back to top

15 Gmail Features You Should Definitely Be Using

"Undo Send" is my new best friend.

Posted on

Up until recently, my inbox was such a mess that I often missed important emails or lost track of messages I needed.

FX

So, I decided to take control by learning a bit more about Gmail's less-obvious features.

Here's what helped me take control of my inbox and what helped me make email less of a chore.

1. Archive mail that you don't need now, but you may need later.

I can barely throw old socks away, so there's no way I can actually delete an email for good without (a lot of) anxiety. Archiving emails clears emails out of my inbox. If I look for it later, I can still find it under the "All Mail" label.
Emily Shwake

I can barely throw old socks away, so there's no way I can actually delete an email for good without (a lot of) anxiety. Archiving emails clears emails out of my inbox. If I look for it later, I can still find it under the "All Mail" label.

2. Search terms like "unsubscribe" or "opt out of" to quickly hunt down all of your spam.

Emily Shwake

At some point in my life I made a wrong turn...and subscribed to literally every store, news site, charity, and service known to man. I almost choked on my water when I saw that 81 percent of my unread emails were spam.

After you've completed the search, you can batch archive or send all the messages to the trash.

3. Search by date to archive everything that's more than a month old.

Emily Shwake

If it's that old, it's probably not that important anyway. I AM LIBERATED FROM MY CHAINS.

Search "before:2018/01/01" > Check All > Click Select All > Mark as read

4. Hit the "check all" button to select everything in a label category or every single search result.

The check mark offers the choice to select everything on the first page or every single email that comes up in a search. That way, you don't need to go page by page to get rid of thousands of emails.
Emily Shwake

The check mark offers the choice to select everything on the first page or every single email that comes up in a search. That way, you don't need to go page by page to get rid of thousands of emails.

5. Set up labels that'll help you locate important emails ~on the fly~.

Flight tickets are the most important emails in my inbox. And they're suddenly impossible to find when there's a security guard in front of me and impatient travelers standing behind me. I set up a "Ticket" label so i always know exactly where to find them.
Emily Shwake

Flight tickets are the most important emails in my inbox. And they're suddenly impossible to find when there's a security guard in front of me and impatient travelers standing behind me. I set up a "Ticket" label so i always know exactly where to find them.

6. And use the filter tool to automatically file specific emails under those labels the second they appear in your inbox.

Filtering searches is actually the best thing I've learned from this experience because it solves almost every problem I've ever had. It's like having my very own secretary that handles my life behind the scenes. Her name is Carol. For example, every time I get my flight info from Southwest, Carol files it away in "Tickets" so I don't ever have to rely on my crap memory to do it. Search > Advanced search > Create filter with this search > Apply the label
Emily Shwake

Filtering searches is actually the best thing I've learned from this experience because it solves almost every problem I've ever had. It's like having my very own secretary that handles my life behind the scenes. Her name is Carol. For example, every time I get my flight info from Southwest, Carol files it away in "Tickets" so I don't ever have to rely on my crap memory to do it.

Search > Advanced search > Create filter with this search > Apply the label

7. Mark messages from certain senders as important so you only get desktop notifications when you get emails from them.

Notifications tend to interrupt my focus, so now I only receive them for emails that are actually important. I set up a filter that labels emails from my manager as important so I see those messages right away.Gear > Settings > Desktop notifications > Important mail notifications onSearch for sender > Create filter for this search > Always mark as important
Emily Shwake

Notifications tend to interrupt my focus, so now I only receive them for emails that are actually important. I set up a filter that labels emails from my manager as important so I see those messages right away.

Gear > Settings > Desktop notifications > Important mail notifications on

Search for sender > Create filter for this search > Always mark as important

8. Mute email chains that are bugging the hell out of you.

Big announcements here are often emailed out to the entire company, which means that more than 1,000 people have the opportunity to reply all. Every time I archive one, 17 grow back in its place. It drives me bonkers so the second I receive an announcement, I mute the email chain. I'll still have to archive the whole chain later, but I won't get an alert for every single new message.
Emily Shwake

Big announcements here are often emailed out to the entire company, which means that more than 1,000 people have the opportunity to reply all. Every time I archive one, 17 grow back in its place. It drives me bonkers so the second I receive an announcement, I mute the email chain. I'll still have to archive the whole chain later, but I won't get an alert for every single new message.

9. Write up "canned responses" for those emails that you pretty much respond to the same way every time.

I receive a lot of PR emails, many of which aren't applicable to what I do. Usually I don't answer, but that feels really rude! So I wrote up this canned response so that I can quickly (and politely) kick them out of my inbox. Easy peasy!Gear > Settings > Labs > Canned responses > Enable > Apply ChangesType your message > Bottom right arrow > Canned responses > New canned response...
Emily Shwake

I receive a lot of PR emails, many of which aren't applicable to what I do. Usually I don't answer, but that feels really rude! So I wrote up this canned response so that I can quickly (and politely) kick them out of my inbox. Easy peasy!

Gear > Settings > Labs > Canned responses > Enable > Apply Changes

Type your message > Bottom right arrow > Canned responses > New canned response...

10. Change your reply settings so you aren't accidentally replying all to chains and clogging up everyone else's inbox.

Gear > Settings > Default reply behavior > Reply
Emily Shwake

Gear > Settings > Default reply behavior > Reply

11. And hit "Undo Send" to save yourself the awkwardness of sending a bad email — or just to save your sanity.

Emily Shwake

You know that moment you send an important email and your heart stops because you're sure you misspelled something? No? Just me? Well, I click the "Undo" button almost every time. Sometimes I actually do catch errors and sometimes it just offers me some peace of mind. Now if only this applied to texts, we would be all set.

Gear > Settings > Undo Send > Enable Undo Send > Set cancellation period > 30 seconds

12. Set up "send and archive" so you have less to declutter later.

Once I send a reply, I've handled the issue. I don't need to look at it anymore. If they follow up, the entire chain reappears so I don't have to worry about losing the context. Gear > Settings > Show "Send & Archive" button in reply
Emily Shwake

Once I send a reply, I've handled the issue. I don't need to look at it anymore. If they follow up, the entire chain reappears so I don't have to worry about losing the context.

Gear > Settings > Show "Send & Archive" button in reply

13. Configure your inbox with tabs so you're only seeing what you need, and setting aside the stuff you (probably) don't.

Emily Shwake

Wow, these are wonderful. Everything that actually requires my attention goes in the Primary tab and the rest — like email chains or calendar updates — is neatly filed away to check on later.

Gear > Configure Inbox > Check sections to filter

14. Download Boomerang immediately — it schedules your emails so you have one less thing to keep track of later.

I have a pretty terrible memory so if I don't schedule everything out in advance, it's not going to get done. So now if I think of an important email I need to send, but don't want to do it during the weekend or in the middle of the night, I schedule it for an appropriate time. I also love setting up bumps so that a message I've sent reappears in my inbox if I don't get a response in a few days.Download Boomerang here.
Emily Shwake

I have a pretty terrible memory so if I don't schedule everything out in advance, it's not going to get done. So now if I think of an important email I need to send, but don't want to do it during the weekend or in the middle of the night, I schedule it for an appropriate time. I also love setting up bumps so that a message I've sent reappears in my inbox if I don't get a response in a few days.

Download Boomerang here.

15. Search by size to quickly trash emails that are eating up your storage.

Emily Shwake

I prefer to archive my emails, but we send a lot of GIFs in this office, which take up a ton of space. For example, if I search for emails over 20 MB and find 14 emails that are that large, I can quickly sort through them and trash the ones I probably won't need in the future.

Search > size:20mb

Did I miss anything? Share in the comments!