How to easily transition from Microsoft Outlook to Google Gmail for Business (Part 2 of 2)

You’ve followed the advice I gave you in part 1, “The easy way to transition from Microsoft Outlook to Google apps for business Gmail” so by now you’re still using Outloo

k though it is connected to the Google apps for business Gmail servers. You’re also using Gmail’s superior search. So you’re feeling good because you’re saving money (lower hosting costs with Google) and you’re more productive with faster search. It’s time to “complete your training” to Gmail, young Jedi!

Learn one-key shortcuts for common moves

I shared my favorite Gmail shortcuts that I’ve come to depend on for a real productivity boost. When I’m jammin’ through my inbox with slick single-keypress moves, [ for older ubergeeks only: I’m taken back to the symphonic dance I used to take with Wordstar control sequences ripping through thousands of lines of code. It also reminds me of flipping through large text files with vi] it feels like I’m slicing through butter.

Seriously though, learning the shortcuts makes a huge difference in productivity. In no time you’ll be regular Gmail Ninja.

Use the Task List to get to inbox zero (i.e. an completely empty email inbox) every single day

Since about 1998, I have a ritual whereby my email inbox is emptied out to zero, i.e. not a single email in it, every single day. Sure there are some rare days when I don’t empty it out but I pretty much get an empty email inbox every evening. One of the key things I see in looking at other folks’ massive inboxes (some with over 1,000 emails!) is that they use their inbox as their todo list. Big mistake.

The best way to transform that email into a task is to, well, turn it into a task! Just do a shift-T on that email and Gmail adds it as a task with the link to the email. Now you can achive that email (shortcut “e”) yet not worry about forgetting to get the job done because it’s on the Task list. And since the Task list keeps a link to the email, it’s easy to bring that email back up when you actually do sit down to get your task done. Start tasking your emails and then archiving them and you’ll see a huge drop in the site of your inbox.

Add the send and archive feature

Inside Google Labs you’ll see the “Send & Archive” feature which I simply love because it saves me an extra step. Once you send an email, the thread gets archived at the same time. If you auto-label your emails (like I mentioned in Part 1) and task the appropriate ones, there’s no reason to let this email thread continue to clog your inbox, so just send (your reply) and archive it in one swift move.

Star Sparsely

Gmail has this “Starred” feature where you can quickly and easily give an email a “star”. I use this sparingly, otherwise you get hundreds of starred emails which cancels out the benefit. I use stars for two reasons:

  1. Marking emails for upcoming meetings. When I get email attachments or other content that’s relevant for an upcoming meeting or event, I’ll star it. This way when I get on-site I can quickly retrieve the emails without having to search.
  2. Marking mobile emails for later task assignment. While the mobile Gmail client works great on Android phones, there’s no easy way to duplicate the Shift-T operation to turn an email into a task. So when I rip through my emails on Android, I star the ones that need to be tasks and then archive the email; this helps keep my inbox as small as possible. When I eventually get to a “real” web browser, I review the starred emails and turn them into tasks as needed.

Just do it!

If you take the steps I did, at your own pace, gaining efficiency along the way, you’ll find yourself easily and organically moving away from Outlook and into Gmail. Before you know it, you’ll close Outlook once and for all. I’m happy I did and haven’t looked back since. Please share your experiences here!