How to Use Gmail Filters to Experience Email Bliss

What are Gmail filters, and why should you use them? Most simply, filters allow you to create rules in Gmail that auto-sort, tag and label your information so it’s so much easier to find. Even better, you set them once, and they work forever. It’s simple automation at it’s finest!

On any given day, hundreds of emails likely flood your inbox – or more realistically, inboxes. On top of work-related emails, there’s the school information, Amazon notifications, bank statements and the endless, endless lists of promo emails that you don’t even remember signing up for.

As working moms, busy professionals, and simply humans in this century, it’s entirely too easy to miss out on the important information amidst all the clutter. I’m looking at you, library almost-due and overdue notices.

Unsubscribing from non-critical information is one way to go, but often there’s that occasional email that you do want and don’t want to miss out on.

Using filters to create Gmail rules can reduce, if not eliminate, the need for a ‘junk email’ address. You get to make sure the emails you want to see are always front and center, and still have easy access to the rest of the emails you may occasionally want to see. Am I the only one that has far too many email subscriptions that I don’t read very often but just can’t quite bring myself to unsubscribe from?

All of this brings us back to: How do you easily remove the clutter to focus on what’s important – without ditching it entirely?

We set up rules in Gmail to do the work for us!

Since I’ve created Gmail rules, I now have filters that send almost all of my emails to the relevant folder – automagically “filing” them away for me. It’s genius. I’m a self-identified lazy perfectionist on a quest to automate as much of my life as possible. I’m so thankful for the reduced decision fatigue that comes from the simple act of setting up Gmail filters.

Now, at this point, you may be asking yourself (or me in your head), “Sarah, this is great and all, but what filters should I set up? And how do I do it?!”

I’m so glad you asked! Let’s get to it:

Decide which Gmail filters (or labels) you want to use

Step One: Decide how we want to label, or categorize our emails

There are a few schools of thought to this. One, is to go as simple as possible, like I outline in my super simple email organization tips. In this case, you would create only two labels: Follow Up and Reference. If you were working in Outlook, I would still recommend this strategy. However, Gmail makes it so easy to create and apply labels, that I recommend a few more:

Categories for Work Email

By Client: If you work in a client based business, it may make sense to have labels specifically for your larger clients. I would suggest labels for your top 3-10 clients, with a catch all “Other Clients” for the rest.

By topic: If you don’t work directly with clients, and/or work with multiple types of clients, I’d recommend sorting by topic, project or area of operations. For example, if you work in Finance, this could be Annual Planning, Quarterly Reporting, Monthly Forecasting, etc.

Categories for Personal Email

Think about life domains and major categories of emails you receive. Some examples of common categories are:

  • Household Operations (Bills, Bank Statements, etc)
  • Kids (School, Drs, Activities, etc)
  • Newsletters
  • Shopping / Stores
  • Travel
  • Career-Related
  • Personal Development

Sweet! Nicely done. Now that we’ve decided what category labels we want, let’s move on to step two.

Step Two: Set up Gmail labels

Set up Gmail labels by following these steps

  1. Select Settings -> “See all Settings”
  2. Click on ‘Labels’ in the header bar.
  3. Scroll down past System Labels and Categories until you get to “Labels.” The first thing you should see is a button to “Create New Label.”
  4. Click “Create New Label.”
  5. Type in your label, then click “Create.”
  6. Repeat until you’ve created all your labels.
  7. Celebrate! Nice work, you did it, you’re amazing!
Learning how to set up Gmail filters has changed my life! It's so great to not have to sort through the junk to find key emails. #inboxorganization #gmail #organizationtips

How to Set Up Gmail Filters

Now that we’ve got our labels created, let’s set up our actual Gmail filters.

1. Select an email.

2. From the top menu bar, select “More.”

3. Select “Filter messages like these.”

How to set up Gmail filters #inboxorganization #organizationtips #email #gmail #workingmom

4. Create Filter with this search.

How to set up Gmail filters #inboxorganization #organizationtips #email #gmail #workingmom

5. Apply the label (if you forgot to add a label above, you can add new labels here, or select from the list you already created).

6. Decide whether or not it should Skip the Inbox (hint: If it has a label, it probably should skip the inbox).

7. Check the “Also apply filter to [number] matching conversations.”

8. Click “Create Filter”

How to set up Gmail filters #inboxorganization #organizationtips #email #gmail #workingmom

Enjoy the bliss that comes from automation

You’ve done it! You can now sit back, enjoy a tiny piece of automated life and reduced decision fatigue and experience email bliss!

Setting up filters is a great one-time action that will save you time and energy every day moving forward. Take 5 minutes today and set up your email filters.

Or…at least until you sign up for a bunch more newsletters, and your kids join a bunch more activities. 😳 Let’s be real here. As much as Marie Kondo says any organizing should be one and done, it’s just not. This one-time action is more realistically a ‘once a year’ action. But isn’t that so much better than daily hunting for key info?

RELATED: How to quickly catch up on email

RELATED: Why I don’t strive for Inbox Zero: super simple email organization

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