It’s been years since Gmail got any drastic design changes. So, I’m not surprised to see all the excitement over the recent announcement about major updates.
Okay, it wasn’t just that people on the Internet were excited. I was excited. I wanted to try it immediately, and reloaded my personal inbox a few times until I could see the option to “Try the new Gmail” when I clicked on the Settings wheel. If you’re using Gmail through work you’ll probably have to ask your administrator to enable the option before you can try it.
My initial reaction? It’s certainly going to take some time for my eyes to get used to the new look (insert here: all the outcries anytime Facebook ever changed its newsfeed).
My second reaction? These new features could make you more productive (and sane) at work.
1. De-clutter Your Inbox Faster
I didn’t always aspire to an organized inbox, but as I prepared to start my job at The Muse, I decided I would try to keep my new account super organized, labeling and archiving emails as part of my routine. Now, it stresses me out when I can’t see the bottom of my inbox or if, the absolute horror, there’s more than one page of unarchived messages.
One thing I’ve noticed is how inconvenient it’s been to move messages out of my inbox, a problem the revamp seems to address. Instead of having to click the checkbox to the left of a message to access various actions at the top of your inbox, you’ll now be able to hover right over each individual email before opening it and click on icons to archive, delete, mark as read or unread, or snooze it (see below). I can already lament the fact that there’s no fifth option to add a label more quickly.
Gmail will also begin providing unsubscribe recommendations “based on cues like how many emails you get from a sender and how many of them you actually read,” which could also help you declutter faster.
2. Remember Important Emails With “Nudges” and High-priority Notifications
As much as you try to stay on top of your inbox, sometimes things get lost, even important emails from people you usually respond to quickly. The revamped Gmail might surface older messages with notes such as “Received 3 days ago. Reply?” or “Sent 5 days ago. Follow up?” in a bright orangeish color to stand out from the black subject line and preview text.
It’s also adding a mobile feature that allows you to get notifications only for the most important emails, as determined by Gmail’s algorithm.
3. Snooze Emails for Later
That fourth option when you hover over a message allows you to make it disappear from your inbox and reappear at whatever time you select. So if you don’t like to see an inbox overflowing with messages you know you won’t take care of until Friday, you can snooze them until then.
And don’t panic if you go a little crazy on the snoozing! There’s an option on the left-hand side of the browser to click and see all your snoozed emails.
4. Let Artificial Intelligence Write Your Email for You
You might already use “Smart Reply” in the Gmail app for mobile, but now the feature is coming to the web version of your inbox. It suggests three quick responses to an email you’ve received that you can click on to use as the full message you’ll send back or the start of one.
5. Use Your Calendar, Make a To-do List, and Take Notes Without Clicking Away
Switching over to the new Gmail, you’ll notice three new icons running along the right-hand side of your inbox. They allow you to open Google Calendar, Google Keep (for notes), and Google Tasks (for to-dos) as a side panel alongside your inbox so you can view everything in one browser window.
It’s embarrassing to admit how thrilled I’ve become—as a recently-converted inbox organizer who's now started cleaning up her personal account too—about any tool or strategy that’ll make it easier to cut down the number of emails mocking me from between those parentheses.
Whether you share this enthusiasm or think I’m a freak, you probably do care about simple ways you can be more productive at work. So it’s worth at least trying some of these new built-in boosters to see if they make a difference for you.
Photo of person typing on a laptop courtesy of Deagreez/Getty Images.
A longtime word nerd and bookworm, Stav studied history and dance at Stanford and later journalism at Columbia. Before joining The Muse, Stav was a staff writer at Newsweek, where she wrote about everything from Nazi hunters to Chinese adoptees to Good Girls Revolt, the real story and fictionalized TV show about a 1970 gender discrimination case at the magazine. She prefers sunshine and tolerates winters grudgingly.More from this Author