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Productivity - 12 min READ

32 Gmail hacks to own your inbox

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Copper Staff

Contributors from members of the Copper team

With over 1.8 billion users, Gmail is the most popular email platform in the world. If you’re already a Gmail user yourself, it’s not hard to see why Gmail is so popular: it comes loaded with plenty of useful and downright innovative tools.

Gmail isn’t just a great communication platform. It’s a powerhouse of productivity, too. You can do a lot more than send and receive messages with this tool.

When you think about the kinds of things you waste time on during your workday, how many of them could be improved by flipping a switch in Gmail that says:

“Don’t bother me with notifications right now.”


“Automatically move these kinds of messages into this folder.”

Or even:

“Copy this contact’s details into my CRM.”

There are so many productivity tools baked into Gmail that will help you do all of this and more.

Whether you’re working solo with Gmail or with a team in Google Workspace, there’s a lot that this email platform has to offer in terms of productivity.

Want to make the most of your Gmail? Check out these 32 hacks that you can use in Gmail right now.

1. Improve your focus by choosing a theme.

Take a look at your personal and professional devices. Does your smartphone screen have a custom image on it? Have you skinned your desktop with a calming photo or color palette?

It might not seem like a big deal, but your work environment—physical or digital—can have a big impact on your stress levels and productivity.

If you haven’t customized your Gmail theme yet, go to Gmail’s Settings widget (the gear icon in the top-right corner) and take a look at the available themes:

Does a striking cityscape inspire you to work harder?

Or does a cheery color instantly put you in a better mood?

Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

There are a couple dozen themes to choose from here. If you’re not feeling Gmail's built-in themes, that’s fine too—upload your own photo for a custom look.

2. Focus on the right messages with your inbox layout.

Once you’ve settled on a theme, take some time to configure your inbox.

Go to your Settings widget and scroll down to “Inbox type.” If you aren’t a fan of the Default view, try switching to Important first, Unread first, Starred First, Priority Inbox or Multiple inboxes:

If you like the Default view but want to switch up your tabs, go to Inbox Settings and choose which tabs you would like to enable in Default view:

This allows you to focus on the messages you care about the most, leaving less-important emails for later.

Here’s an example of the kinds of messages you might not want to be distracted by when you’re trying to work:

With Default view, Gmail will get these bad boys out of your main inbox so they don’t distract you. For those of you who don’t like the tabbed layout of Gmail at all, there’s another option to consider:

This is the legacy layout of Gmail, which is nothing more than a tab-less design.

To get this layout, simply uncheck the other tabs under the “Configure inbox” setting. Then, all messages will flow directly into your inbox, which means you’re on your own for organizing your messages.

3. Organize messages with labels and colors.

If Inbox Zero sounds like a big joke, you probably need some help herding the chaos in your inbox (we know the feeling). In many cases, Gmail’s organizational tabs won’t be enough to keep your professional inbox organized.

Instead, you’ll want to use Labels. Labels are essentially different folders where you can organize your messages. You can even use certain rules to filter messages to particular labels. It’s a must if you need a little inbox sanity!

To start, clean up the labels that Gmail gives you out of the box. You can do this under Settings > Labels or under “Manage labels” on the folder sidebar:

From here, you can choose to do the following to each folder:

  • Show
  • Hide
  • Show if unread

For folders that you absolutely don’t need to see (like Spam), go ahead and hide them. For folders you need to see when something requires your attention (like an incomplete Draft), pick the option “Show if unread.”

It’s also a good idea to create your own labels. This way, you can customize the folders that display on the sidebar of Gmail.

Now, what Labels should you create? It’s your choice! Depending on your workflow, you might create a Label for:

  • Clients
  • Project types
  • Project progress / phase / status
  • Departments
  • Team members

It really just depends on the logical divisions between your conversations.

Aside from creating your own labels, you can also assign a color to each label, too. This makes your inbox look like a gorgeous shade of rainbow, but it also helps to draw attention to your different folders:

After creating your labels, simply hover over them and you’ll see three dots. Click on the dots and go to Label Color. Gmail comes pre-loaded with plenty of colors, but it also allows you to drop in a custom color if you’re feeling fancy.

You can use color to make your Gmail labels more recognizable. You could also use it based on urgency; for example, say if emails from a certain person or company are always a top priority:

The colors you apply to the label will then apply to any emails with that label. For instance:

Pretty, right?

4. Make sure you see priority messages first by auto-sorting your inbox.

Never miss an important email again. Gmail comes with labels, colors and stars to help you identify urgent messages that need your attention.

