Don’t let Gmail’s inbox win

If you’re a Google-lover like I am, you no doubt know how awesome Gmail is. You probably also know how awesome Gmail can be, but have been too overwhelmed by all of the possible configurations to take advantage of them. Below are a few tips that I’ve discovered to make Gmail (and my life) better.

Canned Responses

What it is

Canned Responses is a feature that can be enabled in the Labs tab of Gmail’s settings. It’s a nice little shortcut to get to stored email templates that can be inserted into an email. created a really informative instructional video explaining how to set up Canned Responses.

Why I use it

Email templates are great! It takes so much time and brainpower to come up with a great response to a question you get often that once you’ve created one, it only makes sense to can it and reuse it. I use Canned Responses for standard HR messages, responses to usual sales questions, and to store awesome snippets of language I’ve used in the past (or “borrowed” from coworkers).

Gmail’s Labeling and Filtering

What it is

Labeling is Gmail’s answer to folders. Instead of putting a message into a folder, you give that message a label. The label can appear alongside the message in your inbox, or if you archive the labeled message, it exists in a label window (let’s call it what it really is — a folder). Filtering is a way to automatically add a label to a message based on its content, sender, or other criteria.

Why I use it

I am a very visual person. I want to be able to easily scan my inbox for priorities so I can tackle my vast list of emails in an efficient way. I also have different categories of messages, and want to be able to easily find those messages all in once place. Labels and filters allow me to do this, and I LOVE them. Here’s what my inbox usually looks like:

Because of the color-coding, I can quickly jump to scheduling emails, proposals, or select emails that I want to archive right away.

Here’s an example: Our social media group gets an email notification for every retweet and favorite Pixo gets on Twitter. I sometimes like reading them or watching for mentions to retweet myself, so I do like to get these emails. However, they arrive in large numbers, so on an especially hectic day, there is no way I’m reading them. I have them labeled a nice Twitter blue so I can very quickly make them all disappear when necessary.

Another example: I do a lot of scheduling for Pixo. It’s hard to remember if I’m actively waiting for someone to respond and confirm a meeting or if I’ve already scheduled it. I created a label for messages that I’m actively trying to schedule, and I don’t remove that label until the meeting is confirmed on the calendar. I can quickly go to the scheduling “folder” and see what’s still pending.

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

What it is

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts is a feature that can be enabled in the Labs tab of Gmail’s settings. It lets you assign your own keystrokes as shortcuts to actions in Gmail. This article from shows you how to enable them.

Why I use it

While I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person, I can never memorize or figure out provided keyboard shortcuts. Enabling custom keyboard shortcuts let me pick the shortcuts I need and use tricks that I can actually remember and therefore actually use.

They also save me time and energy. Since enabling custom shortcuts, I have reduced forearm strain from mouse clicks and going back and forth from my mouse to my keyboard. I have also sped up the time it takes me to filter through my inbox.

For example, when I want to mark a message unread (which is two clicks normally), I use the keyboard shortcut “shift+r.” Now the message is bold in my inbox. To mark a message read, it’s just “r.” To mark it archived, I just use “a.”

I can quickly remove emails by marking them as read and archiving them in one click and two keystrokes, saving clicks and saving my forearms. I can apply labels or remove messages from my entire inbox without moving from my keyboard to my mouse.


What it is

Boomerang is an add-on service that can be added to Gmail. It allows you to schedule messages to be returned to your inbox or schedule messages to be sent later.

Why I use it

My involvement in scheduling and sales means I’m often waiting for responses from emails that are out in the ether. If I always waited for recipients to respond to me before I reached out again, lots of things would fall through the cracks. Boomerang helps me make sure that I follow up! I honestly don’t think I could do my job without it.

I hope this insight into my inbox battle inspires you to try out some of Gmail’s great features. How do you fight the inbox battle?

Originally published at by Shawna Culp on October 23, 2015.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.