10 Gmail Productivity Features To Work Smarter

Cut the time spent on your inbox so you can focus on other areas of your business.

Time is of the essence, and this rings true especially for small business owners.

Google Mail Productivity Tips 2016

The working day is nowhere long enough in a small business where we wear many hats. The reality is that email devours a big chunk of the day. According to one research, we spend almost 3 hours a day in the confines of our inboxes. The amount of email reaching our inboxes will not decrease for the foreseeable future. In 2015, 205 billion emails were delivered, and it’s predicted to increase in the coming years.

So how do we take on and overcome the constant urge to devour our messages? Gmail evolved to help us in our plight.

Gmail is one of the most popular email services, and there is a good reason for that. It provides intuitive email functions and powerful filtering features to declutter our inboxes.

Many people are unaware of these characteristics. So, we will cover ten easy to use features that you can start using right away.

Let's begin with the Gmail functions

Superstar Feature

Besides, the single yellow star you often see in your inbox. You can activate a six color multi-star function. Once you assign stars to emails of choice, you can filter them using the color search functions.

For instance, “has:red-star”, “has:yellow-star” will return associated messages.

To set this feature: Go to gear >> click Settings >> select all stars.

Gmail multi star feature

Gmail Multi-star Feature.

Once you activate this setting, you will be able to assign stars to messages within your inbox. A simple click on the star feature will toggle through your colour options until your reach the one of choice.

The multi-star feature provides a visual outlay. It also offers easy to search function to access messages of choice.

Preview attachment without a download

Here you can view files attached to an email without leaving the inbox. You can also save necessary attachments to your Google Drive to access at a later date. You can edit documents such as excel using spreadsheet apps without downloading them. You can scroll through many documents attached to the same email when viewed from a mobile device.

To preview, you just need to click on the attached file. With this feature, you won’t need to use much-needed space on your computer.


In my opinion, Filters are the most powerful feature on Gmail. You can use filters to control the flow of incoming mail. Filters allow you to direct incoming emails to predefined locations such as tags, archive folder, spam or even to bin.

You can access the filter setting by selecting a discreet arrow in the search bar.

To set up a filter, you need to:

  1. Find the emails of interest
  2. The filter feature becomes active
  3. You can then select options of choice

Say I would like to apply a filter to all Google Adwords email.

Gmail filter

Screenshot of the process to apply a Filter with Gmail.

You can access all your filter commands by going to: Gear >> Settings >> Filters and Blocked email addresses. Here you can either edit or delete filters.


There are four types of labels on Gmail:

  1. System labels
  2. Categories
  3. Circles
  4. Personalised

The personalised label allows you to categorise messages. Labels may be unique to you and depends on the things that are important to you. They work much like a folder except you can assign many labels to one message. You can search for email using the label command as follows: label:personal etc.

If you require visuals, you can also assign colours to labels.

To assign colours to labels: Hover mouse over label >> Click on arrow associated with label >> Select label colour

The Lab

The lab is the testing ground for Gmail features. In here you can find functions to help you better manage your inbox. But, Google may withdraw features here at any time.

A well-known useful app in the lab is “chat by Emily C”. This app moves your hidden Gmail chat feature to prominent right side column of your emails.

Go to gear >> settings >> labs >> search for chat >> Enable chat feature by Emily C.

You can activate other features in the same way.

Various Inbox types

If you toggle over your inbox label, you will notice that an arrow becomes visible. Select the arrow to reveal five inbox types. The priority feature is where Gmail analyses your new incoming messages.

This process predicts and sorts what’s important to you. They consider things like how you’ve treated similar messages in the past.

But you will need to activate an important feature to help Google with their predictions. To do so, go to Gear >> inbox >> importance markers>>then select the option: “Use my past actions to predict which messages are important”.

You can toggle between the other inbox features to suit your sorting requirements.

Smart Search Feature

The smart search feature is where Gmail complete predictions. The search function works much like Google search engine search feature. Many smart search features make your search easier.

Some important search features are:

  • Is:important are search operators that can be used to filter out messages
  • Has:attachment search for messages with attachment
  • filename:my_assignment search for specific attachments
  • label: home stuff
  • Is:chat search for chat messages

Save notes as draft

When you type a message without sending. It saves into the draft folder. This draft feature is an excellent way to save your notes so you can access them later or on the go.

Take action right from inbox overview

Recent updates mean you do not have to open email to take necessary actions. You can now view videos, someone’s Gmail request, approve newsletter signup and more.

Alias Email Addresses

Finally, before you create another email account to deal with marketing messages, read this! You can create an alias email in your Gmail account.

Your username + any alias will still arrive in your inbox. So for instance: username+family@gmail.com will still be sent to username@gmail.com

You can use this in two ways.

The first is by sending specified information to designated labels. For instance, you can give your family member an email alias: username+family@gmail.com

You will need to assign this email alias to the label of choice. This is easy to do:

  1. Send an email to username+family@gmail.com
  2. Search for message
  3. Create a filter that assigns all future incoming email to your label of choice

You can quickly search for family related email using: label:family

The other is that you can subscribe to a company for a one-off offer but direct all future marketing messages to the archive or bin folders You will also need to set a filter for this function.

To conclude

To reduce time spent on answering email; you should reserve a time slot in the day to deal with all your email queries. Productivity guru Tim Ferris suggest that we should check our emails twice a day.

A constant distraction such as email alerts doesn’t help us. But getting to know the way around your inbox should certainly is a way forward. With stars and colours, you can create a strong visual inbox. Filters allow you to ditch automatically or hide the messages you don’t need.

Finally, the discreet, yet powerful search feature can save you time to find and attend to an urgent email.

Some users also opt for a program such as InboxPause.com to stop  email coming into their mailbox. In my opinion, it’s probably the better option to exercise good old-fashioned discipline.

If you have any email productivity tips that you’d like to share- we would be happy to hear from you. Please share your comments below. 

Are you a Business Owner? Check out Google for Business. You can easily obtain a personalised email that matches your business name. You can also manage your email from a fully functional mobile app. Besides this, you get 30 GB of storage, spam protection. They have a free trial period so get more information here
It's only fair to share...Buffer this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInPrint this pageShare on Tumblr

Your Digital Marketing Coach!

Digital Marketing Strategist. The author of The Practical Digital Marketing Planner. Top 500 Social Media Influencer by Agilience. I work with small to medium size companies and entrepreneurs to develop a robust Digital Marketing Strategy so they can thrive online.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “10 Gmail Productivity Features To Work Smarter

  1. use Semantic Sales. It have 3 tools inside and let me save up to 9 hours a week. Follow up reminder, missed e-mail reminder. Also it has an option – when I receive letter from new contact, they sending me his accounts in FB and Linkedin. https://semanticsales.com