Posts from Gmail

Feature Friday: Archive All

I just went and archived all the unread email in my inbox. I do this from time to time. It is the only way I can get to inbox zero. In the past I have called it email bankruptcy, but since I am archiving the email, it's not really bankruptcy. It is more like out of sight, out of mind. It's still there but just not begging to be opened.

Actually what I do is archive all mail in my priority inbox, keep all my starred emails, and permanently delete all mail in the rest of my email inbox.

I figure if I haven't replied in a week, I am never going to reply. So it's out of my inbox and into the archives or into the trash.

It's a great feeling to do this. But gmail doesn't make it easy to do. You can archive a page full of email (50 at a time). Or you can create a filter and archive all the filtered mail. I would love a button that says "archive all mail in your priority inbox" and another that says "delete everything else". But I don't expect google is going to give us those buttons any time soon. Maybe google labs will.

When you have archived all the mail in your priority email, you get this message:

Inbox zero

Woohoo! is exactly how I feel. And you can get that feeling without actually reading all the important messages in your inbox. Which is why Archive All is the feature of the week this friday


Gmail Meter

I tried out a new service this past week called Gmail Meter. It's a free analytics service that tells you stuff about how you use Gmail. It is brought to market by the folks at ShuttleCloud, which does archive and data migration for cloud services. It's a way for them to get to know folks who might become ShuttleCloud customers in the future.

I learned a few things. I get 6,470 legit emails a month from 1293 different senders. I send/reply to 2,676 emails to 777 people. So the send/receive ratio across my inbox is 41% which is higher than I thought. I feel a tad better. But there are also at least 516 people who sent me an email last month that did not hear back from me. That makes me feel a bit worse.

The single highest send/reply ratio in my world is the Gotham Gal who sent me 133 emails of which I replied to 100, for a 75% return rate. I've got work to to do there. Sorry Jo. My partners Albert, Andy, Brad, and John get between a 50% and 70% reply rate. Sorry USV folks. The one cohort that I send more mail to than I get replies from is my three kids. I get a worse response rate from them than all of you get from me. Not sure how I feel about that.

This chart will not surprise anyone here at AVC but it does show that the one time I reply to more email than I get is the 5am to 7am time frame.

Daily traffic

Here are a few more interesting charts:

More gmail meter charts
The first chart shows that I get to most of my email within 24 hours but there is certainly a meaningful percentage that takes longer.

The second chart shows that I send a ton of short emails. 80% of my email is less than 30 words. Whereas greater than 50% of the emails I get are longer than 100 words.

I've asked the Gmail Meter folks to add a chart showing reply ratio on emails less than 30 words versus emails greater than 100 words. When I get that chart I will publish it here because I think that is single best secret to getting a reply from me.

Anyway, I found this data valuable. Maybe you will to. You can try it out at Gmail Meter.

#email hacks

Help Wanted: A Gmail Hack To See Only Replies To My Sent Messages

I get behind on email a lot. I am right now actually.

At times like this, I often want to use gmail hacks to make sure I am seeing the most important email. I have some that showcase the messages from my most important contacts (my wife, my kids, …).

But another super important cohort of email messages are the replies to the emails I have sent in the past few days (or up to a week).

I'm wondering if anyone has a good hack that will reveal only those messages in the inbox. I'd be super appreciative.

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#email hacks

This is a feature request. I'd love to see Google do this but I imagine this might also be possible via a third party service built on the gmail api.

I will often log into my gmail account on a conference room display in order to find a document that I want to load on the big screen. I do this a lot and I see many others do this frequently. Many entrepreneurs will do this when they come to see us. They will log into their gmail on the conference room display, they find the presentation they want to make, and then load that on the display.

The problem with this move, of course, is you briefly display your entire inbox to everyone in the room. That is suboptimal. But even so, I do this all the time. I've gotten pretty good at jumping into the search box quickly and running the search in order to get out of the inbox display.

So here's what I want. A simple app I can use that runs at something like I go there, log into gmail, and then do a search on my inbox without having to reveal my entire inbox first.

It is possible that this feature already exists. If so, please tell me how to do this. I can't figure it out and I have tried. If this feature doesn't exist, it should.


