How I Declutter My Inbox With Gmail Filters

posted by Andrea | 03/23/2017
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Due to my blog and all the different virtual assistant jobs I’ve had over the years, I currently have a very long list of email addresses that all go to one Gmail Inbox!

And even though I get an alarming number of emails every day, my Inbox almost always has less than 5 emails when I “close up shop” for the night (my goal is always zero emails… I don’t always hit it, but often, I do!)

No, I don’t spend all day checking and responding to email… and no, I don’t just delete them without responding. Instead, I use filters to automatically file my incoming emails to the appropriate folders — this way, they don’t even show up in my Inbox and I can respond to emails in batches when I have time.

For example, I get email notifications any time someone comments on my blog, and instead of having those emails clutter up my Inbox all day long, I have them automatically forwarded (or filtered) to a separate folder labled “Follow Up”. Then, at various points during the day, I take a chunk of time to read through those comments and respond as necessary.

I also created a filter for each of my VA jobs. This means that whenever I get an email for a particular job, it goes directly to that folder and I can then handle all the emails at one time — saving me lots of time and keeping my Inbox completely clutter-free.

If you’ve never done it before, here’s how to setup a filter in Gmail:

Step 1: Get to the “Filters” tab

Click on the “gear” in the top right corner of your Inbox, then click on “Settings”. Finally, click on “Filters”. NOTE: Sometimes it will say “Filters and Blocked Addresses”

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Step 2: Create Your First Filter

Once you click on the “Filters” tab, you should see a link towards the bottom (center) of the window that says “Create a New Filter”. When you click on that link, the following form will pop up.

Fill out the information and then click “Create filter with this search”

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Step 3: Set Up Your Filter

After you “create your filter” another box will pop up with options for your newly created filter.

I ALWAYS click “Skip the Inbox” so I don’t ever have to look at the filtered emails until I’m ready.

Also, you’ll want to make sure to direct the filtered email to one of your previously created labels.

For example, I direct all the emails with my blog comments to a “Follow up” label. I direct all my VA job emails to specific labels created for each of those jobs/clients.

I also check the box “Never send it to Spam” because I don’t want to miss any of those important emails.

Once you have the the filter set up how you want it (you can always edit it later) click the blue “Create Filter” button.

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Step 4: Use Your Filters

After you have your filters set up, you will no longer get those emails in your inbox — instead, they will go directly to the folders you specified in step 3 above.

However, you’ll easily be able to tell when you have unread messages in any of your folders by the bold number to the right of the folder.

Once you have a few unread emails in a specific folder, you can click on that folder and read, respond, file, or delete as necessary.

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Step 5: Edit or Delete Filters

Once your filters are set up, you can easily change, edit, or delete them at any time via the Settings tab.

So that’s how to set up a filter in Gmail! 

I know this might sound like a bit of a hassle to get them set up — but I promise it doesn’t take long. And once you create one filter, the rest are so much easier!

The main benefit for me is that I’m not staring at an inbox full of emails all day long — feeling like I must respond ASAP. Instead, I pick and chose my email time based on when it works for my family, and I can deal with my emails in an organized and efficient manner.

In case you’re wondering, I normally respond to emails first thing in the morning before the kids wake up, during nap/rest time, when Dave gets home from school, and after the kids are in bed.

It helps that I can quickly CHECK my emails throughout the day from my phone. If there is something super urgent, I can quickly respond — otherwise, I’m able to think through responses in my head and quickly type them out when I’m at the computer again.

I haven’t done exact calculations, but if I had to estimate, I guess my filters save me AT LEAST a full hour every day — probably more. Plus, my Inbox is always clutter free — which psychologically makes me feel less stressed every time I check my email!

Do you use filters? Or do you have any other time-saving email tips?

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25 comments

  1. Bridget

    06/20/2017

    How does this work on your computer and iPhone? These screenshots are from web browser vesting of gmail but does it translate to Mail app on Mac and iPhone Mail in same way? I know Mail also has SmartMailboxes and filters but it looks like you’ve done it all in gmail.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I don’t use the Mail App — I do everything through Gmail.

    [Reply]

  2. BB

    03/23/2017

    Oh, HALLELUJAH!! Thank you so much for explaining this! This will make reading and taking care of emails SO MUCH EASIER!!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    BB

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — glad to help!

    [Reply]

  3. Blogging Tips

    01/21/2015

    […] Be A Gmail Superstar- Part 1 Getting Organized In The New Year: Emails How To Configure Multiple Email Addresses In Gmail Creating An Automated Daily Email Program Using Mailchimp Declutter Your Inbox Using Gmail Filters […]

  4. Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean

    06/27/2013

    i know this is an older post but quick question. I made a couple of filters so that some of my emails can go straight to folders and skip the inbox like you suggested, but now all the emails i send that contain those words or in reply to emails that are going to those folders are also showing up in that folder? Is there a way to make it so i don’t see the emails i send, only ones that are sent to me?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, I actually don’t create filters with specific words, I create filters with email addresses so that might be the difference?? I’m honestly not sure though, I don’t see any customizable options that would prevent sent emails from you going into that folder. However, I’ve also never had the issues you describe. One thing you could do is set up the filter for emails coming “TO” your address. Then maybe when you send out an email, your address won’t be in the “TO” field so it won’t go into that folder.
    Sorry, that’s all the help I’ve got!

