Boost your productivity using Gmail

Hey, everyone. We’re back with a brand new Apps episode. Today, we’re going to be talking about everybody’s favorite “App Show” topic, Gmail. But before we do that, let’s hear a quick Gmail history lesson. Drea? I think you should take it away.

DREA ALPHONSO: Got this. So way back in time, a Google user was frustrated with her inability to easily search and file through her emails. Inspired by the need to always keep our users first, a Google engineer, in his % Time, created Gmail back in 2016.

JIMMY TRAN: Side note– % Time is what Googlers use if they want to do something that will have a broader impact on Google. It lets us be a little bit more creative and innovative. Think of “The App Show,” for example.

DREA ALPHONSO: Right. So today, we’re going to give you a peek into some of our favorite Gmail settings in Labs and how these features were designed to help us stay efficient throughout the day.

JIMMY TRAN: One thing that helps me stay efficient is making sure everything is centralized. It’s a bit cumbersome to constantly switch tabs just to do a simple task.

DREA ALPHONSO: Agreed. So let’s turn to Gmail Labs to help with this. Now, we’ve touched on this previously, but let’s look at it from an email workflow perspective. In your Gmail window, go to the Settings cog and then the Settings tab, then select Labs. If it’s not visible here, it hasn’t been enabled by your admin just yet. And ta-da! Here are all the labs.

JIMMY TRAN: In my previous role, I spent a lot of time chatting with customers dealing with issues. So the idea of having everything centralized made a lot of sense for me. Moving the Hangouts window itself definitely helped with that. In Labs, I’ll select the Right-side Chat Lab. If I type “right” in the search box, it’ll show up, and I can enable it, then Save. On regular Gmail, Labels and Chat are both squeezed in on the left like this. Right-side Chat Labs puts the chat on the right so you can see more chat buddies and also more labels on the left. Labels are how messages and threads are classified within Gmail. The nice thing about labels is that you can affix the label to more than just one conversation. Also, labels can be searched for easily through the search box above your threads.

DREA ALPHONSO: Good stuff, Jimmy. And as for me, which you should already know, in addition to the Right-side Chat, I also use the Google Calendar gadget. In the space created by moving the chat, I can now see my Calendar right here in Gmail. An incoming email might prompt me to create a delivery schedule. Well, Calendar is right here to help. There’s an Options link where I can open the full Calendar.

JIMMY TRAN: All right. I see your Calendar, and I raise you Quick Links. This Lab gives me a list of links to all the places I need to go within Gmail, like an email I refer to frequently or where I switch my out-of-office notification on and off.

DREA ALPHONSO: Quick Links is definitely handy and saves a lot of time. And if you want to know more about this and some of the best practices, check out our partner, The Gooru.

JIMMY TRAN: OK, so we’ve talked a little bit about centralization. Let’s move on, now, to talk about how to better manage your Inbox.

DREA ALPHONSO: And, you know, in the beginning, I would find myself sending out the same email and message over and over and over again.

JIMMY TRAN: Yeah. It might be a response to a customer inquiry or you’re sending out a weekly reminder for progress reports.

DREA ALPHONSO: Exactly. And I used to have the text stored in a doc, and then I would copy and paste it into the email response. I started to learn that wasn’t the mostly efficient way to handle it.

JIMMY TRAN: That’s right. Luckily, you found out about Canned Responses.


JIMMY TRAN: This Lab lets you save any email as a Canned Response. And you can then select that response later any time you need it. Now, let’s take a look at muting threads that become irrelevant. At one point, we’ve been brought into an email conversation. But now, it’s no longer relevant to us anymore. The back and forth continues, but at that point, it’s kind of a distraction. I say mute it.

DREA ALPHONSO: I agree. And for a project that I might have completed my action items on but the chatter still continues, I’ll go ahead and mute it.

JIMMY TRAN: Now, muting it means the conversation gets archived, but it doesn’t get sent to your Inbox anymore. OK, open or select the conversation, then click the More button above your messages and select Mute. If you need to find a muted conversation, just click All Mail. If you need to unmute a thread because it was a bit more important than you thought–


JIMMY TRAN: –just open it, and click the X on the Muted tag. It will now show up in your Inbox as normal.

DREA ALPHONSO: Another great solution to clearing out messages is the Send and Archive feature. It used to be once part of Labs, but has now since graduated to Gmail itself. Switching it on in the settings gives you an additional Send button. You’ve now got the regular Send and Send and Archive. Back in your Inbox, the thread is now gone. Clearing those messages in Gmail– always a good feeling.

JIMMY TRAN: Yeah, it’s nothing like reaching messages in your Inbox. OK, now, I have some work that’s a little bit time-sensitive, and I need to act on them almost immediately. So to make sure I don’t miss any of them, I switch on Desktop Notifications. To switch them on, go to Gmails Settings, and then find Desktop Notifications. You can select which type of emails will trigger a notification. It could be only those marked as important or all mail. Then click the link to enable them. Chrome will ask you to allow notifications. Now, next time I get a message, there it is. So if I’m working on a document or something else away from Gmail, I can see if I need to respond quickly. Well, we’ve covered a lot, and that last message just informed me that it’s the end of the show. Join us again next week for more App-tastic adventures.

DREA ALPHONSO: And now, with all the time you save with these Gmail tips and tricks, maybe you have some % Time to start something cool. FEMALE SPEAKER: But in this episode, we’re going to break down the checklist of things that we use to get those folks up and running and ready to go. MALE SPEAKER: And the first thing is Google Groups, which is really essential to our onboarding process.

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