Gmail Challenge

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Perform email tasks and use strategies to organize and manage your Google@UH Gmail account.


  1. Identify components in the Gmail interface.
  2. Configure initial Gmail settings.
  3. Choose and use Gmail's:
    • labels and stars to store and organize email messages
    • advanced search operators to find exactly what you need
    • task list to create a "to-do" list
    • canned responses to create email message templates
    • filters to automate actions on email messages
  4. Share personal strategies to manage email.
  5. Choose and implement a strategy to manage your email.

You can earn the "Gmail Challenge Finisher" badge of achievement if you successfully complete the workshop's objectives.


The University of Hawaii has "gone Google" – Google Apps for Education which we call, Google@UH.

  • Your Google@UH account is different/separate from a Google or Gmail account
  • Your email address remains, but has been "activated" as a Google Apps account. Your Google username is your full UH email address including the "".
  • By using Google@UH Gmail, you can access your email from any computer (and mobile device) with Internet connectivity. (Your account is synced to the online "cloud".)

Email can collect quickly and take up your time, but there are ways to be more efficient with email and utilize Gmail's features to take control of your email.


What are your top email challenges?

Gmail Overview

  1. Access and log into your Google@UH Gmail account: and bookmark it (by right-clicking the link and click on "Bookmark This Link")
  2. Identify components in the Gmail interface
  3. Configure initial Gmail settings
    • General
    • Max page size
    • Button labels (icons or text)
    • My picture (if you want a profile picture)
    • Create contacts for auto-complete ("I'll add contacts myself")
    • Signature
    • Vacation response

Gmail Features


Labels help you to organize your messages. You can have nested labels and assign colors to them too. You can put multiple labels on messages that belong to more than one type. Labeling helps you to find messages easier. Tip: In Settings > Labels, show "All Mail" system label. "All Mail" shows you all your message even in your Sent, Trash, Archived, in other labels, etc. You might need "All Mail" when you really can't find something and need to see everything in chronological order.

Stars... and Superstars

Stars is another way to organize your messages to "flag" important messages. To enable stars or superstars, go to Settings > General and choose which stars you want to use.

Examples: Red Bang – Needs Immediate Action/Scheduling Yellow Bang – Needs Action/Non-Immediate Red Star – Scheduled on Calendar Orange Arrows – Delegated Purple Question – Needs Further Follow-Up or Research Purple Star – Some Day/Long Term Green Check – Completed Green Star – Archive Blue Info – Archive as General Reference Item

Advanced Search

Find exactly what you need with an advanced search. If you use labels, it will help your advanced search even more. Common operators include:

  • to:
  • from:
  • label:


Create a to-do list directly from your email messages or add your own. Adding a due date to a task integrates with Google Calendar too.

Canned Responses

Canned Responses is a Gmail Lab (experimental feature) that allows you to create and save pre-made messages for messages that you use a lot in your emails such as thank yous, responses to students, etc. Doing this can save you a lot of time. Another application of canned responses is for different signatures on your emails. For example, you can have one signature for internal emails and another for external emails. To create a canned response:

  1. Enable "Canned Responses" in Gmail Settings > Labs. (This is a one-time only step.)
  2. Compose a new message by typing your canned response. (Note: If you have an automatic signature on your email and want to use canned responses instead, delete your automatic signature.)
  3. From the "More" options pull-down menu, hover over "canned responses" and click on "New canned response..."
  4. Type a name for the canned response.
  5. Delete the email.
  6. Start a new email and try it out. This time to insert your canned response, from the canned responses menu, choose your canned response under the "Insert" sub-menu.

You can use multiple canned responses in the same email.


Filters can be used to analyze emails as they are received and perform certain actions on the messages such as labeling, archiving, deleting, starring or forwarding your mail. Once you set up a filter, Gmail does this all automatically based on a combination of keywords, sender, recipients and more. The easiest way to start is to:

  1. Select 2 - 3 emails that meet the criteria. Gmail will find the multiple common denominators.
  2. From the more menu, select "filters messages like these"
  3. Go through settings
  4. Click magnifying glass to see if filter works
  5. Click Create this filter with this search
  6. Step 2 is what actions you want to do

Tip: Use it to sort messages into appropriate labels or to delete a lot messages at once or automatically from the same sender like from vendors or newsletters. Note: If you subscribed to a newsletter, it is best to unsubscribe to stop the emails instead of using filters to find and delete them.

Email Strategies

Strategy 1: Inbox Zero (by Merlin Mann)

Most people view their email inbox as a place where all emails are stored. With inbox zero, you change this mindset and view your email inbox as a temporary holding place where you need to start processing emails. Each time you process your email, the goal should be to have your inbox count at zero. Psychologically it is much better to know that you have managed your email and that you only have to process whatever is in your inbox. When your inbox is full of email, it makes it very hard to look for certain messages that you need to reply to, especially if you have to scan through hundreds of emails.Video:

Strategy 2: Single Task

  1. Delete all email you do not need to respond to. If you don’t have the time to complete your essential job functions, answering miscellaneous emails needs to fall off your to-do list. Note: If you have subscription lists you find you keep deleting, unsubscribe from the list.
  2. Save for later articles, videos, surveys. Set aside time in your day to do this. Put these in a "to watch/read" later list of folder or use Pocket to save things for later.
  3. Aim for a 24-hour turnaround - If you reply within about 24 hours, you’re still being professional and many issues get sorted out without you. Recognize when the pressure to reply is real and required for things to get done, and when it is all in your head to “appear” responsive.
  4. Defer. Place tough emails on to-do list, use Superstars or Labels as your "action flags" in your email to come back to those emails later, or use the snooze feature to have it temporarily removed from your inbox to come back at a later time. Most of us work best when focusing on a single task for 45 minutes at a time and taking a short break afterward. Continue clearing out your inbox (single task) and later come back to message that needs more thoughtful reply.
  5. By-pass email if you can get the task taken care of by popping over to someone’s office or with a 5-minute phone call, do that instead.
  6. Schedule (in your calendar) times to check your email - mid morning, before lunch, early afternoon, before leaving office, turn off any type of notifier that lets you know you have new email.


Do you have any personal email strategies to share?


  1. Use one or several Gmail tools/features or email strategies to manage/organize your email.
  2. Share with the class what you've done.



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