Become a Gmail ninja

If you use Gmail as your primary e-mail system (and I recommend that you do simply because of its powerful spam filter), then it’s time for you to become a Gmail Ninja.

Google recently released four tip sheets to help you get your e-mail clutter under control with Gmail. The tip sheets come in four levels (white, green, black, and master) and are targeted to how many e-mails you receive a day (white being just a few messages a day, master being a “massive number”). Even if you only receive a dozen e-mails a day, it’s still beneficial to check out all four tip sheets for additional ideas.

The following are some of my favorite tips:

Use filters to control the flow of incoming mail

Set up filters to automatically label, archive, delete, star, or forward certain types of incoming messages. You can create a filter based on any message — just choose “Filter messages like this” from the “More actions” drop-down menu to get started.

Get through your mail faster with keyboard shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts will help you shave milliseconds off every action, which can add up to a lot of saved minutes each week. Enable keyboard shortcuts in Settings and use “j” and “k” to navigate up and down within your inbox, “o” to open messages, “r” to reply, “c” to compose, “s” to add or remove a star, “e” to archive, and more. Hit “?” at any time to see the reference guide with a full list of keyboard shortcuts.

Send and archive in one step

Turn on “Send & Archive” from the Labs tab under Settings, and you’ll see a new button that sends your replay and then archives the thread with one click.

There is also a printable guide for easy reference while you’re in your e-mail inbox.

(Once again I’m thanking my friend Erin Kane for introducing me to another valuable resource for Unclutterers.)

13 Comments for “Become a Gmail ninja”

  1. posted by AG on

    I don’t use Gmail. However, with whatever e-mail provider you use, placing your e-mails into meaningful folders for later consultation is almost always a good idea.

    It brings structure to the tsunami of e-mails that are destined to come your way.

    Chances are if you can’t think of a folder to put an e-mail into, the e-mail is probably not that important.

    Also, press the Delete button generously when sorting through e-mails.

    Embrace the ‘Delete’ button. . . Click the ‘Delete’ button. . . BECOME the ‘Delete’ button!

  2. posted by eli sarver on

    I have been using Gmail since its inception and I absolutely love it. My big gmail tip is to do the folders thing and make two of them: one called ‘bacn’ (like spam but you crave it because it’s from services you use) and one called ‘finance’ I then create a filter for each: bacn gets facebook, etc. messages and newsletters, finance all of the citi, hsbc, schwab emails.

    Big tip: lists for filters are easier and less error prone if you use | instead of “or” – Since “or” is textual, it’s hard to see when it’s missing in your filter and the whole filter can fail for missing one. With a pipe you can easily tell one email from the next.

    also, you don’t need the @ or the .com on most of your filters. americanexpress or bofa will do, and it makes the filter much easier to read and update. example: [email protected], [email protected] both match example or Of course, bofa or americanexpress are unique enough to make the filter work, but you may want to tack on their .com just in case someone tries to phish you. Of course, gmail is super-good at trapping this.

  3. posted by EG on

    I use gmail for personal mail but use Outlook to manage my business mail (even though it is funneled through gmail as well). Outlook also has filters and folders, and I’ve set up a lot of stuff to go to folders for reading later. Trouble is I never make time to read the other stuff, and so eventually I wind up deleting it all (Washington Post daily feed, NY Times daily feed, other publications’ daily feeds, etc.).

    So I think whatever system one uses one probably needs to devote a regular time each week to going through the other folders and clearing them out, reading, or not reading the contents as warranted.

  4. posted by Karen on

    I use gmail, but I don’t like to read my mail on the web. I prefer to run a mail program on my computer. (I use Eudora.) But you can do that with gmail. You can either access your gmail directly through POP, or have it automatically forwarded to another email address. I have all my email forwarded from gmail to my comcast account. (I have had problems using POP because my computer is so old.) The advantage of this is that I never have to change my email address. I recently moved and got a new comcast account, but my gmail address stayed the same – I just changed the forwarding address.

  5. posted by ari_1965 on

    These sound like reasonable suggestions. But this post leads me to wonder how many sets of keyboard shortcuts I’ve memorized over the years?

