more.
You can even use a different signature for each email address if you have multiple addresses. Simply choose your desired address from the dropdown at the top of the Signature box, compose your signature for that address and save your changes at the bottom of the screen. Repeat for as many email address as you have.
5. Keep your to-do list nearby with Google Tasks
If you tend to use your inbox as your to-do list or just want a place to keep a running to-do list without having to bounce in and out of your email, use Google Tasks.
To access Tasks within Gmail, simply click the down arrow next to “Gmail” in the top left corner of your Gmail screen. Choose “Tasks” from the dropdown list.
Your task list will pop up below and you can add tasks by typing and hitting enter. You can create multiple task lists as well. There are more Tasks tips and keyboard shortcuts here.
6. Use labels to keep things handy
While Gmail doesn’t have files or folders, they do have labels for referencing certain emails quickly. There are endless ways you could organize your labels. Follow the tips here.
Personally, I don’t go label crazy since I use the search feature within Gmail quite often. However, there are times when I want to keep things handy and a label does the job well. Here are two examples:
- Planning a trip: My family likes to travel as much as possible. I create a label for each destination as we plan. At the time of this writing we are planning a trip to California so I have a label named accordingly. Every time I get an email about our trip, such as info about our flight, hotel, car rental, excursions, etc., I add the “California” label. That way, I don’t have to rely on my memory to search for all the elements of the trip. Everything is in one place. When we return from our trip, if I want to keep my label list clean, I simply right-click on the label and delete it. The label is gone but the emails associated with it are archived so I can search for them later if I want to.
- Buzz file: In my post, 10 Things to Do Before Starting a Blog, I mention the importance of starting a buzz file to keep track of all the nice things people say about my site or Useletter. I apply a label to them so I can find them easily if I need to find testimonials or just need some encouragement.
7. Configure your Gmail tabs
In 2013, Gmail thought it would be helpful to split our inboxes into various tabs, funneling emails into the tabs they felt were most appropriate. (Learn more about tabs here.)
Many users liked this change, but others (myself included) thought it made things feel scattered. Personally, I prefer all emails to come to one place where I can process them how I want.
If you want all emails to land in one spot without being separated into tabs, click the gear icon under your picture in the top right and select “Configure inbox” from the dropdown. Uncheck all boxes (except for Primary which cannot be unchecked) and save.
Bonus email tips…
- From time to time I share more Gmail or non-Gmail-specific email tips in the Useletter® (be sure to subscribe!). For example, I shared the Chrome extension I use to get previews of my emails in this issue (see #3).
- Also, if you need help taming your inbox, be sure to read my post 8 Tips for Email Management.
*If you click on one of my referral / affiliate links and complete a signup or purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.