Exactly one year ago, I changed my email address from a Hotmail account to a Gmail one. Yes, I know having waited that long probably makes me a dinosaur in productivity land, but I was very reluctant to make the shift with all the potential headaches and switching costs.
However, I couldn’t be happier with the move because it saved me tons of time and dramatically increased my efficiency.
If you don’t already have a Gmail account, here are five reasons why you should sign up for one today and reap a lot of productivity benefits:
- Email Centralization: For this reason alone, it’s worth switching. Gmail allows you to consolidate up to 5 of your other email accounts. So if you have several Hotmail and Yahoo email addresses, you can receive all the messages to those accounts in your Gmail inbox. This means you don’t have to worry about notifying your contacts that you have a new address, and most importantly, you’ll have a one-stop-shop to check all your other accounts (major time-saver). Another cool thing is that you can even send emails from those other accounts through Gmail. You can read more about how to consolidate your emails here and here
- Email Threading: Gmail has something called conversations, which basically threads all your emails about a specific subject together. For example, if you’re having an email discussion among your friends about “Chicken soup recipes,” and you receive 7 emails about the topic, then you’ll see one email item in your Gmail inbox with the number (7) next to it, as opposed to 7 separate emails with “Re: Re: Re: Chicken soup recipes” in the subject lines. This feature takes some time to get used to, but it’s amazing how much it organizes in your inbox. You can read more about conversations here
- Priority Inbox: If I ever meet the product manager at Google who came up with this idea, I’m buying him lunch. Priority Inbox is a feature which automatically sorts the emails that are important to you and those that are not by placing them in different sections in your inbox (it just knows how to do that based on a few smart factors). This is a phenomenal feature which helps focus your attention on what really matters. I can go on and on about Priority Inbox, but it’s easier if you just watch the cool cartoon video Google has about it here
- Labels: Gmail doesn’t use folders – it uses something called labels instead. I won’t go into the details of how this could really help you organize your messages, because there are plenty of blog posts that show you how to strategically use them. However, the main benefit you should know about labels is that you can use multiple labels for each message, and they make finding emails much easier. Read more about how to set up labels here
- Keyboard Shortcuts: If you really want to save time opening, composing and replying to emails, you should forget using your mouse and use keyboard shortcuts instead. In Gmail, if you hit the “c” key, you’ll automatically open a window to compose a message. If you hit “r,” you’ll reply back to the sender, and “a” replies back to all, and so on. You also have other helpful combinations such as “g then i” which will bring you go back to the inbox. If you want to use shortcuts, you’ll have to turn the feature on (it’s off by default). Learn more about how to do that here
My next post discusses how to use Gmail and Google Docs to manage a small virtual project.