  6. posted by cdelphine on

    I read through those the other day and fell in love with gmail labs. My favorite is the attachment prompter.

  7. posted by Sheena on

    I read through this tips a few nights ago and was giddy to discover that I had been practicing many of the tips already. There were a couple that were very useful however. Being that I don’t want different email accounts…my personal email is the same as my stage managing email. As a regular person I receive about ten emails a day. As a stage manager I can receive over 100 a day from actors, directors, designers and such. So filters, archiving, color coding, labels, and etc make my life so much easier. I’ve loved gmail since I joined back in 2005. It hasn’t disappointed me yet.

  8. posted by OXM on

    Gmail most important shortcut:

    Archive and read older message

    Archive and read newer message.

  9. posted by Karyn on

    I use yahoo, but I agree that using filters is a very good idea to keep mailing-list and other lower-priority stuff out of the inbox. For example, I participate in communities on Live Journal and Insane Journal (similar to LJ, but more fandom-oriented), and have filters set up so that comments on my posts, and on posts I’m following, will go directly to “LJ Comments” or “IJ Comments.”

    Most of the time, it’s not a big deal, though it makes it easier to go through every few days and catch up on replying, or not, as needed. But occasionally I’ll post something that generates dozens of comments, and it’s awfully nice not to have that cluttering up my inbox when it happens. It’s awfully nice (most of the time) to get that many responses to what I’ve written, too. 😉

  10. posted by Dave P. on

    I made a New Year’s resolution in January to get my email under control. I am an Apple Mail user but I switched from my ISP email to Gmail. That was a big step, but the even bigger step for me was to NOT WASTE ANY MORE TIME FILING MESSAGES INTO FOLDERS! You would not believe how much time this saves! If it’s really important I’ll flag it. I delete what I don’t want. Using the search capability of either Apple Mail or Gmail I have never not been able to find what I was looking for (usually I search the To, From or Subject fields). And the bonus is that I can access it all just as easily from my iPhone. And if I read a message on my iPhone, then it’s marked as read on my laptop, on my desktop, and on the Gmail website. It’s great.

    And the BONUS BONUS is that the new iPhone Version 3.0 operating system can search Gmail that isn’t even stored on my iPhone!

  11. posted by Pharmacist Millie on

    Gmail is great. My boyfriend and I use it along with all the other Google services. It’s been a godsend for my website as I can integrate Google Talk in so easily. It’s been a perfect solution for people to chat direct with me.

  12. posted by David on

    Here’s how I do email:

    – zero inbox at the end of each work day. Not on weekends or holidays.

    – all email accounts (I have about 7) go to the same place, same login, same inbox. Work and personal together.

    – try to respond to all emails immediately. If not immediately, then at some point before end of day. I respond by some combination of:

    — reading.

    — replying, as usefully as possible

    — moving data inside email to the right place… important docs go in folders, passwords go in password storing app, emails and phone numbers go in contact manager (I use Google for this), and most -importantly- to-do’s go in to-do list

    — deleting

    — not reading then deleting (e.g. a newsletter you usually read but don’t have time to on a given day)

    — unsubscribing. if unsubscribe link doesn’t work, or is hidden behind a password, use gmail filters. With filters, any mailing/person/company can be unsubscribed to…

    — archiving… this is a backup for the above.

    I don’t do labels — just creates more clutter for me. My most common action is to delete without reading… for spam and stuff I just don’t want to process. My next most common action is to read, reply, and archive…

    There are lots of zero-inbox strategies out there; the one that caught my imagination I found in the book called “Digital Literacy”.

    I now find myself applying zero inbox to all computer applications… Facebook, Twitter, etc., and to other areas of my life. It’s set me on the path to an uncluttered life!

  13. posted by David on

    Oh BTW.. agree with previous posters that folders are a complete waste of time. Flags/tags/labels can be OK I guess once you’re learning email Zen. Eventually though, you realize they are also a waste of time, or merely a way of tricking yourself into using email as a to-do list.

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