You’ve only been away from your desk for an hour, and already, there are two dozen email messages stacked up in your inbox.
How to tell if any important messages are mixed in with the flood of company updates and retail promos without reading each one individually?
We’ll share how you can configure your inbox with efficiency in mind, such as color coded labels and automatic filters.
Once you’re nice and organized, we’ll share additional Gmail features that can make your day easier—including how to enable a brief buffer period that allows you to un-send emails.
Three Quick Notes About Gmail Before We Start
If you’ve never used Gmail before, signing up is a breeze! Plus, we’ll share how to merge over emails from your previous account, so you don't miss a thing.
To start, head to Gmail, then click Create Account. Choose a username and password, enter your birthday along with a few other details, and you’re ready to go.
One thing you might find different? Gmail organizes your emails by conversations, not by individual messages. Conversations contain the original message and all the replies to that message displayed in reverse chronological order (newest first).
Finally, most of the tips we’ll share start by heading to the Settings menu. Shaped like a gear, your Settings menu is shown in the image above and should be located in the top-right corner of your Gmail inbox.
1. Got Multiple Email Accounts? Here’s a Handy Way to Combine Inboxes
Your primary Gmail can be configured to support multiple email accounts—Gmail and otherwise. This allows you to receive emails from multiple addresses in the same inbox, which saves you from switching between tabs and possibly losing track of important conversations.
If you’d like to see emails from multiple Gmail addresses at once, just follow these steps:
- Click on the gear-shaped Settings icon.
- Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
- Head to the Labs tab.
- Scroll down until you see Multiple Inboxes.
- Enable Multiple Inboxes.
The above steps will allow you to combine multiple Gmail accounts into a single inbox. Here’s how to bring in emails from other mail clients too:
- Look for the Accounts and Import tab (it should be to the left of the Labs tab).
- Look for the option to check mail from other accounts.
- Click Add Mail Account.
- A pop-up box will appear with space to enter any email address you’d like to link to your primary Gmail account.
From this point, you have a couple of options. Choose between:
- Getting all messages (old and new): Use this option if you have multiple active email accounts that you want to combine. Doing so will allow you to search one inbox for messages from multiple email addresses back to the beginning.
- Get only old messages: Did you recently switch to Gmail? With this option, you don’t have to log back into your old email account just to search for a past message.
- Forward only new messages: If you’re responsible for checking multiple email accounts and there are one or two that keep slipping your mind, this option will ensure that all new messages get equal attention—without cluttering your inbox up with older communications.
Now that you’ve setup your Gmail to import outside messages, it’s time to get organized.
2. Label Each Email for Optimal Organization
For anyone who likes to organize by visually grouping items, the mishmash of email subject, senders, and levels of importance in your inbox can feel like nails on a chalkboard.
Thankfully, Gmail offers a labeling feature that will create color-coded labels for any filter that you specify.
Labels create instant visual structure, allowing you to quickly scan your inbox for emails on a certain topic. And, particularly for those who are importing emails from other addresses, labels can help you to prioritize your day.
If you’re used to using a folder-based email like Microsoft Outlook, labels can seem a little tricky at the start. That’s because labels can be just a label, or they can be a folder.
For example, in Outlook, you can move an email from your Inbox folder to the Cousin Becky’s Wedding folder or wherever else you’d like it to go. And, when you do, it disappears from your inbox. (Hooray!)
In this way, Outlook treats every email like a physical object—it can’t be in two places at once.
Gmail allows you to apply more than one label to a message. This means that a conversation can be labeled as both Cousin Becky’s Wedding and Messages From Family, as well as appearing in your inbox.
Creating and applying Gmail labels is a two step process. To start:
- Head into Settings and click on the Labels tab.
- Here you can create new labels, or manage existing ones.
How to decide which labels to create? Since labels are collections of emails that have something in common, you can come up with a completely custom classification system.
A quick tip: We know that every project or topic is unique, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating too many labels. To make sure you don’t need a cipher to check your email, decide on what’s important to you.
For example, if you’re more concerned with keeping track of messages, consider labels based on notifications you’d like to receive, such as:
- Paid invoice notifications
- Emails forwarded from another account
- Emails mentioning a specific project
If you’d like help prioritizing your daily to-do list, consider labels that imply tasks and levels of urgency:
- Due today
- Must reply
- Waiting for…
- Completed tasks
Once you’ve created your labels, they’ll appear in two places: In the Settings area and along the left menu under Inbox.
To apply colored label tags to your emails (as opposed to just white with text, which doesn’t particularly help with quick identification), you’ll need to move your cursor over to the left menu and locate the newly created label.
Hover your cursor over the label name and a small downward-pointing arrow should appear immediately to the right of the text. Click this to select a color for your label and voila! You’ve now got a color-coded inbox.