    [Reply]

  5. John D.

    01/17/2013

    You can also create time-based Gmail filters with Google Apps Script : http://www.johneday.com/422/time-based-gmail-filters-with-google-apps-script

    [Reply]

  6. Tanna

    01/02/2013

    Thank you for this post!! Great directions! I’ve been inundated with useful emails and my project work emails and was struggling with how to organize – I knew there must be a way to do it!! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  7. Ray

    12/11/2012

    I’ve spend hours trying to get filters to work, but they don’t. Everything still goes into my inbox regardless of how I set up the filters. Gmail isn’t all that google claims.

    [Reply]

  8. david g

    08/11/2012

    thank you… i googled what i thought was a bit of a complex phrase for help:

    “how to set up gmail so specific emails skip inbox and go into a folder?”

    and your post was the first result. and it was perfect. way to go Andrea… way to go google. 😉

    #loveitwhentheinterwebsworkthewaywewant

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Haha — that’s awesome David! So glad Google worked and that my blog post was helpful for you!
    Enjoy your clutter-free inbox 🙂

    [Reply]

  9. Awkward Kitchenette

    05/29/2012

    Great tutorial! Doing it now!

    [Reply]

  10. Becky Bishop

    04/20/2012

    BEAUTIFUL photos and GREAT information! Thank you for sharing. Also – I was drooling over those staged closet pics… if only my closet could be so well-behaved!
    Smiles!
    Becky

    P.S. keep snuggling that sweet baby for as long as you can. Before you know it, they will be 24 or 26 years old (mine are!) 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. MaryEllen@TheImperfectHomemaker

    03/29/2012

    This was so helpful! I feel about 10 pounds lighter looking at my inbox now!

    [Reply]

  12. Kari

    03/29/2012

    Thanks! I have followed your tutorial, and i have a clutter free inbox. Great!

    [Reply]

  13. Danita

    03/28/2012

    Very helpful – I am just at a stage where I really could use this to organize all the different emails coming in for various projects I am involved in. I am beginning to miss emails due to the overloaded inbox at times!

    [Reply]

  14. Dana

    03/28/2012

    Orrrr, you can use the OtherInbox app! Simpler than creating a ton of filters. See Carly’s twirl here.

    [Reply]

  15. Jessica @ Budget for Health

    03/28/2012

    I just counted my filters and I have 16 of them! Recipes, dietetics, work, blog, church, bills, confirmation receipts…I made sure to select the option that will show filters that are normally hidden when there is a new message. That way I don’t have to see the whole list all the time and will see new messages as they pop up. I love it!

    [Reply]

  16. HighDesertGal

    03/28/2012

    My daughter introduced me to filters about 1 1/2 yrs ago. I don’t know how I got along without them. I also use the multiple in-box feature with the filters. I have an “upcoming” filter for any travel that hasn’t been completed to hold my boarding docs, rental car reservations and hotel information. Then when completed, I delete the label and they go into the travel archive. I love the fact that I can also color code the labels, too.

    [Reply]

  17. Wendy

    03/28/2012

    Ohh… I so needed this! I am on so many different mailing lists and my email is always so cluttered – to the point I have a really hard time keeping up with the comments on my site. It’s so bad that often I find one months later that I should have responded to and didn”t. This is the perfect solution! Thanks!

    [Reply]

  18. Beth

    03/28/2012

    Thank you so much for these tips! I make it a priority to keep my inbox cleaned up and this will make that job SO much easier! I can see how this saves you so much time! And being able to group emails and go through them all together will help me be more focused on that area and thus more productive! Thanks again! Off to set up my filters now… 🙂

    [Reply]

  19. Suzanne

    03/28/2012

    Perfect timing! Another blog made a reference to filters today, but didn’t give instructions so I googled how to do it. I read your post just after spending a bunch of time creating filters, but would have been easier if I had read your post first!

    The one thing I can’t seem to find is how to get my “parent” folder to show how many emails are in the folders that get rolled up into it. I created my folders all in one file called personal. I can see 2 unread in one and 10 in another, but I thought the personal folder would show 12??

    [Reply]

  20. Jessi

    03/28/2012

    I LOVE Gmail filters, they are the best! I don’t get tons of emails but I definitely use the filters to separate them into folders so I can deal with one “topic” at a time.

    My favorite part is that you can create a filter from an email, so I don’t have to plan ahead and know what I’m going to filter. If I see an email pop into my inbox I can have GMail automatically create a filter from it and grab the necessary info like email address or subject without having to know it beforehand. So useful!

    [Reply]

  21. Joanna

    03/28/2012

    I bet that would work for my bargain hunting sites too. I’m going to have to try that. Thanks!

    [Reply]