Who doesn’t struggle with a messy email inbox these days? Inbox clutter can be overwhelming, and it can get in the way of what really matters: getting work done.
If your Gmail is swamped, rest assured that solutions do exist to get that inbox under control. To help you spend less time on email and more time on what matters, we’ve collected the top tips and tricks to organize your Gmail inbox.
Use the Gmail best practices below to take advantage of features that boost productivity, including the snooze and schedule buttons, the template function, and predictive text. We’ve also collected some of our favourite tips to keep your Gmail organized. Discover how to effectively use labels and archiving, as well as Gmail’s powerful search capabilities.
Not a Gmail user? We cover ten steps to efficiently manage your email inbox in another article.
If your cluttered inbox is preventing you from getting things done, these Gmail best practices can help to improve productivity and keep your work on track.
Sometimes you don’t have time to reply to an email, but you still want to ensure you get back to it before it slips your mind. That’s where the snooze function comes in.
When an email arrives and you want to remember to look at it later, hover over the message preview until the icons on the right side appear. Click the clock—the icon furthest to the right—and then select the time you wish to be reminded about the email. Gmail offers pre-set times, or you can select a specific option from the calendar.
This function comes in handy for everything, from tasks with specific deadlines to emails from Grandma. If you can’t do it right now, but you simply must get it done, snooze it and rest easy knowing that a reminder is on its way.
Schedule your messages
The day of the week and the time that you send an email affects the likelihood it will be opened—and the likelihood you’ll receive a response. For example, if you send an email on a Saturday night, your recipient might miss your message amidst the onslaught of Monday morning emails.
Scheduling messages can help you avoid this pitfall, and it also has plenty of other advantages. Do you want to ensure a press release goes out first thing in the morning, long before you’re at your desk? Schedule it. Would you like to send a handout to your workshop participants during your presentation? You can schedule that, too.
Gmail has an effortless scheduling tool that enables users to send their messages automatically at a time of their choosing. When you’ve composed your message, simply click the arrow next to the Send button. From there, you can either select a Quick Schedule option such as “tomorrow morning” or you can choose a more specific date and time from the calendar.
Use Smart Compose for predictive text
If you’re not using predictive text, you might be working too hard. Smart Compose in Gmail is a predictive text function that guesses your next word or phrase, filling it in tentatively in grey text ahead of what you’ve already typed.
You may be surprised by just how accurate the function can be! First, turn it on under Settings > Smart Compose. Then, to accept the predictive text while you’re writing a message, simply hit tab. Not interested in using the suggestion this time? Just ignore it and keep typing as normal.
Create canned responses
In addition to predictive text, you can also use templates—also known as “canned responses”—to save time typing out messages. If you find yourself using the same email copy repeatedly, it’s quite simple to create a template for the message in Gmail that you can use each time you need it.
First, turn on templates by clicking Settings > Advanced > Templates > Enable. Save changes, then create a new message and write out the text for your template. When you’re finished with your template, click the ellipses in the bottom right-hand corner of the message. Then, select “Templates” and use the templates menu to save the canned reply for the next time you wish to use it.
Keeping your email inbox clear and organized can be a daunting task, but fortunately, there are solutions that can help.
Organize emails with labels
The first step to getting your inbox organized is to label your messages as they arrive. Gmail’s labelling system allows you to categorize your messages, so they are easier to find when you need them.
Think of labels like folders, but in reverse—instead of dragging messages into folders, you apply labels to messages. Because multiple labels can be applied to each email, you can ensure that you are properly classifying messages that belong to several categories. For example, a newsletter from your HR department could receive a ‘newsletters’ label as well as an ‘HR’ label so you will be able to find it by searching either term.
To label an email, simply click the label-shaped button on your top toolbar and select each category that fits the message. In the labelling dropdown menu, you can also click Create New to establish a new label.
While it might feel overwhelming initially to establish a set of labels and categorize each message as it comes in, you will gradually begin to see how this process saves you time and keeps you organized. Labels are especially helpful when used in tandem with the handy archive function.
Make the archive button your BFF
Once you get the hang of archiving in Gmail, you’ll never look at your inbox the same way again.
Archiving is a quick, one-click method for decluttering your inbox and getting less important emails out of your way. When you see an email that you cannot delete, but need to move out of your inbox, hover over the email preview and click the first icon on the right. Poof—the email will disappear, tidying up your inbox in the process.
Archived emails are gone, but not forgotten. They are still stored in your Gmail and can be easily found using the search function. To make messages even easier to find, label each email before you archive it.
Utilize the power of search
Everyone uses the search bar on Gmail at one point or another, but few are using it to its maximum potential. The next time you’re searching for an email but you’re not quite sure how to find it, take the advanced search options for a spin.
Instead of simply typing search terms blindly into the search bar, click the arrow on the right-hand side of the bar to reveal an array of options. From there, you can filter emails by sender, subject line, date range, and even message size. Once you get the hang of the filters, there is no email you cannot locate.
Need a little more help reaching inbox zero? Try this:
- To ensure your messages are grouped together in a thread, don’t forget to turn on conversation view under Settings > Conversation View.
- If you’re stuck on a thread that doesn’t require your attention, you can turn off notifications by clicking the ellipses on the top toolbar and selecting Mute from the drop-down menu.
- Use Gmail’s coloured stars to organize your emails by importance or timeliness (you can set up your own star system under Settings > Stars).
- If an email contains a task you need to complete, select More > Add to Tasks so Gmail can keep track of your task list for you.
Remember, an organized inbox is within your reach. The key? Use Gmail’s many functions to their full potential. Once you feel confident taking advantage of some of the more advanced Gmail options, you’ll see a major improvement in your inbox organization—and your peace of mind.