I try to keep my email inbox at zero or as close to zero as possible at all times. During the day, the emails that are still there serve as my to-do list of sorts. I work through at certain times throughout the day and make a plan to address it on the spot. I also do not like to have email on my phone. I find that I get distracted by the numbers and notifications and then I’ll read it and have to go back through it on my computer later anyway.
Gmail is my preferred email provider and has been for over 15 years. Thankfully, my job also uses Gmail so I can keep settings consistent across all my accounts. I have several accounts for different purposes. Although many people prefer to sync all of their email accounts, I actually like keeping them separate. It helps me compartmentalize the different tasks I have to do whether it be for school, personal, teaching, or entrepreneurial endeavors. And by having a separate teaching email account, I never miss a student question or concern because it doesn’t get lost in the many other emails I get on a daily basis.
Here are my top 6 tips for using Gmail efficiently
1. Compact View with Conversation Threading Off
I prefer the compact view the best in my inbox screen. I know a lot of people prefer to use the conversation view to group emails together, but I tend to get confused in threads and have to go back to figure out what was said. By using the compact view, I do not miss any comments on any emails that are sent because each one shows up separately in my inbox. The compact view is nice because you can see more emails at a glance since the space is reduced between each one.
2. Smart Compose On
In the general settings, I use smart compose, grammar, spelling, and autocorrect. In fact, it’s kind of scary how accurate the smart compose is. It allows me to respond to emails faster because it predicts what I might say when I start a sentence. If I agree with the response, then I just click enter and keep typing the next portion of my email. I’ll all about ways to save myself time, but still write a quality and professional email response to someone.
3. Using Folders
I go through my emails several times per day. Once it is filed or completed, it goes immediately into a folder. In my personal email, I have folders for advisory boards I serve on, billing information, doctor information, organizations I’m involved with, and much more. Pretty much any activity has its own folder and that’s where the email lives after it has been addressed. It makes it much easier for me to find things later and know that I didn’t delete anything.
4. Setting up Filters
This setting is helpful if you get frequent emails from a specific person or organization. You can create a label and a filter for that person. It can be color coded and make it easier to stand out in your email inbox. Once you receive an email that you may want to filter, you can click the three dots at the top and then choose how you wish to filter that type of email in the future.
5. Schedule Send
I love to use schedule send when I am trying to send an email that needs a response from other people. I tend to draft emails later in the day during one of my work time blocks. However, if it’s getting close to 4:00 or 5:00pm, I don’t send the email right away. I schedule it to send at 8:00am the next morning so that it goes to the top of that person’s inbox. Now they may have a great management system, but I’ve found that a lot people have thousands of unread emails in their inbox and may miss things, especially if they are very busy. The other great use for schedule send is to give myself reminders. Even though I keep a pretty good list of action items in my digital app, it’s helpful when I have important reminders that I don’t want to forget. For example, I needed to mention someone’s retirement at a workshop and I scheduled the email reminder to myself to come up during the week I would be preparing the agenda. I have learned that no matter how much I think I’m going to remember something, it is much better to have a plan and be prepared than to rely on my memory of something someone said 3 months prior.
This feature is my ultimate favorite use of my Gmail settings for efficiency. It is especially useful for maintaining a zero inbox. When I go through my emails throughout the day, if it is something that I don’t have time or is not urgent to respond to, I will snooze it to the next day. Sometimes the emails are informational relating to an upcoming meeting later in the week or the following week. I then snooze it to the day I plan to review the agenda or that the information is most needed. Therefore, it stays out of my inbox, but it’s not filed in a folder yet because it’s still relevant.