How to adjust Gmail for maximum productivity – ABOUT MAG 2020

Email is a complicated beast. There are so many layers to reflect on when it comes to making an inbox manageable, based on organizational factors at the surface level (hello, hang tags!) to the most advanced features under the hood (filters, anyone?).

But in addition to all this, there is the problem of its real inbox interface. It may seem trivial, but having an interface that emphasizes the functions you use most, minimizing unnecessary clutter, can go a long way in facilitating email management – both in terms of efficiency and in simple terms of sanity. (I know Me feel a lot less mentally stable after looking at a horrible interface for an hour!)

Well, good news, my fellow Google app residents: Gmail has one of the most customizable inbox interfaces available, and there’s a lot you can do to make it visually appealing. and prepared for productivity. By default, though, the Gmail website is a messy mess – and it’s up to you to adjust it.

So let’s make a little adjustment, shall we? Here are eight smart steps you can take to optimize your Gmail inbox interface and make it a more effective home for all your email-oriented needs.

1. Disorder cut

The first is the virtual mess we were discussing – and, thank God, Gmail has many of them.

Take, for example, the service importance markers. These are the flag icons to the left of all emails in your inbox, inserted between the star and the sender’s name. In some emails, they appear as empty outlines, while in others, they are filled with a golden yellow tone.

01a gmail importance labels JR Raphael / IDG

The Gmail importance label was not populated in the primary email and populated in the bottom message. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Officially, these labels should indicate whether the messages are likely to be important to you, based on a variety of signs like what emails you open and reply to. For me, however, they are just visual noises that in no way affect the way I handle messages. They are also redundant with the sorting done by the Main tab in my Gmail inbox, which already serves to separate important messages from irrelevant junk mail. So the only thing these indicators really do is make my inbox more impressive and less easy to process.

If you find them equally useless, send them to a package by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner of Gmail, selecting “Settings” and then selecting the “Inbox” tab at the top of the screen. See the “Importance Markers” section? Change the setting from “Show bookmarks” to “No bookmarks” and click the Save changes button at the bottom of the screen.

Then, do you really use Google’s online messaging service – any messaging service that you have present in your Gmail inbox? (It’s complicated.)

To make a long story short, G Suite users now see Slack’s Google chat service (known as Hangouts Chat until very recently) in the left sidebar of the Gmail desktop interface, while users who are not of the G-Suite see the original, consumer-focused Hangouts service (which is on the process of being killed for what seems like an eternity now) in the same place.

And, unless you are regularly using the service that appears in that area, your presence will likely provide little more than a disposable distraction. So remove it and celebrate more clutter: just go back to your Gmail settings, select the “Chat” tab at the top, switch to “Disable chat” and click the Save changes button.

Now, ask yourself this: do you like the way Gmail shows email attachments as their own lines in your inbox, below the main content of the associated message? If you no To find out that this is a beneficial addition, disable these blocks, save space and give your inbox a more uniform appearance by clicking the gear icon in the upper right corner of Gmail, selecting “Display density” and changing the setting from “Standard” to “Comfortable” (a good option in the middle of the road) or “Compact” (an almost condensed and almost claustrophobic vibe that I would not recommend to most people).

Last, but not least, for this first step, let’s talk about the guides. Assuming you’re using the default Gmail tabbed inbox configuration, think carefully about the five tabs at the top of your inbox and how much depends on them. Are there guides with little or no significant value to you? Personally, for example, I don’t get many emails (as far as I care) from social media. So I deactivated the Social tab, which gives me less place to feel obliged to check and makes my inbox even more minimal.

If you have any tabs that you don’t trust regularly, click the gear icon again – and this time, select “Set up inbox”. There, you can deselect the tabs you no longer want and make them disappear completely from your inbox. All messages that would have been archived on these tabs will simply be moved to the next most appropriate tab that is still present.

01b gmail inbox tabs JR Raphael / IDG

Disabling unnecessary Gmail tabs can help make your inbox more manageable.

Speaking of the Gmail inbox style, by the way, don’t forget that Gmail now offers five different inbox arrangements. If the default tabbed configuration doesn’t seem right to you, consider one of the alternative options – like an inbox arrangement that organizes your incoming messages into a single list, first with unread emails. I have a separate guide entirely dedicated to that subject, if you want to explore the possibilities in detail.

2. Close the drawers when you are not using them

My wife is in the habit of leaving the dresser drawers and closet doors open and let me tell you: It makes me absolutely crazy. (Hi, dear!) Having virtual drawers open everywhere creates the same kind of effect, less the potential for outbursts: it adds disorganization to the environment and makes it difficult for the eyes to focus on the elements that really matter.

So, take the simplest possible step to improve your Gmail interface and start closing the damn drawers, right? (Sorry. Suppressed frustration from a loosely related area.) There are two drawers that are worth closing whenever you’re not using them in Gmail:

First, it’s the Google service bar on the right side of the screen – the banner that contains icons for Calendar, Keep and Tasks. Whenever you are not using it, click on the small arrow facing right in the bottom corner and close it to clear the clutter and recover that space.

And the second is the main menu of Gmail, on the left side of the screen, which can be closed in the same way to reuse the same space for the main message area. Click on the three-line icon at the top to collapse it and hover over the collapsed form whenever you need the full menu to appear.

3. Optimize your bookmark lists

Gmail labels are awesome for organization, but sometimes your organizational system in itself needs a little bit of optimization. (I can’t even begin to say how much pleasure it made me say.)

After all, it doesn’t take much for Gmail’s label lists to become undisciplined. And the more disorganized these lists become, the more difficult it is to find the labels you really need and use often.

