Several months ago, I read this blog post that I can’t stop thinking about.
It’s called The Digital Productivity Pyramid.
In the post, productivity guru Tiago Forte suggests a non-linear curriculum for modern knowledge work. The part I can’t stop thinking about is how the base of the pyramid consists of the basic computer skills and abilities you need to navigate online work—what Forte calls “digital fluency.”
Source: Forte Labs
It’s sort of a no-duh, right? To be productive in online knowledge work, you must have your basic computer skills down.
But this pyramid is non-linear, meaning that improving your basic computer skills—everything from browsing the web to using Gmail keyboard shortcuts—will help you in all other areas of productivity as well.
This means that you can—and should—dip back in to improve these essential skills whenever you can.
Today, we’re going to explore Gmail shortcut fluency, with a focus on moving fast and boosting your overall productivity. Because nobody wants to spend all day on email, but it happens way too often.
- Make Sure Keyboard Shortcuts Are Enabled
- Gmail Organization System
- Top 10 Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts for Productivity
- Tools to Boost Gmail Productivity
- Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet
Make Sure Keyboard Shortcuts Are Enabled
First things first: Make sure Gmail shortcuts are turned on. To do this, simply:
- Select the gear button (Settings) on the top right-hand side of your inbox
- From the dropdown menu, select “Settings”
- Make sure you’re in the “General” tab
- Scroll down, select the radio button next to “Keyboard shortcuts on”
Gmail Organizational System
Here at AppSumo, we’re all about productivity… and shortcuts. (“Last one there’s a rotten egg!”)
Sure, you can spend your whole day doing email. But just imagine the freedom when you start navigating your inbox using only your keyboard. The shortcuts I’ve chosen below were handpicked to fit into Kelly Stocker’s famous Ultimate Gmail Organizational System based on Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen.
After implementing Kelly’s Gmail organizational system, my inbox looks like it’s been touched by an angel (a really organized angel.)
For reference, here’s what my inbox looks like
I’ve been so impressed by the effects of this system on my own workflow that I also wrote about it over on the Process Street blog: Organize Gmail: Top Expert Tips to Reach Inbox Zero.
If you’re really serious about email productivity and organization, I would highly recommend you take 20 minutes to change your inbox workflow forever. Honestly, I cannot recommend you make these changes sooner. Do it.
Top 10 Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts for Productivity
Ready to navigate your inbox like a pro? We thought so.
1. Select all conversations: <*> + a
A key to inbox zero is getting all the new emails out of your main inbox. The shortcut to doing this is simply to hit (<*> + a). Yes, this is really Shift + 8 + a. Do it, and suddenly all the conversations in your inbox will be selected. If you want to select every conversation since the beginning of your inbox, you’ll need to click the blue prompt “Select all 18,343 emails in inbox.”
2. Archive: e
Then, with one click of a button, you can make them all disappear. Archive is truly the best invention of the last one hundred years. If you’re not using Archive to get emails out of your inbox, WYD? Archive means an email is gone but not deleted: you can always call it back up if you need to.
3. Trash: #
Second only to Archive is Trashing emails. (Third is probably Report as spam: !) Use Trash when you really want to get something out of your inbox for good.
4. Compose: c
Now we’re getting into our outbound flow. Hit <c> when you need to write up a new email. Magically, the compose window will appear.
5. Toggle star/rotate among superstars: s
With Kelly’s Gmail organizational system, you no longer have Primary, Social, and Promotions tabs. Instead, with this system, you create not just one inbox, but five. That way, you can mark emails with stars/icons to drop emails into each of the five inboxes (Inbox, Follow Up, Awaiting Reply, Delegated, Reference, and To Read). Change the star with the simple shortcut <s>.
6. Reply all: a
This one solves an annoying problem I used to have in Gmail: the fact that when you click the “reply” button, it automatically replies to sender, requiring you to reselect “Reply all” if you want to make sure everyone’s looped in. If you do want to just reply to sender, just hit <r>.
7. Bold: <⌘> + b
For common text formatting, learning shortcuts can save you a lot of time—in Gmail or out of Gmail. Formatting shortcuts for bold like (<⌘> + b) or italics like (<⌘> + i) will also speed up your Google docs workflow.
8. Open Tasks: g + k
For many of us, having a daily to-do list is essential. If you’re in your inbox and want to start using Tasks for your to-dos, simply hit (g + k). This will open your Tasks bar along the right-hand side of our screen, so you can check another thing off your list.