If your inbox is huge and unwieldy, you can change a few settings so you’ll no longer have to sift through pages of emails.

If you want to see priority emails only, go to Settings > Inbox Type and choose either Important first, Starred first or Priority Inbox:

Choose the option that best fits how you like to categorize your important emails. Keep in mind that you should configure and customize the options if you choose Priority Inbox:

Aside from changing your inbox, you can also sort individual messages by:

  • Importance (make sure to enable the “Importance markers” below)
  • Read status
  • Stars
  • Priority

Choose the option that you like best.

For example, the star system is an easy way to organize because all you have to do is click the star next to the subject line to highlight important messages. Here’s how that would look:

Gmail now divides up your inbox for you, moving all starred items to the top.

5. Manage all of your emails from one account.

Do you have a personal and a professional Gmail account? If you want to keep an eye on several Gmail accounts in one place, Gmail makes this a breeze.

Gmail lets you import as many emails as you want into one Gmail account — and from different email providers, too:

In the example above, you can see that there’s a Gmail address and a branded domain address that exist in the same account.

Not only does this allow you to manage messages from both accounts in one place, but it also lets you customize which account you send from:

Neat, right?

So long as you remember to choose the right identity when you email someone, you won’t have to worry about a client messaging you at your personal email address or a personal contact sending something to your business inbox.

6. Automatically sort your inbox with filters.

Sick of manually marking or labeling your emails? Good news: Gmail can handle this for you with the Filters feature. Filters are incredibly helpful because they let you:

  1. Save time dragging and dropping messages around Gmail.
  2. Keep your inbox clear until you can attend to the unread messages in your folders.

To add a new filter, go to Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses:

When you click “Create a new filter,” this pop-up will appear:

You can get as narrow as you want with filtering, though it might be best to use one field at a time.

For example, let’s say you want all messages from to automatically go into your Meeting Notes project folder. All you need to do is add his email address to the “From” field.

Then, on the next page, you’d apply the filter settings:

  • Skip the Inbox
  • Apply the label

If you’re using a new filter to clean up your inbox, don’t forget to check off “Also apply filter to __ matching messages”. This will move all existing messages automatically, saving you a ton of time.

Another time-saving trick is to create a filter from an open email. Click on the three dots on a message you’d like to filter and go to “Filter messages like these”:

You’ll still see the same filter settings pop up. However, it will be pre-populated with the sender’s email address, which means it's one less thing you have to type.

7. Preview your messages by turning on snippets.

Under General > Settings, Gmail gives you the option to show or hide message snippets:

While Gmail compares snippets to the previews you see for web pages in Google search, it’s not really the same thing.

This is what email snippets look like:

Depending on the length of the subject line, you might not see much of the snippet. Even then, will the snippet help you decide whether or not to open a message? That’s for you to decide.

At any rate, snippets can be helpful to determine if you should answer a message ASAP or if it can wait.

If you’re curious, this is what your inbox would look like without snippets:

If you find the snippet text unnecessary or even overwhelming, select the “No Snippets - Show subject line only” option.

8. Make a strong impression with a custom signature.

Your Gmail isn’t just a tool for messaging: your emails can market your business, too.

Under Settings > General, you can design a custom signature for each of the email addresses you manage from this account:

Don’t let this opportunity go to waste—make sure your signature looks just as professional as the rest of your company's branding does.

Include a logo if it makes sense. Promote an upcoming event, content, or your social media accounts. If that’s too much, you can just give recipients a way to schedule a call with you, like a Calendly link.

9. Get more done in Gmail by integrating with other software.

Sure, Gmail can’t do everything, but there’s an integration for just about anything you need to do. Gmail integrates with tons of solutions. And you don’t need a lot of complicated steps to add an integration, either.

Just go to Settings > Add-Ons:

Click “Manage” under Installed Add-ons to search for Gmail Add-Ons. You’ll find a wealth of options to choose from, trust us. Tools with project management features like Copper Spotlight let you instantly create tasks from email, for example:

Video conferencing software add-ons like Zoom let you start, schedule, or view meetings:

CRM software like Copper lets you instantly create new contacts from open messages:

There’s so much you can do with add-ons. Install email tracking, connect to Dropbox, sync with Slack, sign documents, create email marketing templates and much more. The sky is the limit, so install a few add-ons to make your life easier.

10. Sync your CRM with Gmail.

Some CRMs, like Copper, have powerful Gmail integrations that can seriously upgrade your productivity if you regularly work out of your inbox.

