I've always been amazed with how Google has redefined webmail. In this article, we'll discuss useful Gmail tips and other modifiers and tweaks to make it even better. Learning the following Gmail tips and modifiers helps ensure your your workflow is fast and your inbox is organized:

  1. Keyboard Shortcuts
  2. Productivity Apps
  3. Canned Responses
  4. Email Modifiers

Keyboard Shortcuts

Gmail shortcuts are disabled by default. To enable:

Enable Gmail shortcuts in Settings > General

To turn on custom keyboard shortcuts:

Enable custom keyboard shortcuts in Settings > Advanced

To see all keyboard shortcuts go to their keyboard shortcuts page.

Productivity Apps

Email productivity apps such as Boomerang, Edison (formerly Easilydo), and Sanebox are good ones to help you take control of your inbox.

Out of these productivity apps, the Boomerang plugin usually gets the mention among many entrepreneurs. Like the name implies, you can schedule emails to appear again later. This is a nice combo with canned responses as we'll discuss below. Like scheduling a follow-up email using a canned response after a set amount of time.

Canned Responses

Any inquiries or tasks that are similar can lead to repetitive time wasting. Why not automate some of the drivel? Introducing one of my favorite tips among this list of Gmail tips, is canned responses. Besides saving you time, you'll also get a snapshot of the most frequently occurring part of your operation.

Besides, you don't want to ignore your co-workers, boss, or customer, regardless if they normally ignore you. Canned responses allow you to quickly let them know you are looking into the matter. Here's how to enable canned responses (Gmail Templates):

  1. Click the gear icon in the top right, then click Settings
  2. Click the Advanced tab near the top
  3. Click the Enable radio button in the Canned Responses (Templates) area (under Keyboard Shortcuts)
  4. Now you can save emails you draft as templates by clicking the 3 dots near the Trash icon (you can insert from here as well)

Much like most email, you should leave your canned responses as brief as possible. Besides this being proper email etiquette, non-specific entries in your canned responses list can be used for multiple inquiries. Here are some of the common use cases:

Task Check-in

Regardless if you are a full time employee or a freelancer, your supervisor or client will want to periodically know where you are on certain tasks (maybe all of them). As you continue to gain experience, you'll get a feel on how long certain tasks take you. Therefore you can create a basic multiple-choice template as seen below:

Hello RECIPIENT,

I have recently completed TASK and we’re on track|a little behind with|on PROJECT. Everything is expected to be ready by DATE as previously discussed. I'll send a follow-up email to confirm project completion or if anything changes.

All the best,

Roy

This is simply an example. Obviously your communication style will influence how you respond to task inquiries. Tweak the above template slightly and store in your repository.

But what if you're the one asking? By the collaborative nature of organizations, you could want an update for yourself so you can continue working on your part. Or you could be a supervisor or you're simply wanting to check in to a 3rd party.

Hello RECIPIENT,

I wanted to check in to see if we're still on track to do TASK by DATE. Please let me know if you run into any issues that could keep us from meeting our previously discussed deadline. Thank you.

All the best,

Roy

This tweet-sized template is about as to the point as you can get. This would almost be better suited for Slack, but alas, email is still the king. Again, feel free to edit as necessary for your base template.

Follow-up or Reminder

Sending emails to co-workers and clients and getting no response back is essentially a business rite of passage. You have to know how to quickly follow up as this happens a lot. For templates, this is no problem at all. Let's see what we can do:

Hello RECIPIENT,

I wanted to float this to the top of your inbox. I sent an email to you on DATE about BRIEF TOPIC. Please let me know what you think within the next two days. Thank you.

All the best,

Roy

There are a few different ways you can go here, depending on what you asked. The biggest thing to keep in mind is to be professional while letting your target know they need to get back to you.

Also, don't lead with this template when initiating communication. You'd think this would be common sense but I can't tell you how many times someone has emailed me about a meeting or conversation that never happened.

Onboarding or Walkthrough

I saved the best use case for last. I personally use this one the most, in all aspects – professional, freelancing, and personal. This is mostly due to my involvement in many forms of IT but in the new economy, you can use this to your advantage as well. Here are a few examples:

  • You offer customer service for a product, service, or department.
  • You provide tech support to internal or external customers.
  • You deal with business inquiries in your startup, agency, or business.
  • You provide a questionnaire (good fit) before a person or business can do business with you or your agency.
  • You provide an estimate (quote) to your clients or customers.
  • You teach people how to use a product or service to solve a problem.
  • You give employee orientation at your day job or agency.
  • You gather feedback and surveys.

This template can potentially be beefy depending on what your needs are, especially if you give step-by-step instructions. For example, I used to manage email security for an entire enterprise. The 2 most common questions I got are “where's my email” and “why am I getting so many emails.” So I created 3 canned responses – one instructing how to check quarantine if an email gets caught there, one showing how to whitelist senders, and another showing how to blacklist senders.

Whether you're looking to onboard or instruct someone, create a repeatable response system to make sure you are always clear, thorough, and consistent where possible.

Email Modifiers

If you've created multiple gmail accounts to sign up for multiple online accounts then I'm potentially about to make you happy.

You can use periods and a plus sign as modifiers for web forms or account signups and you'll still get the email directed to your inbox.

Think of it as Google ignoring the periods and everything between the plus sign and the at symbol.

Modifier Examples

You can add +test1 before the @ symbol or . anywhere within your username and it will still email to your address. This turns your single email address into many different variations.

  • name@email.com
  • n.ame@email.com
  • na.me@email.com
  • nam.e@email.com
  • name+test1@email.com
  • name+test2@email.com
  • name+test3@email.com

Extra Credit

If you want to get a little crazier, you can use the + modifier in tags and filters to help organize your inbox.

Why Do This?

This is useful for tracking submissions to marketing lists or if you are testing an application that has a duplicate hold out period.

It's worth mentioning that some websites are capable of detecting this behavior and will not let you make more than one account.

If you or your organization runs G Suite, you can simply use email aliases. You can have some fun with filters and rules based on email aliases. Let me know if you would like to go more in depth on this.

Conclusion

It may not seem like much but you'd be surprised at how much impact a few Gmail tips will have on your workflow. Some examples of good practices include:

  1. Keyboard Shortcuts
  2. Productivity Apps
  3. Canned Responses
  4. Email Modifiers

The bold type represents my favorite ones. One thing that may make a few people hesitate on using canned responses include the appearance of impersonal messaging. If you just copy and paste then I can see that. You definitely have to customize to your liking if you're looking to be effective with email communication. The simple and concise messaging won't be a problem.

Those are some of the more freeing Gmail tips to use. Tell me in the comments below, what tactics you use or which Gmail tips you would like to see explored next?

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