Email, in this crazy digital world, is where a lot of our communication happens, where a lot of information is stored, and is often the thing with which we spend the most time.
Email can be a huge time-drain, particularly for those of us who get a lot of it – it can be overwhelming, difficult to deal with, and a huge pain in the you-know-what. Or, with the help of a few tips, tricks, and applications, it can be a productivity powerhouse.
Gmail seems to be the cool kid on the block, and it’s one of the best free email services that’s taking over a huge portion of the email market. So, in an effort to help this rapidly-growing crowd, here are seven tips, tricks, and tools for making Gmail into a productive, getting things done machine:
1. Use Quick Links
Quick Links, a little white box that lives in the sidebar of Gmail, can be hugely useful once you figure out how to use it. All it does is store links – these links can be to just about anything.
If you’re always referencing a particular page when you write emails, or always copy and paste a particular Web address, don’t put it in your bookmarks, put it in Gmail’s Quick Links; that way, it’s available to you anywhere Gmail is – which is pretty much everywhere.
The sky’s the limit with these links – I have a particular email I send often (resume attached, cover letter in body) set up in my links, and can open it, edit it, and send it with only a few seconds.
2. Use Tasks
Tasks just became a fully-fledged feature of Gmail, and with good reason – it’s a super-lightweight, simple way to manage the things you need to do, and it lives right within Gmail itself.
With Tasks, you can add an email right to the list, and get it out of your inbox. You can create subtasks, due dates, multiple lists, and more, all from within the Gmail window.
3. Use Your Own Task-Manager
Maybe you’ve already got a system you use for tasks, like Remember the Milk, or Todoist. Because so many people consider it to be the best free email service, more and more of these applications have ways of integrating with Gmail, whether by an extension for Firefox or a gadget within the Gmail sidebar (here are RTM’s and ). A quick search with Google, or through your task manager’s site should find exactly what you’re looking for.
4. Make Gmail Better
There are three or four reasons I can’t stop using Firefox, and they’re all extensions. Number one on the list, by a country mile, is Better Gmail. This extension adds tons of useful things to Gmail that really ought to be there anyway – showing the number of unread emails first in the title (or even in the icon), automatically showing message details, creating hierarchy among your labels (they’re more like folders this way), and much, much more. It makes Gmail much more smooth and functional, not to mention more productive.
5. Close Gmail More Often
It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of keeping your Gmail window open all the time, constantly checking and checking to see if you have a new email. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, and I know how much of a waste of time that can really be.
Instead of playing that futile game, try downloading a notifier that tells you when you’ve got new emails, so you’re only checking Gmail when you actually need to. There’s one for Firefox called Gmail Notifier, one for the Mac Desktop called Gmail Notifier, and one for Windows called Gmail Notifier. They’re not clever namers, these developers, but they do good work.
6. Send it all to Gmail
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I click on an “email me” link, and then my computer tries to open Outlook Express, or Outlook, or Entourage to send the email – none of which I’ve ever used, so I have to exit out of three different setup windows just to get to where I wanted originally, which is Gmail.
Thankfully, there’s a solution in Firefox. Go to “Preferences,” and then click the “Applications” Tab. There, find “mailto” under “Content Type.” Using the dropdown, select “Use Gmail.” From then on, anytime you click on a linked email address, or something that says “Send me an email!” it’ll open directly within Gmail. (This works with Yahoo Mail too.)
7. Use Talk Productively
Everyone says IM clients are a waste of time and energy, and are just a huge distraction. I say nay! Google Talk, if used right, can actually be really helpful. First, try adding IMified as a friend – you’ll be able to add tasks, calendar events, send updates on Twitter, and more.
Or, try, which is a social networking powerhouse – you can update almost any network you can think of right from within Talk, once you’ve set up your account with Ping.fm. If you’ve got questions, you can ask and answer questions with real people over IM, thanks to Aardvark.
How do you turn Gmail from a time-sink into a lean, mean productive machine? Would you call it best free email service out there? Share your thoughts in comments.
Image Credit: KatieKrueger