How to Optimize Gmail for Productivity and Simplicity

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 02/09/11 •  11 min read

Let’s face it, Google is getting ready to take over the universe.  The first time someone steps foot on Mars, I have full confidence it will be in a Google space suit, via a Google rocket ship.

However, just because Google has all but taken over the universe, that doesn’t mean it’s totally a bad thing.

Quite the opposite actually.  I’ve found that as I’ve begun to embrace apps, software, and hardware developed by Google my life has become much more simple and productive.  While Apple may be the one (arguably) developing the coolest hardware, the services that Google is now providing pretty much blows anything Apple has done in that regard away.

The cool thing about most of the things Google has developed is just how well everything works together.  I can have one Google login and access everything from You Tube to Feedburner – and for the most part, it works extremely well.

That said, of all Google’s services I’ve probably been using Gmail the longest, and its completely changed the way that I manage my email.  The goal of this post is to get you to consider switching to Gmail as your email manager of choice, and if you already use it, provide you with a few useful tools you may or may not have thought about.

The Gloriousness of Gmail

Through college and during my first few years in the “real world” I was using an archaic organization system known as Outlook.  While Outlook is powerful, and can do a lot, the fact remains that it’s clunky.  There is nothing sleek about it, and while I’m sure it can do 95% of the things Gmail can, I never had the patience to figure it out.

Once I decided to switch to Gmail my life became so much easier for numerous reasons:

So there’s just a few of the benefits of Gmail, but you probably already knew all of that.  Let’s take a look at some specifc adjustments you can make to make your life a little bit easier.

Gmail Lavatory —errr— Laboratory

If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to go through the Gmail Labs (found by clicking on gmail settings, and then selecting Labs), and see what your missing out on.  Some of the most functional tools for Gmail are found there.  Specifically I use:

There are dozens of other labs features that are all pretty cool, but these are the ones that have proven the best for my workflow.

For more info on Gmail Labs:

Screw Internet

For those of you who do a lot of traveling and adventure seeking, we aren’t quite at a point where free wifi encompasses the entire planet.  For instance if you’re boar hunting in the middle of New Guinea or perhaps you’re in your flippy-floppys on a boat off the coast of the Philippines. Never fear, with Gmail Offline, you can still read and respond to your emails!

This was one area where I thought Outlook didn’t totally suck, and while the Gmail integration isn’t quite up to Outlook standards in this regard, it’s a hell of a lot better than it used to be.  More practical uses of this are during long flights, where you’re able to provide yourself with an excellent opportunity to clean out your inbox and get to those longer email responses you’ve been putting off.

For more info:

Labels and Filters

Once I got used to the idea of setting up labels and filters, I really began to love it.  Between these two features I don’t have to see any email that I don’t want to at any given time, and the spam gets filtered out altogether.

If you’re used to organizing your emails via folders, getting used to Gmail is definitely going to take a little bit of time.  However, in the end I’ve found that overall I like it much better.  One of the most important reasons for this, is I can organize the same email in multiple ways, rather than just dropping it in one all encompassing folder.  Say I get a work related email from my dad.  I can add both of those labels to that email, and find it in either “work” or “family” if those labels are set up.

That said, it’ll take a little bit of time to set everything up correctly.  If you’re forwarding multiple email addresses to your account, you need to make sure you put some thought into how your incoming mail will be labeled, what your default email address is, and which things you want to filter out.

Here are a few good ways to use Filters:

A few more resources:

A Few Other Ways Google Adds Value to My Life

Once you get used to the Gmail interface, and explore some of the options for increasing your productivity and simplicity, it’ll be tough to go back to anything else.  But the fun doesn’t stop there. Initially this was going to be a post about how you can improve your life via all things Google.  Well, I realized that’d turn into about 10,000 words and if you guys are anything like me, you don’t have the attention span for that.

So instead, I’m just going to throw in a couple more cool ways to optimize your Gmail in tandem with some other Google services. iGoogle screenshot

By implementing some of the ideas here you should be able to make your life at least a little bit easier, and improve your business processes as well.

Also for those of you in Portland, next Thursday 2/17 I’ll be co-hosting a meetup with Jonathan Mead, Tammy Strobel, and Tyler Tervooren.  We’ll be at Lucky Lab on NW Quimby at 7pm, so come join!

If you enjoyed this post then be sure to check out our free ecourse on building your own location independent business over in the side bar. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook if you’re looking for even more good stuff. I’m also experimenting with a few new FB plugins, so if you’d click “like” below I’ll love you forever. Ok fine, we all know I’ll love you anyways, but I’d still appreciate it!

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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