Free Guide: 21 Gmail settings that will boost your efficiency, focus, and productivity

When it comes to workplace productivity tools, few things take up more time than dealing with your email inbox. Yet for some reason, most of us still struggle with it. In fact, according to our latest research, knowledge workers check their inboxes on average every 6 minutes, and spend 40% of their day multitasking between emails and other work!

Luckily, you don’t have to let your inbox take over your life.

In our latest free Tool Guide, we uncover 21 powerful Gmail settings you can use to make your inbox more organized, your emailing more efficient, and your communication less time-consuming.

Here’s a short preview of some of the top tips you’ll find in the Guide. Click the link below to read them all. 

Gmail Settings Guide Promo

Optimize your Gmail inbox

Change your display density to Comfortable (or Compact)

Why you want to do this: Viewing your inbox quickly and picking out what’s most important will help you get through it faster.

Gmail’s Default inbox settings show you more information about your emails, but quickly turns your inbox into a terrifying mess if you’re getting tens or hundreds of emails a day (like most of us).

How to do it: Click the Settings (the Cog icon) in the top right hand corner of your inbox and select Display Density.

Display density Gmail

From there, try out either Comfortable, which gets rid of attachment info, but keeps more spacing between messages. Or Compact.

Set up your inbox to show your top priorities first

Why you want to do this: Not all emails are equal. And treating them as such  that way is a poor use of your time. By switching to Gmail’s Priority Inbox, you only see what needs your attention most.

How to do it: Hover over Inbox in your left-hand navigation and click on the down arrow that appears. From there, select Priority Inbox.

Gmail Priority Inbox

By default, your most important, starred, and unread emails will now be at the top of your inbox.

You can further customize how your priority inbox shows messages under Gmail settings (the Cog icon in the right-hand corner). Select Settings > Inbox and then edit the Inbox sections you want to see.

Gmail Priority inbox settings

Organize your inbox for speed and efficiency

Build filters based on sender, subject, keyword, and more

Why you want to do this: Filters allow you to automatically categorize incoming emails to keep your Gmail inbox clear. By default, Gmail sorts messages into categories like primary, social, and promotions. But you can just as easily create custom filters based on criteria like sender, subject, or keyword.

How to do this: Select or open a message, click the “more” button (the three vertical dots), and select filter messages like these.

Filtering new emails in Gmail

From there, you can tell Gmail what to do with these emails (i.e. delete them, star them, label them, mark them as important, etc…)

Create custom labels for faster searching and better categorizing

Why you want to do this: Labels are Gmail’s way of categorizing your messages. They help you archive and find important messages, prioritize what needs to be done first, and get distracting messages out of your inbox.

How to do this: You can either assign labels manually or use the filters we just showed you how to create to automatically apply labels to new emails. To assign them manually, open the message, click the labels icon at the top and either select a current label or make a new one.

labelling in Gmail

Any email can have multiple labels, making them easy to find in your left-hand navigation bar.

Enable distraction-free writing for increased focus

Set your default to full-screen writing mode

Why you want to do this: Writing emails in Gmail isn’t the best experience. The window is small and there’s so much clutter that it’s easy to get distracted.

How to do it: Click Compose and then select the full-screen button on the top right-hand corner of your email composition window. If you want to automatically start in full screen mode, you can make it your default by using the more button (triple dots) in the bottom corner.

Gmail fullscreen writing mode

Use Gmail offline mode to go through and draft emails without internet

Why you want to do this: If you know you have a ton of emails to get through, it’s much easier to focus on them if you’re not also trying to ignore the onslaught of incoming messages as well.
One way to do this is to use Gmail’s Offline mode. This allows you to access your inbox and write messages while offline (i.e. you won’t receive any new messages). Your messages will then be sent when you reconnect to the internet.

How to do it: Go to Settings > Offline > Enable offline mail. Then you can simply switch off your wifi and work through your existing inbox in peace.

Enable Gmail offline mode

Alternatively, you can use an add-on like Boomerang, which allows you to “pause” your inbox.

Unleash the power of Gmail’s advanced settings

Automatically filter out unwanted messages with variations on your email address

Why you want to do this: Being able to give out variants of your email address helps you filter your incoming email to focus on what matters.

How to do it: Gmail ignores anything added after a + on your email. This gives you an easy way to create multiple versions of your email for use with different sources.

Your email in gmail

Let’s say a site requires you to subscribe to their newsletter in order to get a free trial. You can then provide them with youremail+newsletter@gmail.com, then create a filter that automatically archives any incoming messages going to that account.


There’s no escaping email in the modern office. But you can at least make your life a bit easier by using some of these powerful Gmail settings.

Learn all of them by checking out our full Guide to Mastering Gmail.

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Jory MacKay

Jory MacKay is a writer, content marketer, and editor of the RescueTime blog.

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