Gmail Is Launching A "Nudge" Feature So You Reply To Important Emails

Google recently announced a massive update to the Gmail platform, complete with a bunch of sweet new features, like confidential mode, high-priority notifications, and nudging. What is Gmail nudge, and how can it help you use your email more productively? Here's what we know so far.

Nudging, according to Google, helps you manage those important emails you couldn't respond to right away and swore you'd go back to... and then possibly forgot. (Oh hey. That's me.) What happens is the feature will proactively remind you to reply to emails you've left cold and lonely. If several days have passed and you haven't taken action, Gmail will display in bright text, "You haven't responded to this in five days. Reply now?" Why, yes! I would love to.

While managing your inbox can become a chore in and of itself, nudge is one new feature that will help you stay on top of your messages, so that your Gmail account won't constantly tell you you have 458 unread emails.

If you don't yet see nudge in your own Gmail account, keep calm and email on. The rollout is currently in progress, so it's possible you don't yet have it. You can check by clicking the gear icon in the top right corner of your inbox and clicking settings.

Courtesy of Google

Once in your settings, you may see an option to try the new Gmail. While we don't know these details for sure yet, it's safe to say there will be an option to turn nudge off, should it end up not being your cup of tea.

Nudge isn't the only feature Gmail is adding to help you work more efficiently and keep your inbox under control. They're also introducing something called unsubscribe, which will suggest newsletters and offers you don't seem to really care about and should thus unsubscribe from. That seems like a much smarter decision compared to what I normally do, which is spend 10 minutes every day deleting 400 emails from my nine Gmail accounts that I never read. Ever.

I mentioned earlier the high-priority notifications, yet another new addition. Because Gmail is so smart and brainy, it will learn which emails and contacts you respond to most, and send you notifications when you forget to reply.

Finally, the smart reply feature — which was previously available on mobile — is coming to desktop. This uses AI to figure out basic responses to emails based on how you personally speak. For instance, if you often respond to emails with, "You got it!" as opposed to, "OK," Gmail will know it and react accordingly. Brilliant.

Courtesy of Google

While it might all seem quite complex for email, we need the help more than we think. Why? Simple. We spend a wild amount of time sifting through our inboxes. According to an infographic from Scoro, a data management software company, email is the biggest time-wasting activity in our workday. They report we waste an average of 30 minutes on this alone. But that's not all. It's not just the time spent on the emails themselves that we lose — it's also the time we then spend trying to get back to whatever task we were working on before. That adds up to an additional 16 minutes.

Other research returns numbers that aren't nearly as conservative. For example, research from Carleton University found people spend far more time at work on email — to the tune of 33 percent (and 30 percent of the time, the emails aren't even important or urgent). This doesn't even get into the conversation of the time we spend on email at home (half of the total time we're working).

Clearly, we need a little help.

Email is so quick and accessible, we use it for the most casual of requests, as opposed to any other mode of communication. Instead of simply walking to someone's cubicle or office and asking if they can look over a slideshow presentation or want to get lunch with you, we simply shoot 'em a message — sucking up valuable minutes, in the process. A tool like nudge could easily make for a smoother and more productive workday.