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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

3 Gmail Labs You Need Now

If you’re a Gmail user and haven’t played around with Gmail Labs yet—well, today’s the day to get started. Basically, Gmail has a whole set of awesome, free, experimental features that you can easily enable for your account—and that will essentially change how you use email.

Getting Started

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the Gear Icon in the upper right of your screen, then select Settings.
  3. Open the Labs tab. Here, you'll be able to identify the labs you want to turn on by clicking the Enable radio button.
  4. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.
  5. While there are plenty of fun ones to play with, I recommend starting with these three life-changing labs (plus a few bonus suggestions).

    1. Undo Send

    Know that moment when you realize you just sent an email to the wrong person, or with a typo, or without the attachment? You’ll never have to endure it again. When you enable the Undo Send lab, Gmail holds your email for a designated amount of time before delivering it to your recipient—so you can stop the email and fix it even after clicking Send.

    Pro Tip: I recommend setting the time for 30 seconds instead of the default 10 seconds. I use this feature almost daily, and find that my brain sometimes needs those extra seconds to realize I forgot something.

    2. Canned Responses

    Ever feel like you're writing the same email over and over and over again? Well, there's a way to prevent that and to save time in the process (and you all know how I feel about saving time).

    For any email, or even section of an email, that you send repeatedly—think, procedures for contacting your department, weekly meeting announcements, or conference room requests—write your best answer out once (or cut and paste it from a previous awesome email you wrote) and save it as a "Canned Response." Then, next time someone asks you that question, just insert the canned response into the email body and be done with it.

    Pro Tip: When saving a new canned response, the lab uses everything that’s in the email draft, including previous or forwarded messages that appear below. So make sure to start with a completely blank email.

    Full How-to Video and Steps

    3. Auto-Advance

    I really believe that making lots of small decisions can deplete not only your energy, but also your limited decision-making supply. And one of the most unnecessary decisions we make dozens of times a day is which email to open next.

    Using this lab, you can advance to the next email after archiving or deleting a message, instead of automatically going back to the inbox. No time wasted thinking about what email to answer next, no distraction from seeing a new email at the top of your inbox. Trust me, it's a game changer.

    Pro Tip: You can select whether to advance to the next or previous conversation in the "General Settings” page.

    Bonus Labs

    Google Docs Previews

    If you and your team use Google docs of any kind, this lab is for you. Rather than having to open the link, you can see it straight from your Gmail!

    Google Calendar Gadget

    This lab gives a sneak peak of your GCal in your Gmail sidebar—perfect when you’re trying to quickly schedule meetings with someone.

    Photo of woman and laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.