Feature Friday: Mark Unread In Gmail

This post will explain a lot about my disorganized organization system. I am not very organized. I am a brute force type. My desk is a mess. My computer is a mess. But I somehow power through things and get the important stuff done.

I manage my email via the inbox. I label some messages but rarely use the labels as a place to read and reply to email. I star some messages but only visit my starred messages about once a week. Mostly I attack my email from the top. In reverse chronological order.

So one of my favorite features in gmail is "mark unread." I'll open an email, see it has something important in it, and then mark it unread so I make sure it stays in my priority inbox and that I get to it. I use that feature at least 10-20x per day.

But I can't for the life of me find that feature in the current gmail for android app. I do more email on my phone than anywhere else so I badly need this feature. I'm wondering if its in a place that I haven't looked or it google left it out of the app.

If anyone out there knows how to "mark unread" in gmail for android, please let me know in the comments.

And I'm sure there will be all sorts of great suggestions for getting more organized with email in the comments too. Just don't count on me doing any of them. It's like meditating. I know I should do it. I just can't bring myself to spend the time on it.


Feature Friday: Offline Gmail

I was talking with my partner Albert and my friend Matt the other day. I was saying that the thing I miss most about flying without wifi is the ability to clean out my inbox. And Albert said that he'd always know when I had landed because his inbox would get a flood of incoming email from me. Matt laughed and said he was well known for doing the same inside his company.

I think I am going to fly across the country today without wifi so I'll get the opportunity to clean out my inbox and I'm going to use a relatively new feature to do that.

Google has released a Chrome app for offline gmail. It allows you to load gmail in Chrome when you are offline. When you do that, it looks like this:

Offline gmail

I've had this app installed in Chrome for a few weeks now but I've not had the chance to test it out. I think I'm going to get to do that today. I'm curious if any of you are using offline gmail and if so, how well it works.



Super Priority Inbox

I love gmail priority inbox. I can't imagine doing email in an email client that doesn't have this feature. For those who are not familiar with priority inbox, it's a feature that splits the gmail inbox into three sections.

The top section is your "priority inbox." Google tries to figure who are the most important mail senders to you and it puts their mail in the top section. You can and should train it by using the +/- buttons to identify who is actually priority and who is not.

The middle section is the emails you have starred to return to later.

The bottom section is "everything else." For me this is mostly mail I don't want or need but it not technically spam. I do a quick scan of my "everything else" mail every day or two and pull the one or two emails out of it that I want and then delete the rest.

Now that we've gotten through what priority inbox is and why it works so well for me, I'd like to suggest a new feature to the gmail team. I'd like a "super priority inbox" which would be a fourth section on the page and above everything else. I'd enter the email addresses of a couple dozen people who I always want in my super priority inbox.

I know you can do this with filters and labels. I've done it. But the layout of the main inbox page in gmail is powerful. If I have to click over to a label to get to a filtered view, I just don't do it regularly.

One last thing about priority inbox and super priority inbox – it is even more awesome on mobile. The gmail client for android supports the priority inbox and ideally would support the super priority inbox when this feature is rolled out 🙂

UPDATE: Seems like this may be supported already. I got this comment below. I will try it out later. So excited.

Hi Fred – you can do this now..

goto settings, select priority inbox

There is a section called priority inbox sections:

1. Important and unread Options
2. Starred                              Options
3.                   Options
4. Everything else              Options

You can set the first to be the label that you have predefined, second to be important, 3rd starred, and 4th everything else.


The Impact Of Priority Inbox

I've been using Gmail's Priority Inbox for a while now. I like it very much. But it has one impact that is worth pointing out.

If your email gets into the third section of the main page, called "Everything Else", I most likely won't see it unless I see it on my Android phone. And hopefully Google is working on bringing Priority Inbox to Android. When that happens, I won't ever see it.

Everything Else is like the spam folder with one exception. The email will come up in the search results.

This may not be everyone's use case. I get a lot of email and I can't get to all of it regardless of what email client I use. Other Priority Inbox users might actually read through Everything Else. But I don't and can't.

Google has solved a huge problem for me and potentially created a huge problem for emailers.

The email deliverability business, where we have an investment in the market leader Return Path, will be impacted by Priority Inbox and related services. Deliverability will increasingly mean getting into the Priority Inbox. And that's a hard thing to do.


