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  • Sarah Haler

My favourite Gmail features

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - I am a complete Gmail geek! I love all the different ways to organise and customise my inbox, as well as the ability to create labels, sub-labels, and filters. I use these to help me prioritise my workload and get things done (I'm a big fan of the GTD system). Below are some of my favourite features:



Templates


Do you find yourself writing the same email over and over again? Or copying and pasting large chunks of text?


Not good. Fortunately, if you use #Gmail, there’s a better way! #Templates. To use these, you may need to enable them first under settings (Advanced tab).


To make a template, click Compose and start writing. To save it, click on the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of the message, select Templates, then Save draft as template > Save as new template > Enter a new template name


To use a template: Click Compose, click on the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner and select Templates. You will see the names of any templates you have created, select the one you need, and it will be inserted into the body of your email.


You can change templates by overwriting and they are also easily deleted if no longer required. I’m not sure of the total number you can make; I’ll have to find out! I do know that these pre-written responses are a great time-saver though and can also save you emotional energy. Some emails can be hard to craft, especially if they have to be diplomatic or impart bad news. You’ll undoubtedly want to customise such responses to some extent but it’s good to have a starting point.


Bonus tip: Make your template names work for you - if you haven’t already given your email a Subject line when you select your template, the title of the template will automatically be inserted so choose those titles well!



Undo Send


Do you ever wish you could recall an email just as you click Send?


Maybe you've made a typo, forgotten an attachment, or sent the message to the wrong person? This can be very embarrassing. In my first graduate job, I often used to forget attachments which didn't look at all professional and meant that I had to resend emails. That very rarely happens to me nowadays but occasionally I find myself wanting to retract a message (usually because I want to improve the subject line when forwarding).


You can easily do this in #Gmail with Undo Send. You can even choose how long after hitting Send you allow recall - 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds. To do this, click on the gear icon, select See all settings, go to Undo Send and set Send cancellation period then scroll down to the bottom to Save changes.


To retract an email: After sending you'll see Message sent and the option to Undo or View message in the bottom left of your screen. Simply Click Undo. This will take you back into your message for editing. If you don't click in time, however, or if you click View message, you'll no longer be able to unsend.



Mute


Ever been part of a never-ending reply all group email that is no longer relevant to you?


You could archive the message or even delete it but another response will soon pop up. You could asked to be removed from the conversation but you may feel that's not appropriate (whatever you do, don't ask to be removed using Reply all - I'll add why in the comments). What you can do instead, if you use #Gmail, is use the Mute feature. This will archive the current group email and ensure that future responses are automatically archived.


To mute a conversation: select the conversation you want to mute, click More and select Mute.


Obviously, this feature must be used with great care and you may want to look at a muted conversation occasionally just to make sure you're not missing something important! To do so: go to All Mail and look at the conversations with a Muted label applied (or search for them using label: Muted).


If you do decide you want to start seeing the emails again you can easily unmute the conversation. To do so: open the relevant email and either click on the x next to the Muted label (which is next to the subject line) or click on More and select Unmute.



Labels


Do you need to bring some order to your inbox?


One way you can do this in #Gmail is by using labels. At first these may seem little different to the folders that other email systems use but they are much more flexible. Instead of a message being placed inside a folder, the label is placed *onto* the message, and you can add as many labels as you want. This makes it easy to find a message again under any of the labels you have applied, a feature that really comes into its own when an email relates to a number of different subjects!


To create a label: inside Gmail click More on the left-hand side > Create new label > Name your label > Create.


You can then label messages in your inbox - at the top of a message click Labels (or the label icon) and then pick a label you've already created or create a new one. Here you can also change labels. You can even proactively label a message you're composing through the three little dots in the bottom right corner.


You can further organise labels and add a little colour to your inbox by colour-coding them, you can combine related labels into groups by creating sublabels, and you can even get Gmail to apply the labels for you using filters (see my next post).


Bonus tip: To colour your labels: click on the three dots next to the label. I like this for two reasons:


1) I can colour code the labels for different subjects/roles allowing me to see at a glance what an email is about.

2) It cheers up my inbox!



Filters


Is your inbox overflowing?


In #Gmail you can quickly declutter your inbox and redirect incoming emails by using filters to automatically sort your emails, saving you the time and trouble of doing it manually. For example, you can redirect messages to folders, automatically forward to another recipient, auto-delete unwanted emails that get past spam filters and apply importance markers and labels.


