In this blog, I try to strike a balance between big picture, philosophical ideas, brass tacks and everything in between. Brass tacks ideas tend to be quick-hitters, small nuggets of information that are intended to make your tech life a little bit easier. That’s the focus of this blog post, two Gmail hacks that are sure to make dealing with email just a little bit less painful. And let’s face it, most of us have a love-hate relationship with email. On the one hand, it’s incredibly easy to send off a quick message and get a response – the efficiency is incredible. On the other hand, it’s incredibly easy to send off a quick message and get a response, resulting in a an overwhelming volume of emails many of which are trivial and unnecessary. For example, last month alone, I received 2273 emails from 628 senders. I sent 743 emails during that same time period. That’s a lot of time spent using email! Check out Gmail Meter if you are interested in seeing the your personal Gmail statistics.
Now, getting back to my two Gmail hacks. They won’t cut down on the volume of email but I can promise they will help make your experience using email a bit more palatable.
If you are like me, you probably find yourself sending very similar emails to various people on a regular basis. For example, when vendors or guests are coming to my office, I fire off the same email telling them where to park, what entrance to go through, and whom to speak with upon arrival. Canned responses allow you to save email templates that can be pasted into the body of a new email with just two clicks.
To set up canned responses, click the gear icon in your Gmail window and select ‘Settings’. Then, click the ‘labs’ tab, search for canned responses, click ‘enable’, and click ‘save changes’ at the bottom of the page.
Now that it’s set up, open a new email and click the small triangle located in the bottom right corner of the message as shown here:
As you can see from the choices, I have a canned response called ‘Parking Direction…’ ready to go under Insert. Just click on this canned response and the saved message (and subject title) will be automatically pasted into the message. Alternatively, you can compose a new message, with a subject line title, and then choose to save it as a canned response. Just a heads-up, if you have an email signature that’s part of the canned response, you will end up with a second copy every time you use this tool. Make sure you delete the email signature from the canned response to avoid this issue.
Of course, you can save lots of canned responses to cover all those times you find yourself sending out repetitive emails.
Boomerang for Gmail
Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you want to compose an email but would prefer to send it out at a later time? I can think of lots of situations where this happens. Perhaps you want to send out a meeting reminder but don’t want it to go out until a couple days before the meeting. Or, you might want to send out a recurring email, such as a reminder to staff to turn in their timesheets by the end of the week. Boomerang for Gmail is a Chrome extension that incorporates this functionality into Gmail. Here’s a description of some of the key features Boomerang offers:
- Send Later: Compose an email as you normally would and click the ‘Send Later’ button. You will be presented with the options shown here:
Notice that there’s an option at the bottom to set a custom time and to schedule a recurring message.
- Reminder: Boomerang gives you to option to re-send an email to recipients, at a scheduled time, based on a set of conditions you choose. Check the box next to the ‘Send Later’ button, set the time, and choose the condition to re-send the email.
- Read Receipts: Click the blue envelope icon (shown in the screenshot above) to request the approximate time your message was read by the recipient and if a link within the email was clicked. Boomerang does not go so far as to provide invading info like IP address, exact time of open, or the physical location of the reader.
- Boomerang (Return to Inbox Later): Use this feature if you are reading an email and wish to send it back to your inbox at a pre-determined time. This is a great option if you want to keep your inbox uncluttered and if the message requires some action at a later time. When reading a message, click the “Boomerang” button, which is located next to the “More” button. Select one of several preset times or type in your own custom time and hit confirm.
Boomerang recently introduced a new featured called Respondable. This feature brings in some artificial intelligence that analyzes your message and gives you an idea of the likelihood you’ll receive a response. Using a dynamic meter, Boomerang looks at a number of factors including length, word count, reading level, and positivity. I haven’t had a chance to try this out yet but I’d certainly be curious to gauge the effectiveness and accuracy of this feature.
The Boomerang basic package is free for all Gmail and G-Suite users and comes with all the features described above. It should be noted that free options comes with 10 message credits per month. Click here to see the Boomerang plans and pricing page.
These are my two favorite Gmail hacks. Of course, there a many other hacks out there to manage and tame your Gmail experience. For example, you might want to learn more about Gmail filters and labels, two features that help you manage incoming messages and organize your inbox. If you Google ‘Gmail tips and tricks’ you’ll get slew of hits with lots of suggestions to manage your Gmail experience. Here’s an example of one such article.