Inbox Zero

I briefly got to inbox zero over the labor day holiday and have been managing to keep things more or less under control since. There are two services that I've started using that have made a big difference for me recently. – from the man who brought us phonetag (one of my all time favorite services) comes This is as low tech as you can get. The service unsubscribes you from mailing lists, automatically if they can, manually if they have to. You get five unsubscribes per month for free and for $19 you can upgrade to unlimited unsubscribes (not per month, forever). I didn't even bother with the free offer. I paid $19 the minute I saw this service and to date I have unsubscribed to roughly 125 mailing lists with the click of a button.

You download their extension for outlook and gmail and just hit the unsubscribe button. That's it. One click unscubscribe. Extensions for Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL are coming soon. Check it out. For someone like me who maintains many active email addresses, some of which have been active on the Internet for almost 20 years, this is an unbelievable service. And the thing I like most about it is that it doesn't filter the email away or send it to spam. It stops the mail from being sent. It works the way email is supposed to work.


Priority Inbox – from Google comes a new feature in Gmail, one that I have been blogging about and asking for for many years. Most of you probably saw this come out a few weeks ago so this is not news to you. However, Priority Inbox has made a big difference for me. It was pretty bad right out of the box, but I decided to stay quiet for a few weeks and see what happened. I have trained Priority Inbox by clicking the yellow + sign or the blank minus sign on hundreds of mail messages. I have a lot more training to do, but after a couple weeks, it works pretty well for me.

One of the terrible things about getting hundreds of emails per day in one inbox is the fear that you'll miss something important. And I do, all the time. Priority Inbox tries to solve that problem by creating a set of emails that I must get through every day. The rest can wait until the weekend when I generally try to clean out my inbox (and fail most of the time).

The other thing I like about Priority Inbox is the section for starred emails. This simple UI decision forced me to start starring important emails, something many of you have been suggesting to me in various "email hell" posts over the years. It is neat when a feature can change behavior towards best practices. Priority Inbox did that for me.


So these two new services have made my email life a lot better. One from a scrappy entrepreneur who has always focused on solving the problem instead of building technology for technology's sake. And one from one of the biggest tech companies in the world who always chooses technology over people to solve tricky problems. But interestingly, it took a person (me) to get Priority Inbox's technology working right.

If you are using Gmail, I highly recommend using both of these tools. They've made a big impact on my email experience in a short period of time. And I think they can do the same for you.



Productivity Hacks

Mark Suster has a great post up on his blog called Productivity Hacks. He lists three things he's done to improve his productivity:

  • Eliminate Voicemail with Google Voice or even better PhoneTag
  • Stop foldering things: ie move to gmail and start tagging your email
  • Each day put three things you want to get done on a 3×5 card

I've done two of these three things. 

I stopped using voicemail and moved to PhoneTag (fka Simulscribe) about three years ago and have never looked back. PhoneTag intercepts my voice mails, transcribes them, and emails them to me. I get your voice mails, but I get them via email. It works great. Google Voice offers a similar service but the transcription is done by machines, not humans, and the results look a bit like my "dictated blog post" last weekend. Google Voice is free, PhoneTag works out to be about $10/month. I've learned that voicemail transcription doesn't have to be perfect for the message to get thru (as long as name and phone number are captured accurately). So you may be able to make do with Google Voice. If not, get PhoneTag and pay the roughly $10/month. As I said in my initial post on voicemail transcription, it's a lifechanger.

I stopped foldering email when I moved from outlook/exchange to gmail last year. I've also stopped foldering paperwork for the most part. I just keep an electronic copy and tag and or label it and make it accessible easily with search. This seems like a small change, but in actuality it is a huge productivity enhancer. You can tag/label and save so much faster than you can folder things. And folders don't scale. Tags and labels do.

I have not tried the three things on 3×5 card idea. I am going to start doing that right away. I've never been able to make a "to do" list work for me because it gets so damn long I can never get them all done. I really like the idea of three a day and no more. I may not need the 3×5 cards but I am going to try them anyway. It may be fine just to put them into a calendar entry at the start of every day. We'll see. I'll report back on this one.