There are different ways of creating filters - from a particular message or using search.

From a message: tick the box next to the email and click More > Filter messages like these then enter your criteria and click Create filter (if already inside the email, simply start by clicking More).


Using search: in the search box, click on the filter icon on the right-hand side, and enter your criteria (if you want to check that your search worked correctly click Search before going back to the filter icon) then choose what you’d like the filter to do and click Create filter.


You can also edit or delete filters by clicking the gear icon, clicking on See all settings, selecting the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab, finding the filter you need, and clicking on edit or delete on the right-hand side.


Bonus tip: To make really precise filters you can use Boolean operators - AND, OR, “” , +/- and () (parentheses).



Snooze


Is a clutter-free inbox eluding you because of emails you need to deal with at a later date? Or have you missed dealing with emails at an appropriate time because they got buried?


Well, if you're a #Gmail user, there's an easy way to solve this problem: snooze. Whereas hitting the snooze button on your alarm isn't usually a good idea, hitting snooze on emails so they come back into your inbox at a convenient time certainly is!


To do so: hover your mouse over the email in your inbox and click the Snooze icon (it looks like a clock). You will then be given some suggested times/dates and the option to select your own preferred date and time. Select the date and time that suits you. A pop-up will then appear briefly with the words Conversation Snoozed and the option to Undo.


You can also snooze from inside an email by clicking on the word Snooze or the snooze icon along the top, and you can snooze multiple messages in the inbox by ticking the boxes next to them and, again, clicking on the word Snooze/snooze icon along the top.


If you need to, you can easily find all your snoozed emails under Snoozed in the menu to the left of your inbox.



Schedule send


Did you know that in #Gmail you can schedule your emails to go out when you want?


There are four main reasons why you might want to do so:


1) Your email needs to go out on a specific day and time but you're going to be away/won't be able to send it then/need to write it in advance.

2) The recipient works in a different timezone.

3) You're working antisocial hours and don't want to annoy the recipient/alert your boss!

4) You want to remind your future self about something.


How to do so:


  • Click Compose

  • Click the triangle next to the blue Send button (or the the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the screen int he mobile app)

  • Click Schedule send

  • Click on one of the suggested times, or click Select date & time (Pick date and time on the mobile app) to choose exactly when you want the message to go out

  • Click Schedule send


Changed your mind? Finding a scheduled email and cancelling it is easy as scheduled messages go into a Scheduled folder. Just open the folder, click on the message, and click Cancel send in the top right of the window. and it’ll go into to your drafts folder for editing or deleting.



Multiple inboxes


Wish you could get to #InboxZero?


You can with Gmail's multiple inboxes. This system allows you to have different inboxes for different roles, teams, or projects, or even to organise your email according to the principles of #GTD.


To make it work you'll need some stars. Go to the gear icon> See all settings> General tab, scroll down to Stars and select up to five stars for the five possible inboxes. To apply the principles of GTD, you could use the red exclamation mark for items you need to Action, the Question mark for emails Awaiting reply, and a coloured star for Later (Someday) items.


Next, go to the gear icon>Multiple inboxes >Customise and fill in your criteria for filing your emails into the Multiple (or sub-)inboxes. For example, for Section 1 you could put has:red-bang in the first criteria box and Action in the second so that your first sub-inbox is called Action and any emails you mark with a red exclamation mark will go in there. For Section 2 you might put has:purple-question and Awaiting reply/follow-up as the label, and so on. There's not enough space here to explain how to do this in great detail but check out this article by Andreas Klinger which first led me to adopt this system.


Alternatively, you may want an inbox dedicated to a particular role, team, or client. To do this, you can use labels as your criteria rather than stars.


After you've set up your sub-inboxes you can decide the position of the Multiple inbox (I like the sub-inboxes on the right, as this leaves the left-hand area empty once all emails are filed away).


When you're working on incoming emails in the main inbox you simply mark each one with your chosen star* and then you archive them all. They will then go into your sub-inboxes ready for you to deal with when you're ready. If you like, you can collapse all the sub-inboxes except the one you're working in and at the end of the day collapse them all for a completely clean inbox. I love getting to this point!


*You can also apply stars to sent items. I mostly do this for emails Awaiting reply.


I hope you found these tips useful and are ready to go and conquer your inbox!


#VirtualAdminAngel



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