What’s great about Gmail is, as we mentioned above, you can apply multiple labels to the same message. Meaning that you can easily identify a conversation that’s marked “must reply” and “due today” with just a glance.
3. Apply Gmail Labels to Incoming Emails With Filters
Now that you’ve created the structure that will allow you to quickly identify emails, you may want to automatically apply these labels to new emails coming in.
There are several ways to create filters. If you want to create a filter from scratch:
- Head back to the Settings icon and click on the Filters tab.
- Click Create a New Filter.
- Decide on your parameters, including who the message is from, what words are in the subject, or if it has an attachment. Note that if you have combined multiple emails into your Gmail inbox, you can also create a filter depending on which address the message was sent to.
- At the bottom-right of the box, click Create a Filter With This Search.
If creating a filter to group emails about a specific project, or maybe direct emails from a specific sender into another folder aside from your inbox, you also use an existing email as a template.
To do so:
- Check the checkbox next to the email you want.
- Click More.
- Click Filter messages like these.
- Enter your filter criteria.
Once you’ve identified what topic, sender, recipient, subject, keyword, attachment, or combination of those is to be filtered, it’s time to tell Gmail what to do with it.
Options include immediately archiving the filtered message, marking it as important, or applying one of those nifty, color-coded labels that we just created. Just check the box next to “Apply the label,” then use the drop down menu to select which label you’d like.
With automatic filtering in place, your inbox is on the fast track to being decluttered! Now for a few extra tips and tricks.
4. Do You Regret Hitting “Send”? Here’s How to Undo a Sent Email in Gmail
There are few email-related events worse than prematurely hitting “send,” only to realize seconds later that your message was sent to the wrong person—or that your words could have used some finessing.
Of course, searching for how to un-send an email always ends in the same, cruel disappointment. So, what’s this about being able to yank a message back into draft territory?
Thanks to Gmail’s Undo Send feature, it’s possible—but the setting must first be enabled before you can enjoy up to a whole 30 seconds of buffer time.
To enable Undo Send, follow these steps:
- Go up to the gear icon that represents Settings in the top-right corner of your inbox.
- Scroll down in the General Settings tab until you find Undo Send.
- Select to enable the feature.
- Choose between delays of 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds.
- Scroll to the bottom and click the Save Changes button.
Once your updated settings are saved, return to your inbox and compose a tester email to make sure that the update is active. If Undo Send is enabled, an option to undo your sent mail will appear in the center of your screen for the selected period of time.
5. Configure Your Gmail to Add a Preview Pane
Your default Gmail inbox is divided into two sections; a vertical menu on the left, and an overview of your inbox in the main section.
The lack of a preview pane is a commonly cited complaint from recent Gmail converts. Here’s how to customize your configuration:
- Head back to the Settings menu by clicking the gear icon.
- Select the Labs tab, then locate where you can “Search for a lab.”
- Enter “preview pane,” then select Enable.
- Save changes and give Gmail a few seconds to reload.
Once the tab has refreshed, you’ll see a new icon next to that gear button you’ve gotten to know so well. Click it and select between no split, vertical split, and horizontal split to customize your view.
6. Fearlessly Send Sensitive Information With Self-Destructing Snapmail
It happens—you’ve got to email someone your credit card number, social security number, or bank information. Sure, you trust the recipient not to have nefarious intentions, but what if they accidentally leave their Gmail open or someone accesses their account?
Snapmail is a web-based extension that can help you send sensitive information with confidence, thanks to its Snapchat-like feature of self-destructing. It’s the same Gmail that you love, with just a twist of James Bond.
To use Snapmail, you’ll need to open Chrome as your browser, then head to the Google Play store to install.
Once complete, head to Gmail (or refresh an existing tab), and click Compose. You’ll now find a Snapmail button next to your Send button. The recipient will receive your Snapmail message via a link (so be sure to give them a heads up).
Upon clicking the link, a 60-second countdown will begin. Once the time is up, your sensitive information will be deleted forever.
7. Schedule Emails to Be Sent at a Later Time
Boomerang’s Send Later feature makes it easy for you to schedule an email to be sent at any time you choose. Like Snapmail, Boomerang is an extension—not a native Gmail feature—so you’ll need to head here for a quick install.
With the Boomerang extension, you can draft your email now, then schedule it to be sent automatically at the perfect time. Just write the message as you normally would, then click the Send Later button.
Still Wondering How to Get Gmail to Fit Your Needs?
That’s a wrap on our Gmail tips! Following the steps above should be easy as pie for those who are familiar with Gmail’s format.
What if you’re still on the fence about making the switch? There’s plenty of great reasons to love Gmail—including how well it filters spam, provides lightning fast search results, and has a built-in chat.
However, moving away from a familiar email client can be unnerving as you get used to the different bells and whistles. If there’s still something that you’d like to know, feel free to ask us in the comment section below!