Despite our best efforts to follow Cal Newport’s advice in Deep Work and A World Without Email, most of us spend a lot of time dealing with messages in our inboxes. That doesn’t mean we can’t endeavor to spend less time dealing with email. To that end, here are some things we can do to improve our Gmail inbox experiences.
Create & Use Canned Responses
Whenever you find yourself writing the same reply more than a few times, you know it’s time to create a message template in Gmail. Doing this let’s you save the text of a reply and re-use whenever you want as often as you want. Canned responses always help me save time at the beginning of each semester when I’m answering a lot of the same types of questions from students and parents.
Want to send a reminder to colleagues but don’t want to send it too soon or don’t want to forget to send it? Use the scheduling tool in Gmail to schedule your messages to be sent at a specific time.
Create Gmail Filters
If you’re not sure where to start when greeted with an overflowing inbox, start with the things that are in your most important filters. Creating filters lets you set the priority for dealing with messages from colleagues, students, or parents. You can even set filters based on keywords in subject lines.
Use Smart Replies
Smart Replies are similar to, but slightly different from canned messages. Smart Replies is a feature of Gmail that tries to predict what you want to say in response to a message. If the prediction is correct, just hit your tab key (desktop Gmail) or tap the prediction (mobile Gmail) to use it.
Set a Vacation Responder
Let people know that you’re offline for the weekend and when they should expect to hear back from you.
Create Task Reminders in Gmail
Need help staying focused on your to-do list, Gmail provides an easy way to set reminders and keep track of the items in your list.
Give Yourself a Grace Period in Gmail
Did you hit send too early? If you have set a grace period in your Gmail settings you’ll be able to stop the sending of the message. You can set a grace period of up to thirty seconds.
Enable Confidential Mode
This is a good mode to enable whenever you’re sending sensitive information that you don’t want people to print or forward.
Create Contact Groups
Rather than typing a list of email addresses every time you need to send something to a group, create a contact group and use it over and over.
Manage Multiple Signatures
To my students I’m “Mr. Byrne.” To my colleagues I’m “Richard.” Therefore I have two different signatures saved in my Gmail account.
Create an Approved Senders List
Create an approved senders list to make sure you get email from the people you want to get it from and don’t get email from people you don’t want to hear from anymore.
Teach Gmail to Sort Messages to Proper Tabs
Sometimes Google sorts messages into the wrong tab. It easy to “train” Gmail to do a better job. Just drag the message into the proper tab or folder and click “yes” when asked if you want that to happen with all future messages from the sender.