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”
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”
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.
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.
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!
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