Working in such a big and busy school, I receive many emails every day from colleagues, students and parents. It’s vital that I keep up with them, organise them and follow up. I make use of the following Gmail features to organise my influx of emails and to allow me to communicate more efficiently.
For me, this is the most important feature. With such a high volume of emails, I can’t possibly give all of them immediate attention. But it’s vital that I don’t lose track because most are important and require some sort of follow up. If I read an email and I know that it requires some action, I simply star it. It’s also possible to use different coloured stars for different purposes.
To see the starring options, go to Settings > General.
Importantly, I organise my inbox so that starred emails appear in the second section. Only unread emails appear above them. All other emails are in the bottom section and therefore don’t distract me. To organise the sections of your inbox, go to Settings > Inbox.
I always have Google Tasks open in the corner of my Gmail window. I use it as a to-do list. As an email comes in, adding the job to my Google Tasks is an alternative to starring it. I make use of both of these features to make sure that no job slips my mind.
To open Google Tasks, open the drop-down menu next to ‘Mail’. I use the ‘Pop-in’ option to have it permanently open in the corner of the window.
Rather than dragging the pointer around the screen, I take advantage of keyboard shortcuts to communicate more efficiently. To enable shortcuts, go to Settings > General.
To read more about G Suite shortcuts, click here.
Gmail labels allow me to categorise my emails. I don’t use these as often as others might, but I do find them useful for emails that are unrelated to work. For example, I have labels for ‘Masters’ (for important university-related emails) and ‘Upcoming travel’ (to keep hotel and flight confirmation emails for future reference). I would still star them if they require some follow up, but labelling them allows me to easily access them from the side menu and stops them from getting lost amongst school emails. Labels can also be colour-coded.
This feature allows users up to thirty seconds to recall an email after they have clicked ‘Send’. It’s very useful for those times when I immediately realise that I have sent the email to the wrong person, missed out important information or forgotten to add an attachment. With this feature enabled, the below message will appear at the top of the page for the set amount of time.
Go to Settings > General to enable this feature and set the cancellation period.
Gmail will automatically organise my incoming emails if they meet pre-determined criteria. To set up new filters, use the drop-down options in Gmail’s search bar and select ‘Create filter with this search’. Alternatively, create filters from particular emails by selecting ‘Filter messages like this’. There are many options for filtered emails. These include: delete, forward, apply a label, send a canned response, star, etc. This saves a lot of time because my expected emails are automatically organised how I want them to be.
I pride myself on my organisation and quick responses. I also recognise the importance of switching off from work, especially in the holidays. If I know that I will be offline or unavailable, I don’t like to keep people waiting without an explanation. AutoReply allows users to prepare an email that is automatically sent as a reply to new emails.
To prepare the AutoReply and select the start and end dates, go to Settings > General.
Bitmoji Chrome extension
When appropriate, I like to add a personal touch to emails (especially with students) by adding a Bitmoji image. Bitmoji is an app and Chrome extension that allows users to create a personal avatar and personalised picture messages. With the extension installed on a Chrome browser, Bitmoji images can be easily accessed within Gmail. For more information, click here.
The following two features are, at the time of writing, available as Labs. Labs are experimental, pre-release functions that can be discontinued or changed at any time. To enable Labs and to view these additional functions, click Settings > Labs.
Google Calendar gadget
This handy feature displays my Google Calendar events at the side of the Gmail page. It’s often useful to see my schedule and upcoming events at a glance as I respond to emails.
Canned responses (templates)
By enabling this Lab (Settings > Labs), users can create different email templates and label them. When composing a new email or replying, canned responses can be easily accessed. Even when they require some personalisation, they still save lots of time and energy. You can even create filters so that particular emails automatically get a canned response. From a new message window, find the small arrow in the corner and click ‘Canned responses’. From here, you can create a new template or insert an existing one.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other features of Gmail that help users to stay organised and communicate efficiently. This is just a list of ones that I use most frequently. It’s also worth mentioning that other email providers will probably have similar features. Take advantage of your email features to stay in control of your messages.
What other tips do you have? Please leave a comment below. Your input, as always, is hugely valued.
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