I previously wrote about how to turn your inbox into a GTD Gmail. That post turned out to be quite popular and so I will follow up with my top Gmail tricks to make email management insanely easy.
By the way: if you haven’t switched to a GTD Gmail, I recommend you do it right now. 😉
While the GTD Gmail is a productivity system for email, these Gmail tricks are hacks that you can integrate and build upon that system.
Using the GTD Gmail plus these awesome Gmail hacks, you will save thousands of hours per year processing email. You can use this new-found time to make progress in meaningful work and start being more productive than ever.
Remember: email is shallow work. You need to focus on doing Deep Work instead.
Gmail Tricks for the Power User
#1 Enable Undo Send
Let’s start with a feature that obviously should be enabled by default.
You accidentally pressed the send button on an email way too fast. Seconds later the perspiration kicks in. At this point, you frantically search for a way to un-send it and once you realize it can’t be done full sweat starts to cover your body.
Trust me, we’ve all been there. Luckily, there’s an easy Gmail trick to solve this problem.
Here’s how to make sure it never happens again:
Step 1: go to Settings > General, find “Undo Send” and choose 10 seconds from the drop-down (30 if it normally takes you that long to regret sending an email 😉 ):
Step 2: save changes. Your Gmail will now reload.
Step 3: spend the next 30 minutes writing an angry email to Google stating 50 reasons why this feature should be enabled by default.
#2 Use Canned Responses for Common Messages
There is always that one email that we seem to keep sending over and over again. The words are pretty much the same every time and yet, we keep writing one after the other.
Here’s another awesome Gmail trick: create a template that we can use over and over again. That way, next time you need to write a quick “Thank you” email you can click a button and words will magically appear.
This is Gmail Labs feature. Here’s how to start using it:
Step 1: go to Settings > Labs, find “Canned Responses” and click “Enable”. Save your changes and your Gmail will reload.
Step 2: whenever you find yourself composing an email that you want to save as a template, click the arrow on the right inferior corner, choose canned responses, new canned response and give it a name.
Make sure you choose easy to remember names. This goes a long way if you start using a lot of canned responses.
Step 3: if you need that template again in the future, click the arrow and then choose the appropriate canned response.
Step 4: brag to your coworkers that you have acquired the skill of writing emails in literally one second.
This simple Gmail trick alone cuts the time I spend writing emails in half.
You’re welcome 😉
#3 Mute Noisy Conversations
I talked about archiving emails as a major point of the GTD Gmail methodology.
However, you sometimes get dragged into endless emails chains that keep popping in your inbox every time someone replies. This is especially true if your company uses mailing lists and you are on a lot of them. Or it can happen in random conversations where you have nothing to contribute.
For these specific types of emails, the nicest and easiest of Gmail tricks is to use the “mute” feature. You can find it under the button “More” on a specific email:
Or you can use keyboard shortcuts to make it even easier (covered in the GTD Gmail post).
This Gmail trick will archive the email and keep it there. Even if people reply, the mute function won’t let the email pop back to the inbox.
Neath, uh? 😉
#4 Learn to Use Gmail Search Operators
Gmail is a nice email client but what really makes it stand apart is its search function.
Knowing a few of the most-used search operators can go a long way to save you lots of time and headaches.
The ones I find myself using repeatedly:
- Quotes: return emails with the exact keywords, e.g. “presentation”
- From: return email from a specific user, e.g. from: John
- To: return email sent to a specific user, e.g. to: John
- Filename: return emails that have a specific type of file attached, e.g. filename:pdf
- After and Before: return emails before and after a specific date, e.g. before: 2016/10/01
- Anywhere: return all emails using keyword, regardless of location (spam, inbox, trash), e.g. in: anywhere download
Here’s the full list of Gmail search operators.
This is going to be helpful for our next two Gmail tricks.
#5 Filter Messages Automatically
This is probably one of the lesser known (and more useful) Gmail trick. Use it to set and maintain filters a breeze and simplify search.
I like to call it email siblings. Basically, Gmail lets you add a plus sign and any word before the @ sign and messages will still reach your primary email.
When you sign up for an email newsletter, add “+somethinghere” after your email ID. You can then add a rule to filter those emails directly into a folder.
Here are 3 ways you can use this hack:
- Friendly Email: add “+friends” when sending an email to a friend; then you can either filter it and make it go to a label or mark these messages as important and top priority so they show at the top of your inbox
- Divide Work and Personal: add “+work” to your Gmail address for any work-related conversations
- To-Do Lists: add “+todo” when emailing yourself tasks
Adding siblings will make it super easy to find specific topics using search.
#6 Find and Remove Large Messages
There are many Gmail tricks to remove emails in bulk. But the simplest one to declutter your inbox of large emails is using a specific search operator.
Click “All Mail” and input this query into the search bar: “larger:10M”.
This will reveal all emails that are bigger than 10MB:
You can input any number you want. Focus your energy on the 20% of emails that take up 80% of the space (also known as the 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle).
#7 Use the Send and Archive Button
By default, after replying to an email the conversation stays in your inbox. This is contrary to the inbox zero philosophy, where we want to tackle emails one by one and get to a clean slate.
This Gmail trick is about enabling a feature that lets you automatically archive a conversation after sending it.
Navigate to Settings > General, find “Send and Archive” and click “Show Send & Archive button in reply”:
Save your changes.
You now have an additional blue button when replying to an email in your inbox.
Use it every time you are replying to an email to automatically archive it.
Up until now, we’ve used standard features. For the last of our Gmail tricks, I’ll turn into integrations to make email management even more powerful.
#8 IFTTT Gmail Workflow
I am a big fan of If This Then That (IFTTT), mainly because I think connecting apps is such a powerful concept. It simplifies your life by automating actions that you would have to perform manually.
Here are two “recipes” (automated tasks) I use:
- Add Email Receipts to a Google Drive Spreadsheet: using this IFTTT recipe, purchase receipts get added to a spreadsheet so it’s easy to keep track my online purchases
- Save Gmail Attachments to Dropbox: I have a specific folder on my dropbox where all the email attachments go; from there I can delete or move to appropriate locations (such as the photo folder). Use this recipe
A good starting point for Gmail automated tasks is IFTTT Gmail page.
These are my favorite Gmail tricks that help you manage email faster.
Because by doing less email, you can focus on what matters.