4 Underappreciated Gmail Tools to Reduce Stress

Google has always been known for its easy-to-use tools, and Gmail is no exception. However, did you know that Gmail is full of under-utilized features? Many of them may make your email experience more streamlined and effective.

1.  Labels

Gmail labels are conceptually similar to folders on your desktop for files. Labels, like paper folders, can help you organize and quickly access important emails. For example, an email chain that you will need to respond to frequently can be accessed more quickly once it is given a label. Also, an email can have multiple labels, helping you categorize your chaotic inbox.

Labels can be found by going to your Gmail settings (the gear on the far upper right):

Gmail Settings

And then clicking on the labels tab:

Gmail Lables

Here you will see the “System Labels” such as “Inbox,” “Trash,” and “Spam.”  You will also see your Google Circles if you use Google+.  At the end of this list are the labels you created and options to create new ones.  You can even color code your labels so they stand out in your email inbox.

In practice labels look like this in your inbox:

Gmail Labels in the inbox

Once you have labeled your email, it will stand out in your once cluttered inbox. Your important emails will be less likely to disappear.

2.  Filters

Filters can automatically sort and organize incoming emails for you. This can make your life easier by setting priorities or even pre-labeling emails. Filters, combined with labels will help to organize your email and prevent it from becoming cluttered.

To get to filters, again go to Gmail settings.  Then select the “Filters” tab.

Gmail Filters

Here is where you can manage all of your filters.  To create a new one, Google has hidden the link at the bottom of the section:

Create New Gmail Filter

You can establish an array of filter rulesets, such as who the email was from, and whether the email contains a certain word, has attachments, etc.  Once you define the filter you can then apply actions to those emails.  For example, you may want all emails that use the word “Mom” to have the label “Family.”  Or maybe you want all the emails from an important client to be marked as important and starred. Or perhaps you want to archive any email that has “FWD: FWD: FWD:” in the subject line (you know, those bad joke emails that have been forwarded by way too many co-workers).  You can even apply these filters retroactively, so any old emails that would be affected can be moved or labeled as needed.

In any case, filters are a great way to do automatic sorting as soon as emails hit your inbox.

3.  Send and check other email accounts:

How many email accounts do you have? You probably use a work email, and you may even have a couple of personal addresses. Perhaps you do some volunteer work for an organization that also gives you an email address. Let’s face it, very few people have just one. Gmail makes it easy to check and send email from other accounts.

To set up access to other email accounts, go to Gmail settings and this time select the “Accounts” tab:

Gmail Accounts

You will see two main sections: “Send mail as” and “Check mail from other accounts (using POP3).”

The first section is where you can add accounts to “send mail as.”  Your email server must allow email to be sent remotely, that is from a different server. Most email providers will allow this. I have other Gmail accounts and an AOL account that allow emails to be sent remotely. However, your work email might be tightly controlled and thus not allow remote emails. Otherwise, “Send mail as” for different accounts is relatively easy to set up.

Once you have the account set up you will notice that when you create an email you have the option to change the “From” field.  You can now pick which email address you would like to use. You can even set custom signatures from each email address you send from.

Checking mail is a different story.  Of course you will need the username and password for the account. You will also need the name of the POP server (the server where your email lives) and the correct port number (check with your IT department if you don’t know).  Gmail is typically smart enough to know what the common POP server is for formerly popular email providers, such as Yahoo and AOL. But if your email has a unique domain, such as a work address, you may need to contact your IT administrator to get the correct information.  Here is the web form you will need to complete:

Gmail POP settings

Once you have your account set up, Gmail will check it every hour.  You can manually force Gmail to check the account sooner by going to the Accounts tab and finding the email address under the “Check mail from other accounts” heading.

Gmail mail Accounts

4. Contact Groups

In general, “Contacts” is a rarely used tool for Gmail, but setting them up can save you a great deal of frustration when you frequently send email to the same group of people.

To get to the “Contacts” tool in Gmail, look to the upper left side of the screen.  You will see the word “Mail.”  Click on that and you will get a drop down with the “Contacts” option.

Gmail contacts

To create a new group the option is a bit hidden. All the way on the bottom of the left panel, you will see the “New Group…” option.

Gmail New Group

Now all you have to do is give the group a name. After that, the group will appear as an option in the left panel and you can add people. It will also be an option in the “To:” field when you create a new email. So for example, if you create a group called “Co-Workers,”  instead of typing everyone’s name in, you can just type in “Co-Workers” and Gmail will populate the “To:” field with everyone in that group.

If you use one or more of these tools, you will notice your email life getting better. You will spend less time worrying about emails, writing emails, and being buried in emails. By using these underappreciated tools you can organize your cluttered email inbox and streamline your experience with Google’s email service. Who knows, you may even begin to enjoy your emailing experience!