5 Gmail Tricks to Boost Productivity

Even if you know your way around Gmail, there is always more to learn. These tips will help you save time and streamline your workflow with features that let you quickly unsubscribe from email, keep your account secure and more.

Workdays revolve around email, whether you like it or not.

According to Backupify, a provider of cloud-based data and archiving services, the typical Gmail user has sent more than 5,000 emails. That's a lot of time spent. (To help you quantify how much your Gmail account is worth to you in dollars, Backupify also offers a Gmail Value Calculator.)

To ease the burden of email and ensure a more efficient use of your time, Google has a number of shortcuts, tips, tricks and new features to keep you productive. Here's a look at five that help you unsubscribe from unwanted emails, share your account with an assistant, keep your account secure and more.

1. Manage Your To-Do List Inside Gmail

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"Tasks"—or your to-do list—can live inside Gmail. This feature lets you create lists of items, set due dates, take notes and add Gmail messages directly to it.

To get started, click the drop-down menu next to "Gmail," which is above the "Compose" button on the left side of the screen. Then select "Tasks." A window, similar to the Gchat box, will pop up on the bottom-right of your screen. This is where you can add, delete and assign due dates for each item.

To create a task based on an open inbox message, use the shortcut Shift + T. You can also reorder your tasks by grabbing them to the left of the check mark and dragging them up and down. Or, if you prefer a hard copy of your to-do list, print it by clicking "Actions" and selecting "Print task list."

2. Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails

If you receive countless emails from retailers announcing sales and updates that you no longer want to receive, Gmail makes unsubscribing easy.

To use this feature, mark the email you want to unsubscribe from as spam. Once you do, you'll see a dialog box like this one:

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Clicking "Unsubscribe" will automatically send a request back to the sender so they'll stop emailing you. Google says that this feature works for some senders right now, and it is adding more:

"We won't provide the unsubscribe option on messages from spammers: we can't trust that they'll actually unsubscribe you, and they might even send you more spam. So you'll only see the unsubscribe option for senders that we're pretty sure are not spammers and will actually honor your unsubscribe request. We're being pretty conservative about which senders to trust in the beginning; over time, we hope to offer the ability to unsubscribe from more email."

3. How to Grant Access to Your Gmail Account

If you own multiple Gmail accounts, say one for your personal correspondence and one for work, signing in and out between the accounts can get tedious. That's where a feature called "email delegation" comes into play.

This feature lets you grant access to someone—a personal assistant, for example‐allowing him or her to read and respond to your email on your behalf.

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To do this, click the gear icon at the top-right of your Gmail homepage and choose Settings. On the "Accounts and Import" tab near the bottom is the option "Grant access to your account." Click "Add another account" and follow the steps. The person accessing your account must also be a Google Account holder.

4. Protect Your Account With Advanced Sign-In

Regardless of how strong your Gmail password is, the threat of a hacked account, spam attack or phishing scam always exists. To further protect your information, try Google's two-step verification feature.

Two-step verification is an opt-in security feature that makes your Google account more secure by helping to verify that you're the real owner. It requires two independent factors for authentication: your password, plus a code obtained using your phone.

To enable two-step verification, visit your Account Settings page. Next to Security, choose "Using 2-step verification."

Setting up two-step verification could take up to 15 minutes, so be patient. Follow the prompts to complete the process, which includes setting up a backup phone and creating backup codes. After you enter your password, Google will either call you with the code, send you a text message or give you the choice to generate the code yourself using a mobile app on your phone. You'll be required to enter this code every time you log in to your account.

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5. Choose Search Over Folders

If you're someone who sorts your emails into folders to stay better organized, you may be doing yourself a disservice: Research shows that you'll save time by using a search function to find emails instead of categorizing them in folders.

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Gmail's "Advanced Search" feature, which you can find by clicking the drop-down menu in the search bar, lets you search folders and your inbox for keywords that the email you're looking for may contain. You can also specify whether an email contains an attachment as well as estimate the date that it was sent or received.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

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