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Make Your Gmail Work for You

Your time is valuable. On the Gmail team, we work hard to offer a user ex­­perience that won't bog you down. But we also want to share some tips for be­­ing even more productive with Gmail.

gmail time saver
Alex Gawley, Gmail Product Manager
Focus on search, not folders: Google was built on search, and we've aimed to bring that same search experience to Gmail. Studies show that users save time when they search for an email instead of categorizing it into a folder. In Gmail, you can quickly find the exact message you want by typing keywords into the search box, or you can rely on the program's search autocomplete to specify the attributes you want (try typing 'from:[sender]' or 'has photos').

Let Gmail do your filing for you: Instead of individually finding and filing messages, try a search in Gmail for a specific type of message (for example, all email messages 'from:craigslist.org'). Then select Filter messages like this from the 'More' drop-down menu to set up a filter that will automatically label, archive, delete, or “star” similar types of incoming messages.

Use Priority Inbox: If you receive a lot of email, use Gmail's Priority Inbox to automatically separate your important mail from the rest, based on various signals. We found that Priority Inbox users spend 43 percent more time reading important messages than unimportant ones, and that they spend 15 percent less time reading email overall than do Gmail users working without Priority Inbox.

Keep your contacts up-to-date: Nothing saps time like having to deal with bounced email messages or waiting for a reply to a message that you sent to an outdated email address. You can ensure that you have the latest and most accurate contact information by taking ad­­vantage of Gmail's new profile integration with Google+, which automatically brings any information that your contacts share with you through Google+ into your Contacts list in Gmail.

--Alex Gawley, Gmail Product Manager

Create a Schedule for Your Distractions

Instead of reacting to various notifications--email alerts, incoming instant messages, Twitter messages, and other needy software on your machine--as they arrive, consider dedicating a few half-hour blocks of time during the day to distractions, and leave the rest for focused work. I use this strategy, which I first heard from Gina Trapani, when she was at Lifehacker.

save time on distractions
Will Smith, Tested.com
To save time, the first thing I do after setting up a new PC or Mac is to disable all notifications for everything: pop-up windows, audible sounds, bouncing icons­--all of it, for every application, including calendar appointments, email messages, and instant messages. Every time those notifications fire, they pull my attention from whatever I'm working on­--and I can't instantaneously re­­focus my attention on my task.

My approach won't work for people whose jobs require them to respond immediately to every email or tweet. For most people, though, the vast majority of incoming messages can wait an hour or two for a response. Every few hours during my workday, I take a 20- to 30-minute break and use it to re­­spond to email and instant messages. When I'm finished, I use whatever remains of my allotted break time to check in on my various social networks.

I apply even more scrutiny to notifications on my phone and tablet. You don't need your phone beeping for every piece of spam you get throughout the night, so limit your phone to notifying you of just the interruption-worthy messages. On my phone and tablet, the only apps that I permit to send me modal alerts--which require interaction before I can do anything else with the device--are text messages and calendar ap­­pointments; everything else is pushed to the notifications list, where I can address it when I want to (or ignore it indefinitely). Computers should help you make better use of your time. Don't let yours boss you around.

--Will Smith, Tested.com

Next: Tips for Facebook productivity, printer efficiency, and Android typing speed.

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