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15 Gmail Hacks Guaranteed to Free Up an Hour of Your Day

How to file your entire inbox automatically and the basic keyboard shortcuts that are too simple not to remember (hint: 'r' is for reply).

Google Gmail logo on the Apple MacBook Pro display that is on office desk workplaceAlexey Boldin/Shutterstock

Make the most of your email

Most people get over 15 emails a day. If you’re juggling your work email and a personal email account, things can get quite overwhelming. Educate yourself on these Gmail hacks to keep your inbox organized and learn how to reply in half the time. First, you might want to learn about these creepy things Google knows about you.


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Gmail hack: Organize your Gmail inbox with filters

Spending an hour organizing your filters now will save you a ton of time down the road. Filters automatically sort incoming mail into labeled folders which you can access in the left sidebar of your desktop setup. They can also organize emails by date, sender, certain words, and even automatically delete emails from a certain sender.  To create them, go to Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses > Create a new filter. From there, build out filters that make sense with your workflow. Perhaps you’d like all messages with the word “internship” in the subject line to go into a folder labeled “Summer Internship Applications.” Or maybe you’d like all messages from your human resources point person and timesheet manager to file into a folder labeled “Admin.” Up to you. To finish, click the Create filter button.

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Gmail hack: Use Smart Compose to type emails faster

Gmail has a predictive text feature that can finish a sentence for you. As you type, you’ll see the predictive text in gray. To complete the sentence with the predictive text hit the Tab button, or just continue typing if you were going to say something different. To turn on Smart Compose go to Settings > General > select Writing suggestions on under the Smart Compose section. Also, try these hidden iPhone hacks you never knew about.

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Gmail hack: Send a canned response

This feature is great for people who constantly find themselves writing the same kinds of messages: say, confirmations on received materials or responses to frequently asked questions. To enable them, go to Settings > Advanced > Canned Responses (Templates) > Enable. The next time you reply to a message with a response you’d like to save, click the arrow on the bottom right corner of the reply box. Click on the “Canned response” option and choose “New canned response.” Save your response with a relevant label. And don’t worry about your emails sounding overly formulaic—you’ll be able to edit the response before it sends. But do try to avoid these annoying email habits.

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Gmail hack: Stay organized with Tasks

Never forget to respond to those important emails again. Tasks help you tag important emails into an organized list that you can come back to later. Once you find the important email in your inbox, check the box next to it, click the More button (the three dots), then Add to Tasks. Your task list will pop up on the right side of your screen.

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Gmail hack: Get notifications for unread messages

If you’re expecting an important email but don’t want to waste time constantly refreshing the tab with Gmail open, get an unread messages icon. Go to Settings > Advanced > Unread message icon > Enable > Save Changes. Now, whenever you get a new message a number will appear over the Gmail icon on the tab. These are the things hackers can do when they have your email address.

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Gmail hack: Set up alias-based filters

Gmail allows you to set up aliases using plus signs or dots in your email address. So if your email is “[email protected]” all emails sent to “[email protected]” will also appear in your inbox. You can add other words to your email as well by using plus signs. “[email protected]” will also go to your inbox. Then, you can use the Filters feature to have all emails sent to your “+work” address go into a folder titled “Work.” Or you could add “+store” to your email and give that out to stores and then all of the promotional emails they send can be organized into their own folder instead of crowding your inbox.

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Gmail hack: Enable the “Undo Send” feature

One of Gmail’s most talked-about features can be a real lifesaver. Go to Settings > Scroll down to Undo Send > Select how long you want the cancelation period to be (options include 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds). You buy yourself the most time for error by choosing 30 seconds. When you send a message, a yellow banner will pop up underneath the search bar. The “Undo” button will appear there. Simply click on it if you send an email you’d like to retract. Once you have your email in tip-top shape, make sure to protect your phone and avoid these things that make your phone an easy target for hackers.

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Gmail hack: Set up stars

You probably already know about gold stars in Gmail (they’re the little star icons that show up to the left of a message). But did you know there are multiple colors and symbols available? Unlock seven different colors—plus symbols like exclamation points and question marks—by going to “Settings” and scrolling to “Stars.” Drag any of the new symbols or colors up to the line that says “In use” to make them available to you. You can now associate different colors with different meanings. Perhaps a gold star means an email is a friendly message and a red star means it’s a customer complaint. Your choice.

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Gmail hack: Mute a conversation

Are you often included in never-ending email threads that just aren’t relevant? Opt out ASAP. Simply check the box next to the email in your inbox, select the “More” button at the top of the page, and click “Mute.” New messages will stay out of your inbox and be automatically archived. They’ll only appear in your inbox again if a message in the conversation is addressed to you and you only, or if you’re added to the “To” or “Cc” line in a new message.

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Gmail hack: Know these simple keyboard shortcuts

First, enable them: go to Settings > Advanced > Custom keyboard shortcuts > Enable > Save Changes. Here are the ones that will save you the most time:

  • “c” allows you to compose a new message
  • “r” replies to the message sender
  • “s” will add or remove a star to a message or conversation
  • “f” will forward a message.
  • Clicking “tab” then “enter” will send your message.

If you want to create your own, open the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in Settings and configure your own. Know about these signs that you’re about to fall for a phishing email.

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Gmail hack: Check your email offline

Google allows you to check your email even when you’re not hooked up to WiFi. Just go to Settings > Offline > Check Enable offline mail > Save changes. If you’re having trouble finding it, you can also follow Google’s instructions here.

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Gmail hack: Schedule an email to send

If you’re working late one night and don’t want to bother your co-workers but are nervous you might forget to send the email in the morning, Gmail lets you schedule emails to send in the future. Instead of clicking the blue Send button, click the arrow next to it and hit Schedule send. This box will pop up that allows you to select pre-selected times from Gmail or pick your own.

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Gmail hack: Delete emails that are taking up the most space

Gmail only lets you store 15GB of emails. If you’re one of those people that has over 5,000 unread emails and never deletes anything, this hack will come in handy. To delete your biggest emails just type “size:[x number]m” (make sure to include to quotation marks) and all emails that are bigger than the number you typed in will appear and you can easily delete them. You can also manually search this if you click the arrow in the Search bar and edit the Size line. Avoid these computer mistakes you should have stopped making by now.

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Gmail hack: Unsubscribe from mass emails

Instead of navigating through a hidden link at the bottom of all the mass emails you send, have Gmail do it for you. The next time you get an email about a sale or promotion, look for the Unsubscribe link next to the sender’s email. Gmail will ask you if you’re sure you want to unsubscribe and you just have to click the blue “Unsubscribe” button. 

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Gmail hack: Find out if an email was sent to a group or just you

This hack can be helpful for times when you aren’t sure if you’re supposed to respond to the email or if it was sent to a mass email list. When you turn on the “Personal Level Indicator” the emails in your inbox will display one arrow (>) if the email was sent to you and another group of people or two arrows (>>) if the email was sent only to you. To turn this on go to Settings > General > Personal level indicators and select “Show indicators.” Now, learn about the hidden truth behind Google’s incognito mode.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.