9. Add conversation to Tasks: <Shift> + t
If you use Tasks, one quick hack is to select a conversation and hit (<Shift> + t) to instantly make it into a Task for your to-do list. Whether it’s an email you need to respond to that day, a specific ask from a client, or simply something you need to read ASAP, you can use this shortcut to put it out of sight and out of mind for now — to be taken care of later.
10. View all shortcuts: ?
Curious to find your own suite of go-to shortcuts? Use <?> to explore even more Gmail shortcuts that will improve your email productivity! Simply hit g + k and then use Find (<⌘> + f) to look for the function you need.
Tools to Boost Gmail Productivity
1. HubSpot CRM (free)
HubSpot’s free CRM integrates with Gmail to give you notifications when people open your emails. Never wait around for days wondering if someone got your important message. Plus, if you need more robust CRM features like pipeline management or bulk sending, HubSpot has you covered.
2. Unroll.me (free)
I’ve been using Unroll.me for years. This tool will do damage to all those newsletters and marketing emails you get every day. Simply go through the simple onboarding process and then click to unsubscribe—or “roll up” subscriptions into a single email that comes daily. I’d recommend just using this tool to unsubscribe from all those mystery promo emails or old grad school lists you’re still on.
AppSumo partner ReplyButton allows you to embed buttons, polls, and surveys right in your outreach emails—making it easier and more efficient than ever for leads to engage with your outreach emails. Sumo-lings have loved seeing their response rates go through the roof.
4. Mailtrack (free)
Mailtrack offers a highly-rated free email tracking Chrome extension for Gmail. Though the free version does stamp each email with the brand, it might be worth it to use this tool to get notified when someone opens your email.
5. Signitic (free)
Ever wish your email signature could do more for your business? Signitic lets you create and customize an unlimited number of email signature campaigns. Put branded banners into your signature and gather more leads. This tool is currently free in the AppSumo store.
6. Bananatag (free)
Bananatag is another email tracking Chrome and Gmail extension that is free up to a certain daily limit. Get detailed notifications when someone opens an email or clicks one of your hyperlinks. Bananatag also has other features like snoozing emails, scheduling recurring emails, and email templates.
Helpwise is perfect if you need to manage several different Gmail accounts (sales@, help@, hello@, etc.) This shared inbox solution will help you deliver better customer service and sort through incoming emails faster. Helpwise starts at $49 LTD in the AppSumo store for a limited time.
Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet
All of these shortcuts come from the team at Gmail. Keep in mind you can always use the “?” shortcut anytime in your inbox to discover new commands. But here are a few more for you:
Keyboard Shortcuts for Writing Emails
|Shortcut||What it does|
|p||Previous message in an open conversation|
|n||Next message in an open conversation|
|Shift + Esc||Focus main window|
|Esc||Focus latest chat or compose|
|Ctrl + .||Advance to the next chat or compose|
|Ctrl + ,||Advance to previous chat or compose|
|⌘/Ctrl + Enter||Send|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + c||Add cc recipients|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + b||Add bcc recipients|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + f||Access custom from|
|⌘/Ctrl + k||Insert a link|
|⌘ + ;||Go to next misspelled word (Mac only)|
|⌘/Ctrl + m||Open spelling suggestions|
Keyboard Shortcuts for Formatting Text
|Shortcut||What it does|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 5||Previous font|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 6||Next font|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + –||Decrease text size|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift and +||Increase text size|
|⌘/Ctrl + b||Bold|
|⌘/Ctrl + i||Italics|
|⌘/Ctrl + u||Underline|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 7||Numbered list|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 8||Bulleted list|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + 9||Quote|
|⌘/Ctrl + [||Indent less|
|⌘/Ctrl + ]||Indent more|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + l||Align left|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + e||Align center|
|⌘/Ctrl + Shift + r||Align right|
|⌘/Ctrl + \||Remove formatting|
Keyboard Shortcuts for Other Actions
|Shortcut||What it does|
|,||Move focus to toolbar|
|s||Toggle star/rotate among superstars|
|!||Report as spam|
|Shift + r||Reply in a new window|
|Shift + a||Reply all in a new window|
|Shift + f||Forward in a new window|
|Shift + n||Update conversation|
|] or [||Archive conversation and go previous/next|
|z||Undo last action|
|Shift + i||Mark as read|
|Shift + u||Mark as unread|
|_||Mark unread from the selected message|
|+ or =||Mark as important|
|–||Mark as not important|
Note: This shortcut isn’t available in classic Gmail.
|;||Expand entire conversation|
|:||Collapse entire conversation|
|Shift + t||Add conversation to Tasks|
And that’s a wrap! What are your best Gmail hacks? Seriously, I want to know in the comments below. Happy shortcutting!