One of the neat things about Copper is that it’s the Google-recommended CRM. If you’re already using Google Workspace, Copper automatically syncs with Gmail for some seriously powerful features.

To learn more about how Copper syncs up with your G Suite apps, just go to your Settings in Copper and select "Google Sync Settings." As you can see below, you can sync Copper tasks right to your Google Calendar.

You can easily add contact information from Gmail to Copper CRM with helpful visual cues from the Copper Gmail spotlight. When you have a message open in Gmail with the Copper Chrome extension open, you'll see a list of the people in the email exchange.

When there’s a new contact, you can quick add them from the participants list. Copper then gives you a choice to add them as a lead, or just as a contact (Person) to Copper:

There’s no need to log into Copper to do this, either. The Gmail integration captures all of the pertinent details and sends them over to Copper.

Not only that, but the Copper Chrome extension scans your email and brings copies of exchanges you’ve had with the contact into the CRM. That way, you have a full record of your communication history stored there, too.

If you’re not sure if Copper is tracking an email, see if the Copper logo is in front of the subject line (we like to call it the Gmail spotlight). If you see it there, then you’re good to go!

11. Send Gmail emails from a contact’s page in your CRM.

Copper allows users to email their contacts (leads, coworkers, vendors, etc.) from within the CRM:

Because it’s connected to your Gmail address, the message goes out just the same as it would if you emailed people from Gmail directly.

You can also bulk email groups of people from within Copper.

Just go to your list of People or Leads, click on all the people you want to message, and then choose “Compose Bulk Email":

This will open a pop-up where you can create one message for all recipients. In this case, we're sending to two recipients:

If you feel like tweaking the message for each recipient, just scroll through the recipients’ messages and make your changes there.

12. Access your CRM from inside Gmail.

If you’re using both Gmail and Copper, you can use the Copper Chrome extension, which conveniently adds Copper inside your inbox like this:

Now, you no longer have to leave Gmail to gather information about leads you’re messaging. It’s like putting an entire CRM into your Gmail inbox.

13. Use keyboard shortcuts to quickly write and style emails.

Keyboard shortcuts aren’t just for creating content in Google Drive; they’re really useful when you’re composing messages in Gmail too.

When you type “?” in Gmail, this screen appears to remind you of available keyboard shortcuts:

Honestly, there’s a lot to unpack here, but if you’re in Gmail for hours every day, memorize a handful of these shortcuts to save more time.

14. Use right-click to work even faster.

Just like anything else, the more emails and folders you have in Gmail, the longer it takes to do seemingly simple tasks, like moving emails between labels.

You can bypass all of that digging with a simple right-click:

Right-click is a godsend if you need to move an email to a folder that’s buried deep in your email sidebar. But it’s also useful for instantly replying and forwarding messages, snoozing messages until you’re ready to deal with them, or opening messages in the browser.

15. Make Gmail speak your language.

If you’d like to use a different language than the default one Gmail assigned you, you can change this under Settings > General > Language:

Simply choose the new language you want Gmail to display your messages in.

Note, however, that this will change the language settings across all your Google products. If all you need to do is translate a message on a one-time basis, use an add-on instead.

16. Use spell-check instead of hitting up the dictionary.

It doesn’t matter how much of a rush you’re in to get a message out, your emails are your digital presence.

You wouldn’t show up to work with disheveled hair or mismatched socks, right? An email riddled with spelling errors gives off a bad impression, so make sure your emails are typo-free.

To use spell-check on a message in Gmail, write your message and locate the “More options” (aka. the three dots) icon and click “Check spelling”:

Gmail will check your message and highlight anything that’s questionable:

Click on the highlighted spots to correct your errors and clean up your message. Then, confidently click the “Send” button and go about your day.

17. Let Gmail put words in your mouth with “Smart” features.

Gmail has been in the email game for a long time. As you can imagine, it’s seen enough messages and replies to predict what people will say in certain situations. This can save you a ton of time, especially if you send repetitive messages all day.

From the Settings > General tab, configure Smart Compose. Choose “Writing suggestions on”:

With this feature, Google will provide suggestions on what the rest of your sentence will look like. For example:

If you want to commit to Google's suggestion, hit the “Tab” key and Google will instantly complete the sentence. If you don’t want to commit to it, just keep typing.

