As someone running more than one business, I spend a lot of time using Gmail. Bucking the whole "email is a waste of time trend," I have actually figured out how to make this popular email program do a lot of my dirty work for me, thus earning its place in my daily business.
Thanks to some lesser-known apps, Gmail is now my personal assistant, networking tool of choice and even a muzzle when I type something foolhardy. Here's an arsenal of tricks available with Gmail.
1. Become more social. When you install Rapportive, a tiny third-party sidebar app for Gmail, your contacts' social information -- LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter -- appear at a glance. Be sure to add your own social profiles to the app, too, so people can see yours when you write back. Now you can tap into your social network without leaving Gmail.
2. Accessing the undo button. Many users still don't know about this native butt-saving tool, perfect for when you realize a mistake immediately after hitting send. Use this awesome function to retract a sent letter before a timer expires. Simply go to Settings > Labs > Undo Button > Enable.
3. Creating templates and canned responses. There are few things more productive in the realm of email than having your top response types whipped into templates that you can alter as need be. Next time you find yourself typing essentially the same email for the umpteenth time, copy it and make it a template. Find it at Settings > Labs > Canned Responses > Enable.
4. Setting reminders. I use free third-party app FollowUpThen to schedule an email to be bounced back to me in whatever period I specify. To do this simply forward the email to a custom address at followupthen.com. Delaying the message until 9:30 a.m. June 5 would mean sending a message to something like 930amJune5@followupthen.com, etc. While seemingly boring, reminders are brilliant for tackling follow-ups and therefore tapping more business. If you're writing a response to client and at the same you want to include a copy of the message to yourself for a future time include send a blind copy to a followupthen.com address. To set up a four-day delay, for example, you would include a blind copy to an address like firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Scheduling email to be sent later -- from the present. With popular apps Boomerang, Yesware or Streak, type up that email now to be issued later. Scheduled emails can be helpful for anything from bills to birthday wishes that you know you must do at some point yet would like to get out of the way today.
These apps aren't just for sending mail later to others; they are also ideal for temporarily clearing your inbox -- and mind -- until that thing can be dealt with later.
6. Enlisting the art of unsubscribe via Unroll.me. Signing up for email subscriptions is a matter that seems easy enough to do at the time but later not so easy to undo. Unroll.me is a scarily accurate tool that can roll up (or gather) every one of your subscriptions into what it calls a "Rollup," a clean daily digest of all your subscriptions in one email. This setup also makes it super easy to unsubscribe from each subscription one by one.
7. Tapping Gmail chat. There's a good chance that most of your team has Gmail. One often overlooked way to message all of them on the fly is through the chat function right on your inbox. It's in on lower left (although a setting option can move it to the right).
8. Using Gmail for customer relationship managment. Signals by HubSpot, Streak, Boomerang, Yesware and Bannatag let you use a suite of sales-conversion tools that can be integrated with Gmail for tasks like following up with customers, monitoring email-open rates and creating letter templates.
9. Automating tasks via IFTTT or Zapier. Each of these two automation apps lets you customize Gmail to perform certain automated tasks like sending messages about the weather, making your cellphone ring or to turning the house lights on. They are called Recipes on IFTTT and Zaps on Zapier. Thus Gmail can be tied in with a cellphone or an RSS feed. Tired of emailing myself my iPhone photos, I set up an automated task for placing a copy of them in a custom folder in Gmail.
A word of caution: People should protect their privacy on Gmail, especially those in high-profile positions, to ward off a potential Petraeus-style scenario. Shannon Wilkinson, CEO of Reputation Communications, urges, "It is essential to delete the sent and trash boxes of Gmail accounts daily."