Freelancers spend a lot of time reading and writing emails – not just for work but also for our personal and social lives. Thankfully, as with all processes we spend a lot of work time on, email can be optimized. In this article, we look at optimizing your Gmail account for a couple of reasons. It is one of the most popular apps out there and many people can profit from learning how to use it better.Additionally, it is one of those email clients that have a ton of hidden features under the surface – you won’t believe all the things you can do with Gmail. Nevertheless, some of our tips can also be applied to other email clients with a bit of tinkering:
1. Try using shortcuts
First of all, did you know you could use shortcuts in Gmail? Neither did I, up until about one year ago. These include things like simply pressing “r” for reply, “f” for forward and many more. Activating them is easy – just go to settings (the little gear icon in your mail client), click on the “Settings” tab and scroll down to find the option “Keyboard Shortcuts”.
Here is a complete tutorial by Google on activating keyboard shortcuts. Furthermore, via Google Lab, you can even create your own keyboard shortcuts. This might all sound a bit intimidating at first, but think about how shortcuts like “ctrl+c” make your live so much easier – it’s the same with Gmail, you just have to get used to it for a couple of days.
2. Utilize advanced search
Guess what – Google’s not only good at search in its main engine, Gmail also has a couple of nifty search tricks. Advanced search is hidden in plain sight – just next to the search icon, there is a downward arrow indicating a drop-down menu. Clicking on that opens a whole new world of possibilities. You can search by subject, sender, keywords, date, even size of the mail. If your inbox has as many emails as mine, you already understand how much of a blessing these search options can be.
3. Create multiple inboxes
Moving on to some more advanced stuff, Google’s mail client, like many others, has the option to sort your emails in multiple ways. One of those is multiple inboxes. This option will completely change how Gmail looks visually and it will make it much less cluttered. You can have separate inboxes for every client (Client X, Client Y, etc.) for different priorities (Urgent, Important, others), emails that you need to look up often (To check) or anything else that makes sense for you (Reply needed, To-Do, Important).
Here’s how to set it up: go to Settings again, but this time open the tab “Labs”. Don’t worry, Google says these are experimental, but they’ve been around for years and aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Then, search for multiple inboxes and tick the “Enable” box. Voila, you’re all set – go to the “Labels” tab and organize.
4. Apply filters
Filters are something that can be used with any email clients and are extremely useful. One of the things you can do is filter different emails to your different inboxes. For example, mails with a certain ending after the @-sign, can go all go to the folder for that company.
Similarly, mails that contain certain keywords can be filtered into the trash can or into an important folder. Filters help you prioritize which mails you should pay attention to first.
5. Use Canned Replies
Even if you’ve been freelancing for just a few months, you’ll have noticed how many near-identical emails you send to different people – taking up a lot of your valuable time!
Canned replies are an easy fix to this problem, providing you with template answers for some of your most common emails including welcome messages, answering common questions, sending out quotes etc. Simply go back to the ‘Labs’ tab and enable canned responses. Once this is done, you can simply click ‘Compose’ as if you were starting a new email, and once you’ve written your template, save it in canned responses ready for use when you need it. Simple!
6. Schedule emails
Freelancers can work any hours of the day – and that can sometimes include many of us sitting up late at night sifting through our inboxes. If a client receives a response from you in the middle of the night, it can quickly become the norm for them to then in turn contact you at any time, something you really want to avoid if you want to keep your social life!
Scheduled emails can maintain your ‘Working Hours’ by only sending emails at certain times, even if you responded several hours before. This way, you can work any hours you want (especially if you’re a night owl!), but maintain the illusion that you work set hours in the day.
If this sounds like something you need, Boomerang app is a great scheduling tool and works with Gmail.
7. Enabling “Undo Send”
And, finally, here’s another nifty feature that isn’t really available in many mail clients, but can be activated in Gmail – undoing an email you’ve just sent. We all know the feeling – as soon as we click send we realize we forgot the attachment, didn’t add one of the recipients or forgot to properly format. Small mistakes like those are often no biggie, but we all prefer not to make them.
With “Undo Send”, that can be avoided. Just go to Settings, then scroll to “Undo Send” in the “General” tab and enable it. You can set up a cancellation period for up to 30 seconds. That’s pretty neat!
There are a few other common mistakes that you should try to avoid when writing emails, don’t miss them!
Do you know any other Gmail tricks? Share them with the community in the comments below this article.