Spend Less Time on Email: 19 Gmail Hacks, Shortcuts & Add-ons

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Sam Kusinitz
Sam Kusinitz



laptop-email-envelopesAccording to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend 28% of the work week reading and responding to emails.

That means you have 13 fewer hours each week because they are lost on email.

While we would probably feel lost without email, a lot of the time email it just seems like a time consuming chore. A pain in the patootie, if you will.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can continue to rely on email to complete your everyday tasks without allowing it to consume so much of your time. Let’s take a look at 20 Gmail shortcuts, add-ons, and hacks that will help you spend less time with email so you can free up a few extra hours each week.

Shortcuts & Hacks

1) Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts allow you to execute nearly all Gmail commands without ever taking your hands off the keyboard. Once you learn them, these shortcuts will help you save a great deal of time by enabling you to select detailed actions without having to click through drop down menus or various settings and options.

Navigate between conversations and mailboxes

Use the directional arrow keys to scroll to the action you wish to perform and click Enter to open up a conversation, compose a message, or to switch between mailboxes.

Move between messages within a conversation

While viewing a conversation, use the n & p keys on your keyboard to jump to the next message (n) or the previous (p) message in the thread. To expand or collapse a message, simply click Enter. 

Compose and send a message

Use the directional keys to locate compose on the left side of the page and hit Enter to create a new message. Then type out the message you wish to send and hit CTRL + Enter to send your message.

Select Message Recipients

  • Add cc recipient: CTRL + Shift + c
  • Add bcc recipient: CTRL + Shift + b
  • Change From Address: CTRL + Shift + f (Only works if you have enabled additional sending addresses.)


  • Bold: CTRL + b
  • Italic: CTRL + i
  • Underline: CTRL + u

These are only a few of the automatically enabled shortcuts that Gmail offers. You can visit the Keyboard Shortcuts Help page for the full list of keyboard commands. 

You can also enable more advanced keyboard shortcuts by clicking on the gear icon, selecting Settings from the drop down menu, and selecting "Keyboard shortcuts on" in the General Settings page.

2) Find Attachments

If you’re searching for an attachment within your emails, you can easily segment your search results to include only emails with attachments by inputting the code “has:attachment” to your search query. This will make it much easier to find those attachments buried in your inbox.

3) Quick Links

This feature allows you to store all of the emails, searches, and settings that you access regularly so you can quickly access them at any time with one simple click. If you constantly find yourself searching for the same emails, the Quick Links Lab is the feature for you.


You can enable this feature by clicking on the gear icon in the top right hand corner of Gmail and selecting Settings from the dropdown menu. Then, click the Labs tab at the top of the settings page and search for Quick Links. Once enabled, you can access the Quick Links feature by clicking on the ellipsis icon, which is located in the left-hand sidebar next to the Gchat icon.

4) Send and Archive

Clean up your inbox by using the send and archive setting. In order to turn this setting on, go to Settings by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the page. Scroll down on the General Settings page to the "Send and Archive" section and select the “Show Send & Archive button in reply” option.


Once you've enabled this setting, any time you reply to a message, you’ll see the “send & archive” button. This will help you keep your inbox a little less cluttered. Don't worry -- when you archive a conversation, that conversation is not gone forever. You can always search for that conversation as you would any other email in Gmail.

5) Canned Responses

If you find that you’re sending the same email over and over again, save yourself from having to compose a new message every time. Instead, use the Canned Responses setting which allows you to create and store ready-to-send email messages.

You have to enable this setting manually by going back to the gear icon, selecting Settings followed by Labs. Now, locate the Canned Responses Lab by either scrolling through the various labs (they're ordered alphabetically) or by using the search bar and enabling this setting.


To create a canned response

  • Click compose and type out the message you want to save as a canned response. 
  • Click the upside-down arrow symbol in the bottom right corner of the message window
  • Select "canned responses"
  • Select "New Canned Response"

The next time you need to send that same email, all you have to do is relocate the “Canned Responses” option by clicking on the upside-down arrow icon, selecting the appropriate response, and hitting send.

6) Undo Send

It’s happened to everyone at least once: You finish composing your email message, hit send, and immediately realize you made a mistake and wish more than anything that you could take back the email. 

If this setting is turned on, every time you send an email, a yellow bar will appear at the top of the page that provides you the chance to undo the send. This is one of the best features on this list and it’s definitely worth enabling now, to avoid a potential horror story later. 


To enable this life-saving feature, return to the Labs page within Settings. Search for the feature titled “Undo Send,” enable it, and save your changes by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

7) Quicker Loading

Have you ever noticed that the few times you really need to access your Gmail account and find a message immediately, your account takes longer than ever to load? Well, there is a little hack that can help you avoid this situation in the future. If you add the code “/?ui=html” to the end of the Gmail URL, you will load Gmail in basic mode, stripping the javascript coding. This little trick make your Gmail load instantaneously (though it won't be as pretty).