Fun fact: Smart Compose will learn your communication style over time so its suggestions sound like they came from you. Be sure to select “Personalization on” to get the most out of Smart Compose:

There’s another autocomplete tool you should configure from the General Settings tab, too. Smart Reply helps you reply to messages at the speed of light in Gmail:

When you open a new message, you can either hit the “Reply” button to write your own response. Or, if all that’s needed is a short reply, pick from one of Google’s Smart Replies at the bottom of the message:

Smart Reply will save you the trouble of opening and responding to an email that shouldn’t take more than a second or two. It’s ideal for quick confirmation emails.

18. Clean up your inbox by ungrouping emails.

Similar to snippets, Gmail’s Conversation View is a setting that may work for some users but not for others.

You’ll find this setting under the Settings > General tab:

When activated, Conversation View bundles all replies in a chain:

Only the initial message appears in your inbox. Then, all responses that come in after the first message display below it.

Conversation View definitely leads to a cleaner and more manageable inbox.

But the tradeoff is that you have to be diligent about reading all the way through the chain of messages to make sure you don’t miss anything:

If you tend to have lengthy exchanges with clients or teams, this setting could mean you miss an important part of the exchange.

Again, it’s up to you to decide how to best stay organized. If you aren’t a fan of Conversation View, know that it’s possible to turn it off.

19. Change your mind? Activate Undo.

Have you ever hit the “Send” button and instantly regretted it? Maybe you forgot to attach a file or you left out a critical detail. Whatever happened, you now have to scramble to send out a corrected email and apologize for the error.

... Which is why Undo is such an awesome Gmail feature.

Located under Settings > General, you can tell Gmail how long of a grace period to give you to “Undo” a message:

Once you set this up, you’ll see the Undo button in the bottom-left corner after you send a message:

Undo can be used for other actions in Gmail, too:

If you move an email to the wrong label, don’t worry about sifting through your folders to find it. Just tap the Undo button and all will be forgiven.

20. Insert files directly from Drive.

Gmail allows you to quickly share from Drive and from Google Docs. Instead of opening Drive, finding the document you want to send and copying the share link, you can find the Doc within Gmail.

Just add the file to your email with this button in the message toolbar:

Locate the file from your Drive and watch it drop into your message like this:

21. Protect sensitive info with Confidential Mode.

Are you sending a new employee their login credentials? Or sending sensitive financial deets to your accountant?

Whatever you're sending, Confidential Mode adds a layer of protection to sensitive messages.

You can access Confidential Mode from your message toolbar:

You’ll see the following security and expiration options:

By default, anyone who receives a confidential message won’t be able to forward, copy, print, or download it.

You can also use the expiration date and passcode to add more layers of protection.

22. Step away from a convo with Mute.

BCC is a useful way to keep people in the loop. But I think we’ve all been on an Email Chain From Hell before. You don’t need to see every single followup email on a simple message — that’s a good way to clog up your inbox.

But let’s say you’re overseeing a team and simply want to know when a deliverable goes out to the client. However, the sender puts you in the CC field instead of BCC. If there are follow-up exchanges from that initial email, you could end up on a chain that does nothing but clog up your inbox.

If that happens, you don’t need to ask the sender to remove you from the email chain. Simply open your message options and select “Mute”:

This won’t remove you from the chain, per se, but it will hide all further emails from your sight.

But don’t worry; these messages aren’t gone forever. If you ever want to see these messages again, just go to your Archive folder.

23. Create tasks from Gmail messages.

Gmail has a great shortcut for Google Tasks. If you have an email that you want to convert into a task or reminder, click on more options above the message and select “Add to Tasks":

The Tasks sidebar will pop out from the right side of the screen and Google will automatically create a task based on your email.

In this case, it noticed that the message mentioned deliverables, so it copied the relevant text into the task. It also attached the corresponding email to the task for future reference.

24. Easily create events from messages.

You can use a similar shortcut in Gmail to create an event from an email:

When you select “Create event”, the toolbar isn’t going to open, though. Instead, a brand newGoogle Calendar event will open in a new tab.

Calendar will auto-populate details from your message into the event:

You’re free to customize the details or you can let Google handle it for you.

What’s nice about this is that Google pastes the original email into the Notes field. You won’t need to go back and forth between your calendar reminder and the original email to create the event — everything’s right there.

25. Quickly find lost emails using search filters.

No matter how organized your inbox is, you’ll eventually need help finding a message. Maybe you accidentally filed an email in the wrong place or maybe you remember the basic gist of the message but not the subject line.

That’s when you’d use Gmail search.

Search on its own is a useful Gmail tool. However, you can use advanced search filters to help you narrow down the results even more:

For example, let's say you know you spoke to your boss about a conference you're attending in the fall. You know she sent you a list of hotels to book, but you can’t remember which email has that information.

