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September 24, 2015

Mastering Gmail: 8 Expert Tips and Tricks

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Email is a ubiquitous form of communication. Most of us live in our inboxes, but don’t employ a meticulous method of organization. Inboxes are constantly jam packed with newsletters, notifications, cat pictures, forwarded mail from mom, and messages from various colleagues. Sometimes, getting to the bottom of the virtual pile can be a little overwhelming and at times may even seem impossible.

There are various ways to arrange, customize, sort, and even cut corners that make a (0) inbox easy to achieve. Gmail offers the most customization, due to popularity, so here are 10 ways to organize your inbox.

1. Decrease Your Number of Email Notifications

While this one isn’t Gmail specific, it’s really shocking how so few people employ the strategy. Today, most people sign up for email notifications from various social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for business purposes. In almost all cases, these are merely cluttering up your inbox. Chances are that you are going to check the platform at some point in the day or later in the week anyway. If you are unwilling to eliminate these notifications, at least limit them to a minimum in order to avoid crowding your inbox.

The same goes for email subscriptions. The average subscriber receives approximately 416 commercial emails per month. That alone is enough to litter your inbox with unnecessary emails. Limit the number of subscriptions you have open by unsubscribing manually or use ‘Unroll.me’ (https://unroll.me/) as a one-click solution to de-clutter your inbox.

Here’s a rule of thumb: If you haven’t read a given newsletter in the last 30 days, you aren’t interested. It’s inbox clutter. Unsubscribe and be free.

2. Label Emails for Rapid Readability

With Gmail labeling you can assign labels and color coding to different types of emails. Once this has been completed, emails that arrive in your inbox will automatically be given a label, without your manual input.

To assign a label simply select one or more emails, click on the “more options” tab and choose “Filter messages like this”, followed by “Create filter for this search”. Now each time you receive an email from these sources it will be labeled upon arrival.

3. Color-Code Your Labels

This is an extremely handy visual aid that will allow you to quickly skim your inbox and determine what is urgent, and what is not. To change the color of a particular label:

  • On the left-hand side of the Gmail page, click on the small square to the left of the label
  • Select the desired color from the palette options and the changes will be instantly reflected

Color coding your labels makes your inbox ultra-easy to sort through.

4. Mute Group Conversations

Another advanced Gmail technique to help empty out your inbox is the ability to mute group conversations that no longer concern you. If you are stuck in an endless group email that has become irrelevant for you click on the “More” icon when the message is open and click “Mute”. Wahlah, more freedom!

5. Turn on Personal Level Indicators

Inside the yellow markers next to the name of the sender, arrows are often displayed. These arrows indicate if the email is directly to you, to a group of individuals, or to a mailing list. Two arrows indicates that it is just for you, a single arrow indicates a group, and no arrows means that email has gone out to a mailing list. To turn on personal level indicators, simply go to the “General” tab in settings.

6. Use Tasks to Connect Your Email and To-Do List

When you receive an email that you need to take action on but don’t have the time to immediately reply, simply add it to your tasks. If you are in your inbox, select the email so that the “More” button will appear. If you are in reading view, then it should already be present. By clicking more, a dropdown will be presented with the option to “Add to Tasks”. Once you select this a tasks list will appear at the bottom of your screen. From here you can edit the labeling or even add a due date. The best part about this feature is that clicking on the item in the tasks list will automatically link back to the email.

7. Gmail Shortcuts

Gmail provides users with built-in keyboard shortcuts that make navigating the platform a breeze. Gmail does come with a few shortcuts already enabled by default, but in order to access the full set of commands you will need to click on the gear icon at the top right of the inbox and select “Settings”. In the “General” tab scroll to the “Keyboard Shortcuts” section. Click the bullet beside “Keyboard shortcuts on” and save your settings.

Or if you are not too keen on Google’s shortcuts you can opt to turn on custom keyboard shortcuts. While the shortcuts might take a while to get used to, you may want to download the KeyRocket Chrome Extension which will teach you as you go.

8. Master Advanced Searches

Advanced searches are an extremely useful tool for those of us who have an endless amount of archived emails. By clicking on the small arrow on the right-hand side of the search bar, users can search for emails by:

  • Folders
  • Labels
  • Senders and recipients
  • Subject lines
  • Words contained in the email
  • Emails with attachments / attachment sizes
  • Date range when the message was sent / received

With all of these various fields to search by, finding an email that is equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack should be a piece of cake.

Utilize these tips and you will be in email heaven.

What are some of your favorite Gmail features? Have any tips to reach a (0) inbox that weren’t mentioned here?


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Digital producer, online marketer, community manager, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney-Brown has been managing cross-functional teams for online businesses since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, community management, social networks, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and spiritual counselor. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.

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