8) Authenticated Senders Only

Spammers and identify thieves have gotten very good at making fake emails look almost identical to the emails sent by a real company or website.

As an additional security measure, you can enable the Gmail “Authentication icon for verified senders” Lab in the Labs setting page. Once this setting is enabled, you will see a key icon next to messages that Google has authenticated and identified as trusted senders.

9) Filter Out Unwanted Emails

If you find yourself regularly receiving emails from an unwanted sender, you can take advantage of this setting to keep their emails from entering your inbox.

To enable this setting, simply open up an email from the sender whose emails you no longer want to receive, select the more icon (the upside-down arrow) and choose the “filter messages like this” option from the drop down menu. Then, you will be able to customize exactly what you want to do with emails from that particular address.

For instance, you can select to have their emails automatically marked as read, archived, or deleted before they reach your inbox.

10) Star Function

The star function in Gmail can be used to mark an important email or as a reminder that an email requires further action.

You can add a star to an email:

  • In your inbox --  Locate the star icon to the left of the sender’s name. If you have the additional keyboard shortcuts enabled, you can also use the s key to easily star messages in your inbox.
  • While reading a message --  Simply click on the star icon in the upper right hand corner of the message.
  • While composing a new message --  Click the more tab (the upside-down arrow symbol, select label from the drop down menu, and then choose “Add star”)


If you want to be super organized, you can enable multiple types of stars so you can use different stars to indicate different properties or degrees of importance.

To enable multiple stars, go to the gear icon in the top right corner of your screen, select Settings from the drop down menu, and scroll down to the “Stars” section on the General Settings page. Then, all you have to do is drag stars from the “Not in use” section to the “In use” section and save your changes at the bottom of the page.

11) Smartlabels

The Smartlabels feature automatically categorizes incoming messages based on predetermined labels to help you stay organized.

You can enable this feature by once again returning to Labs. Search for “Smartlabels,” select enable, and save your changes. Once you’ve turned this setting on, you can view your smartlabels under “categories” to the left of your Gmail inbox.


1) Smartr

Smartr inbox shows up as a sidebar feature in Gmail that makes it easy to discover and search for all your contacts. Smartr integrates with Facebook and Twitter to provide you a remarkably detailed address book.

When you search for a contact using Smartr, you can view a detailed profile of that person complete with their contact information, social media updates, message history, as well as your shared contacts. 

2) Mail Pilot

Mail Pilot turns your inbox into a to-do list by making all of the messages in your inbox action based. When you receive a new email message, the message arrives with an incomplete status.

Once you're finished with a message, simply change the status to complete and it is automatically archived out of your inbox. This way, you can check off messages you’re finished with and keep messages that require further action so you can easily stay organized and on top of your email.

3) Boomerang

Boomerang offers Gmail users three unique features:

  • Send an email later -- Schedule your email messages to send automatically at specified times. All you have to do is create the message, click the "Send Later" button, and select the date and time you want the email to be sent.
  • Follow-up reminders -- If you have an important message that you want to keep track of, but will not need until a future date, this feature allows you to archive the email and have it returned to your inbox at a specified date/time. You can also select to have it added to the top of your inbox, marked as unread or starred when it is returned to your inbox.
  • Remind you if you don’t hear back -- Use this feature to make sure you remember to follow up within a certain time frame after sending an email. You can also customize these reminders to only notify if nobody replies to your message within a certain time period.

4) SaneBox

SaneBox uses algorithms to determine email importance and then automatically sorts your messages accordingly. You can also set follow-up reminders when someone hasn’t responded to one of your emails. However, the primary reason that this add-on made this list is because of SaneBlackHole feature. This feature allows you to unsubscribe from mailing lists in one click. All you have to do is drag an email in the SaneBlackHole folder. How awesome is that?

5) Sidekick

Sidekick shows you real-time notifications based on “signals” coming from emails you’ve sent. When someone opens an email that you’ve sent them, you receive a notification that the email was accessed. You can also see if people are clicking on the links you include in your emails.

6) Mail Timer

If you think you’re spending too much time responding to emails each day, this add-on is perfect for you. With Mail Timer, you can designate the amount of time that you want to allow yourself to spend answering emails. As soon as you open an email, the timer will begin. When the time runs out, you’ll receive a pop-up notification suggesting that you move on to your next task.

7) Find Big Mail

If you’re running out of storage space in Gmail, you can use Find Big Mail to locate the emails taking up the most space. This service respects your privacy and only sees the size of your emails. It does not access the contents of your emails or your password information.

8) Gmail Meter

Gmail Meter delivers weekly reports that help you understand exactly how you use Gmail. The reports provide information about everything from your hourly and weekly volume to your average response times.

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