Labels appear in two different locations in Gmail – in the main menu to the left of your inbox, and also in individual messages, whenever you use the Label command. With very little effort, these two points can be cleaned and condensed from the same simplified tool.

Then, go back to your Gmail settings and this time click on the “Labels” header at the top of the screen. There, you’ll see a list of all the labels you’ve already created, plus all of the system’s default labels and categories. Next to each one, you’ll see two columns: “Show in label list”, which controls whether a label is displayed or hidden at the top of the main Gmail menu, and “Show in message list”, which controls visibility in list that appears when you use this Label command in the message.

03 gmail label lists JR Raphael / IDG

You can define any label to hide and prevent it from taking up space. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Think about each label and category and consider how often you access it from anywhere. If a label is not something you routinely click on, hide it. You can still access it – by clicking on the word “More” in the main Gmail menu or using the search field in the message list – but it will not take up space on the screen and press the button labels you Does use regularly out of sight.

4. Expand your organizational options

If you use Gmail’s star system to tag messages in some way – like putting extra emphasis on emails that are particularly urgent or that warrant a response – listen: you don’t have to just use a star style.

Gmail has the ability to provide you multiple star options – different colors and styles – that you can reserve for different purposes. In my inbox, for example, I use one type of star for messages I need to reply to, another style of star for high priority messages that need to be handled on the same day and another style of star for messages that require some form of processing (like adding an event to my calendar or marking an invoice as paid).

You can add extra stars to your mix by looking in the “General” tab of your Gmail settings and finding the “Stars” section in the middle of the page. Drag the designs you want to use from the “Not in use” line to the “In use” line, and then place them in the order you want. (Most likely, you will want those you use most often at the beginning.)

04 gmail stars JR Raphael / IDG

Adding extra stars to your Gmail configuration offers more ways to tag messages. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Make sure to click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen when you’re done – and whenever you star a message, you can continue to click the star icon to cycle through all the available options. They will appear in the same order you just established in your Gmail settings. (Annoyingly, this feature doesn’t transfer to Gmail’s mobile apps, but you’ll have it on your desktop, at least.)

5. Blow up nudgy hassles

I don’t know about you, but I think Gmail’s nudges – the service’s habit of taking messages to the top of the inbox with an absent-minded reminder whenever the Google genius decides you’re late to act – incredibly annoying and also quite counterproductive. I have my own systems for managing emails, and Gmail’s attempts to find out what I do and I don’t need to respond tend to be more of an obstacle than help, as they force me to waste time cleaning up the mess I’ve already have. treated once.

Unless you find these nudges useful, disable them by looking in the same “General” tab in your Gmail settings and finding the “Nudges” option. You will see two different options to deselect.

6. Reduce unnecessary clicks

When browsing messages in Gmail, the last thing you want to do is keep clicking to continue on the next page – and yet, by default, Gmail makes you do just that every 50 messages.

You can’t completely break Gmail’s paging habit, but what you can do is twice the amount of messages displayed per screen. That way, you can see a hundred messages on a single page before clicking to load more. Hey, it’s progress.

The option you want to adjust is at the top of the “General” tab that we were seeing in Gmail settings. Click the box next to “Maximum page size” and change from “50” to “100” and get ready to give your finger a break.

7. Find a theme that works for you

The standard look and feel of Gmail today is quite white, but you don’t have to follow this slightly blinding motif. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the website and select “Themes” and browse through the available options.

Two simple options that are worth considering are “Dark”, which effectively puts the entire Gmail website in native dark mode, and “Soft gray”, which is basically just an enhanced version of the standard white theme – equally minimal, but with more contrast to differentiate the active message area from the surrounding menus.

If you choose a more graphical option in the meantime – be it one of the many photos and illustrations available or your own uploaded image – note three subtle options to make the most of your custom color scheme:

  • Text Background – the icon with an “A” in a box at the bottom of the theme window. This allows you to switch the actual background color of the message area between a light and a dark theme.
  • Vignette – the icon with an oval in a box. This allows you to use a simple slider to make the outer edges of the image darker, thus creating extra contrast and placing more emphasis on your main message area.
  • Blur – the icon with a lot of dots in a box. This, as you would expect, allows you to add a level of blur to your image, making it less attractive and more suitable bottom.

With the combination of these three settings, you can create some eye-catching visual effects that make your inbox minimally tiring and pleasant to see.

07 gmail themes JR Raphael / IDG

Google’s theme options can turn your inbox into a serene setting for peaceful productivity. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

8. Give your inbox a great minimalist makeover

Finally, what can be the most impactful change you’ll make to your Gmail inbox – the main touch in this interface improvement process: try an extension called Simplify Gmail. It is available for both chrome and fire Fox. And it is, without exaggeration, the best part of my experience with email.

Simplifying Gmail is the creation of a former Googler who served as Gmail’s longtime design leader and co-created the company’s short-lived experiment in the company’s Inbox. It chooses where the Inbox left off and reorganizes the main Gmail interface to offer a cleaner, simpler and minimalist look, making it infinitely easier to use.

08 simplify gmail before and after JR Raphael / IDG

Gmail in its native form, at the top, and with automatic Simplify Gmail enhancements applied, at the bottom. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The extension does not involve trackers, advertisements or cookies, nor does it collect or use any type of personal data. it is same open source, if you want to consult the code to confirm this for yourself.

With it and the other interface optimizations we just reviewed, your Gmail inbox will be a whole new thing – one that will allow you to be more focused and, consequently, more productive than ever. And guess what? The more productive you are with email, the less time you spend looking at your inbox.

And if there’s a surefire way to make email more enjoyable, it’s to spend less time doing it.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

Paula Fonseca