Science + Tech

Six steps to becoming a Gmail guru

Recently, I told my friends that I track emails to professors so I know to follow up in person if they don’t get opened. Ten minutes of Q&A later, it hit me: Every busy dental student can benefit from learning this! Hyperbolic, Buzzfeed-headline aside, here are some practical tips to be more efficient, organized and professional in your Gmail life.


It is an axiom of life that spelling errors are never caught until after one clicks send. This neat little trick gives you up to 30 seconds to recall your sent email. It has saved me from accidental reply-alls, misspelled names and confusing sentences more times than I can count.

To activate, click on your Gmail “Settings,” go to “Labs” page, and enable “Undo Send.” (If you’ve never come upon the Labs page before, take a moment to explore all the possibilities.)


If you’re like me, sometimes you forget to attach a file and then are forced into a mildly-awkward exchange about it. Gmail can detect when you’re trying to email an attachment and reminds you before the email goes out. To apply this trick, simply use the phrase “attached is ____” in the body of your email.


Everyone nowadays, from spam mail to our government, is tracking your email actions and collecting data; it is time to hop on the bandwagon.

Tracking tools work by embedding an image pixel into your email, so when the recipient opens the message (along with the invisible image), you get notified. This tool can help you make better decisions on when to follow up with people or give you data on how many people actually open your ASDA newsletter or click on the embedded link. (Caveat: I do not recommend doing this to casual emails– that’s creepy.)

I’ve tried two Google Chrome add-ons that get the job done: YesWare and BananaTag. All you have to do is activate, and voila!


Three great reasons to schedule your email to be delivered at a later time/date:

First, you could avoid looking like a workaholic still up at 2:30 a.m. (Not that it’s a bad thing.)

Second, most working people, from your professor to that sponsor you want to land for the vendor fair, check emails first thing in the morning. Scheduling your email for ~8 a.m. can ensure your message lands at the top of their inbox, not buried in the overnight email avalanche from the poor souls who didn’t read this article.

Third, this comes in handy when you get the idea to contact or follow up with someone in a few days. Drafting a reply immediately and setting it to send at a future date will save you time and from forgetting.

One tool that does this is Boomerang, a Chrome add-on. It even gives you the option of sending the reply only if the other person hasn’t responded by a certain date. YesWare also has this function.


If you’re running out of space in your account, instead of shelling money for extra storage, turn to Find Big Mail. This web app scans through your inbox and identifies e-mails (with large attachments or images) taking up space that you can then delete. Empty the trash folder after deleting. I did this one point in college and reclaimed an impressive 50% of my inbox.


Let’s say you’ve got your personal e-mails, school e-mails and ASDA e-mails all forwarding to one Gmail account. You can separate them all into different inbox spaces so it’s easier to stay organized and search through old e-mails.

To do this, enable the “multiple inboxes” feature under the aforementioned “Labs” page (under settings.) For the advanced, you can also filter inboxes based on labels.


This one’s for funsies: run your email through MIT Immersion tool, and it will produce a gorgeous graphic web of your email history.

I hope this article was helpful for you. Do you have tips? Share them in the comments below!

~Helen Yang, Harvard ’16, District 1 Trustee

Helen Yang

Helen is from Troy, Michigan and attends Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She currently serves as the 14-15 District 1 Trustee.

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  1. Rachel says:

    This is an excellent article. I will be using all of these tips. Thank you so much!!

  2. This was very helpful and I will pass this one along to the office staff.

  3. This was very helpful and I will pass this one along to the office staff.

  4. Laura S. says:

    That MIT immersion website is pretty awesome. thanks for all your tips!

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