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2351656805_d97b8a6395Email, 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 8 Easy Ways To Manage Tasks With Remember The Milk 8 Easy Ways To Manage Tasks With Remember The Milk Read More , or Todoist Todoist - Simple but Powerful Task Management App Todoist - Simple but Powerful Task Management App Read More . 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 Todoist’s). 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

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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 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

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  1. Masoud Sadeghi
    August 14, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Can anyone out there tell me how to direct my emails in my hotmail account to be forwarded to my g- mail account automatically?

  2. Mark Lewis
    August 7, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    6 was brilliant! Thank you.

  3. dovid shmuel
    August 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    where do i find the "Quick Links, a little white box that lives in the sidebar of Gmail"? It's not in my sidebar.

    • David Pierce
      August 6, 2009 at 3:16 pm

      It's a Labs feature. Click on the green beaker at the top right of Gmail, and make sure to enable "Quick Links."

      Good luck!

  4. David Phillip Oster
    August 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

    In (6): on a Mac, with Google Notifier in your menu bar, it can already handle mailto: links anywhere, not just in Firefox. Suppose you are reading a .pdf, a .rtf, or a .doc. Click on a mailto: link, and Google Notifier (Mac) will redirect it to a "compose" window in Gmail in your default browser.

  5. Mahesh Sabharwal
    August 5, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Regarding point no. 7 - Use Talk Productively - Check out - It has a number of useful utilities for posting on twitter, facebook, posterous and Google Calender using Gtalk.

  6. Adrian
    August 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Yes David, I think he was trying to get the RTM gadget on the right side but It's not possible unless you use a GM script I'm afraid. Built-in google only has the option to move the chat to the right side and to move the other gadgets on the left side up and down.
    I've tested with some GM scripts to get it like it's on the screenshot but so far no luck.

    • David Pierce
      August 4, 2009 at 3:48 pm

      The screenshot is the Firefox Extension, not the gadget. I don't think there is a way to move the RTM gadget to the right side, and have it look like the screenshot. The extension's awesome, though!

  7. Adrian
    August 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Xavier , I think he is using an old version of gmail with a customized skin, probably from with greasemonkey.

    On the latest gmail with labs you can get the chat to the right side through gmail labs options and the hability to move the boxes on the left side with another option but It won't let you move them to the right side.

    • David Pierce
      August 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm

      It's actually all-natural. I stole the one image from the Remember The Milk site, as I don't use it myself - which is old, you're definitely right about that.

  8. Xavier
    August 4, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Hi guys,

    Any chance you could share how you managed to get the tasks bar to stick on the right-hand-side?


    • David Pierce
      August 4, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      The tasks image is the Remember the Milk sidebar, which I linked to in the post. If you mean Google Tasks, it's just on the right side, in the bottom corner - I can't even move it out of there. Hope that helps!

  9. Jeff Newman
    August 4, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for the tips. I love Gmail. I am not quite sold on the tasks yet. I prefer Todoist with the Firefox extension. That way I can pull it up whenever I want. It is also easier to organize and sort.

    It is nice to watch Google continually develop Gmail.

  10. Rene Cunningham
    August 4, 2009 at 3:12 am

    The ability to copy emails straight into my calendar is something i always look for in an Email client. Gmail offers this ability to create an event from an email pushing it straight into Google Calendar.

    Also having an Android phone syncing my entire contact list with Google Contacts means i know longer have to look in several places for someones email address. Definitely a time saver.

    Another great feature is the use of filters within Gmail. You are able to apply a filter immediately to an unprocessed email which is very handy and something i havent seen in previous email clients.

    Finally gmails 'Send and Archive' email saves me 1-2 seconds each email. No longer do you have to click send then click archive.


    • Mads
      September 17, 2009 at 4:17 am

      Except I don't get this option which is a HUGE bummer as I sure need this. I am NOT:

      - Using Google apps
      - Using another language (use US english)

      I do use better Gmail FF extension. Might be the cause?

  11. Lyric
    August 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Quick Links is in Labs.

    • David Pierce
      August 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      True. Thanks for the heads up, I missed that one! I've had it for so long I guess I forgot :)

  12. megamike
    August 3, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    the way they could make it better for me is to have a traditional address/contacts book in which I can add who I want to send an email to with cc bcc like yahoo and thnuderbird. Instead gmail forces me to use the abc drop down format