Gmail has some awesome email productivity features, so if you’re a person who gets hundreds of emails a day then you will want to check out this new awesome Google labs feature you can use to increase your email productivity.
Also we’ll cover several features within Gmail that you can use to increase your productivity.
The fundamental principles behind email productivity
A common problem with email is procrastination. You read an email and think, “I’ll deal with that later”, then you read it again the next day, skimming through and procrastinate again … and again. By the time you get around to completing the email you have probably read it 5 or 6 times and wasted a lot of time in processing emails.
The solution is to process all of your emails in one batch, handling every email completely.
- Archive it (in Gmail you can enable shortcuts under settings and the shortcut for archive is “e”. You can see a complete list of shortcuts here: Gmail Shortcuts
- Reply quickly (again you can use a Gmail shortcut “r”)
- Take action quickly and then archive it – if it’s something that will take you less than 5 minutes to complete you can just quickly take that action and then get it out of your inbox
- If it requires more than 5 minutes to complete the relevant actions put it on your task list and then archive it
You will notice there is no option for “leave it there for later”. Why not? Most people do exactly that. They leave a lot of tasks for later waiting for a better time to handle the email. The problem with this approach is that you end up reading the same email multiple times and it clutters your email box and your mental space. Also there is no way to prioritize your emails so you then have this list of un-prioritized action items which is dangerous for your productivity. Instead you want to move it out of Gmail and into a list of your tasks where you prioritize it appropriately.
Notice also there is no option for “file it”. In Gmail it’s very fast to search for emails, so instead of filing you can simply archive the email and then search for it if you need to find it later.
If you are following this method of processing your emails you will have a zero email inbox. You will handle each email only one time and then it’s gone from your inbox.
Using filters to remove low priority emails from your inbox
You can actually use the automatic Gmail “priority inbox” feature which filters important and less important emails automatically. This is the easy way to automatically filter your mails.
Alternatively you can set up manual filters to automatically remove certain emails from your inbox and then label them. This could be a label such as “to read later” for example if you receive a newsletter that you like to get but don’t want it to clutter up your inbox.
The Hidden Gmail Labs feature that gives you a massive productivity boost
So here it is. Go into your Gmail settings then click on Labs. There is a labs feature called “Auto-advance”. This automatically shows the next conversation when you delete or archive rather than going back to the inbox.
This is powerful in helping you to try and process your emails quickly. Firstly it saves you the time in going back to the inbox each time before reading the next email. Even more importantly it forces you to deal with all of your emails one at a time and handle them completely, and not procrastinate them. It helps you to get into the habit of dealing with your emails all at one time and then moving on to your next task for the day.
Some more email productivity tips
- Make sure to check your email only 2-4 times per day, in a single block of time. Don’t check your email constantly throughout the day. This constant checking of your email interrupts your flow. Productivity is about focus bursts of concentration on one activity. If you are constantly switching back to your email then this is going to reduce your focus significantly decrease your productivity.
- Keep your email replies short and to the point. Try to reply in 3 sentences or less if you can.
- Send less emails. The more emails you send, the more replies you get.
- When you write an email always have in mind the outcome you are looking for when the other person reads the email.