Using advanced search, you can enter your boss's email address into the “From” field and include something like “book” or “hotels” in the “Has the words” field.

As you become more acquainted with how the filters work in advanced search, you can actually bypass the screen above with this:

26. See unread message alerts in your browser tab.

Sometimes you can’t afford to miss a new message or let it sit for too long. This is pretty common for customer service reps or sales.

Fortunately, you don’t have to check your email every five minutes out of paranoia. Stay on top of your Gmail inbox by enabling the unread message count in your browser tab. You’ll find this under Settings > Advanced > Unread message icon:

When enabled, Gmail will display the number of unread messages in your open Gmail browser tab:

27. Receive urgent alerts on your desktop.

If you don’t religiously monitor your tabs (or if you have too many tabs open), you can receive desktop notifications for Gmail.

When you first create an account with Gmail, it will prompt you to enable desktop notifications with this pop-up:

Even if you say “No thanks,” you can always turn it on later under Settings > General:

You can set up alerts for all incoming emails or just for important messages. Keep in mind that a constant stream of desktop emails can get pretty distracting, so think carefully before enabling notifications for all of your messages.

If you know your inbox is a constant stream of emails, “New mail notifications on” might not be a good idea. Instead, set only important notifications to come through so only the ones deserving of your immediate attention are brought to you.

28. Let Gmail nudge you to follow up.

Look, email is a convenient way to get in touch with your coworkers and customers, but let’s be honest: it can get out of control really fast. If you get hundreds of messages a day, something is bound to fall through the cracks.

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that you didn’t miss anything, let Google nudge you to follow up on emails.

To turn on Nudges, go to Settings > General:

With this setting, Gmail will call attention to important emails you haven’t responded to yet. It will also remind you to follow up with email recipients who haven't gotten back to you.

P.S. If you frequently miss important messages, the Copper Gmail Spotlight inside the Copper Chrome extension in Gmail can help you stay on top of your communication with key relationships using simple visual cues.

29. Save time with email templates.

Do you send the same messages over and over again? Quote requests, appointment reminders and welcome emails can get old after a while. Simplify your day with Gmail's Canned Responses.

To turn this feature on, go to Settings > Advanced and click Enable:

You’ll now see an option for “Canned Responses” in new messages:

From here, you can:

  • Save the current draft you’ve written as a new template.
  • Populate a blank message with a pre-made response.
  • Delete a template you no longer need.

Just remember to clearly label what each of the canned responses are, so they’re easy to retrieve.

30. Give your assistant access to your email.

You’ve got to go on vacation or take a sick day at some point, right? Don’t obsess over your work email while you’re on PTO: Gmail makes it easy to give the reins to an assistant or a coworker while you’re out of the office.

Under Settings > Accounts, you’ll find the option to grant access to someone else:

This allows another user to manage your Gmail account on your behalf.

31. Check and send emails — even when you're offline.

Email is one of the most important tools in business, especially if you’re not in the habit of calling or texting your customers and coworkers.

While the Gmail app gives you offline access, you might need offline Gmail access if you’re working remotely from your computer:

When you click “Enable offline mail” from Settings > Offline, you can do just that.

32. Pause the inbox craziness with Boomerang.

Email is an interesting thing. You want to receive emails because they’re a more convenient way to send and receive information... But they can be a big distraction.

You could use filters and other tricks to keep your inbox more manageable. But your gaze might still float over to Gmail when you should be on a call or working on a report.

Boomerang for Gmail is a browser extension and mobile app that allows you to turn your inbox off for a set period of time by hitting "Pause inbox":

That’s not all Boomerang does, either.

When you create a new message in Gmail, you have a new toolbar of features to work with:

From this toolbar, you can:

  • Analyze the quality of your message and how “readable” it is.
  • Request a read receipt and track clicks.
  • Schedule your message to go out at a later time.
  • Move the message back into your inbox at a certain time if you don’t get a reply.

Own your inbox (and your workday) with these Gmail hacks.

Who would’ve thought you could simplify your workday with a few changes to your Gmail settings?

Not only that, you can unlock a world of new features you might not have otherwise thought were possible from your email platform.

If you’ve ever worried about how much time you spend on email every day, these Gmail hacks will change your life.

If you need extra help wrangling the Wild West that is your inbox, try Copper’s Chrome Extension and add more organization and context inside Gmail. Marry your CRM data with these Gmail hacks to get more context on every conversation. Now go forth and own your inbox!

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