Inbox organization doesn’t have to leave you wanting to run and hide! Follow these 3 easy steps and you’ll be on your way to a cleaner and more organized inbox.
When you hear the phrase “inbox organization”, what is your knee-jerk reaction? If it’s to cringe and run in the other direction, I don’t blame you! Dealing with an overcrowded and unorganized inbox can feel a little like cleaning out your junk drawer. *wink* One of my personal goals this year is to be more intentional about the content I consume, which includes doing a bit of inbox organization. I’ve come up with some basic tips I am currently using that I want to share with you so you can also get your inbox under control.
Taking time to unsubscribe from those brands or companies that you no longer shop at or identify with will go a long way in cutting down on the amount of emails you receive. All you need to do is scroll down to the bottom of the email and find the ‘unsubscribe’ link. It might be really tiny, or you may have to expand the email to see it, but it’s there. If you still want to receive emails from a particular company or brand, many of them allow you to change your preferences and update the frequency of emails. It may take a few days for the new settings to kick in, but once they do, you’ll start seeing a lot less unwanted emails clogging up your inbox.
Use labels and filters
Creating labels and filters is something my husband taught me to do to help with my inbox organization. It’s perfect for those emails I actually do want to have coming to me. Basically, you create labels (or folders) that put certain emails directly into them when they are delivered to your inbox based on the filters you create. For example, if you receive emails from kid’s clothing companies, you can set up a filter so those emails don’t show up in your inbox. Instead they will go into the folder you’ve created and if you want to look at emails from kid’s clothing companies, you can go into the folder. (Side note: This can also help cut down on impulse buys!) It’s easy to set up, but it can take a little bit of time. You may want to spread it out over a few days depending on what needs to be done.
Here’s how to set up labels and filters in Gmail:
Step 1: Open your Gmail and click on Gear icon in the upper right hand section and select Settings.
Step 2: Go to the Labels tab (second one in from the left). Select the ‘create new label’ button. Create a few labels for the different types of emails you receive. Some examples are: kids clothes, daily deals, school and family. Once you’ve created a few, move onto the next step. If the word ‘label’ is confusing to you, think of it as a ‘category’. This is actually where it shows up on the left hand side of your Gmail inbox.
Step 3: Go to the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab (fifth one in from the left). Select the ‘create a new filter’ button. You will then see a little window pop up that looks like this:
These are the different ways you can choose to filter your emails as they come into your inbox. I’ve included a brief description of what each one means and how it can be used to filter and organize your inbox.
- From: Filter by who the email is coming from by entering this formula – *@domain name. The star indicates to Gmail that it doesn’t matter what is before the domain name, it will filter it to the appropriate folder (you select this in a minute).
- To: Mostly used for when you have been cc’d or bcc’d on an email and you are only interested in a response from a certain person. Generally not used in personal email systems.
- Subject: Filter by a certain word by entering this formula – *word*. This will take the root word and filter it out. For example, you might choose the word ‘sale’ and Gmail will also filter for the word ‘sales’. This could also be useful if you are looking for a deal on something specific, like furniture or home decor.
- Has the words: Filters by what is found within the email. No star is needed. Gmail filters work best when you tell it what to look for, not what not to look for.
- Doesn’t have: See explanation for ‘has the words’.
- Size: Filters by ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ and then you choose the file size in either MB, KB or bytes. This applies if you receive a lot of attachments to your email inbox.
- Has attachment: Check this box to filter emails that have attachments and also have the other filters you have entered.
- Don’t include chats: This refers to Gmail’s chat platform, Hangouts. Select this option if you don’t want the words you are filtering for to be searched for in your chats.
*NOTE* I recommend opening up another tab or window with your Gmail account so you can click on those emails you want to filter and find their domain name really easily. Make it convenient for yourself to find the information you need to help you create your filters more quickly.
Step 4: Click the ‘Continue’ button. It will take you to the next part of filtering that lets Gmail know what to do with the emails that come into your inbox. There are 11 options listed under the ‘when a message arrives” (see the picture below).
Obviously everyone has different priorities when it comes to what emails they want to see, but I would suggest that these three are the most important ones:
- Apply the label: Select the label from the drop down menu that you created in Step 1 so Gmail knows where to send emails that come into your inbox with the filters you just created.
- Also apply filter to ____ matching conversations: Check this box because it allows Gmail to retroactively apply the filters you just created to emails already in your inbox.
- Skip the Inbox (Archive It): This one is totally personal preference. Basically this is going to tell Gmail that you don’t want to see the email in your inbox, but to send it directly to the label you’ve created. If you do this, then you will just need to go into the label and view the emails there instead of seeing them in your general inbox.
Step 5: Select the ‘Apply filter’ button.
*NOTE* You can send multiple filters to the same label. For example, if you create a label called ‘kids clothes’, then you can create filters for Carters, OshKosh, etc to all go into that label.
Don’t overwhelm yourself
Everyone has different ideas and limits about what is considered a lot. Some people get overwhelmed quickly while others can just keep on going. The key to email inbox organization is to do it at your own pace, but stick with it! Set aside a bit of time each day when you can work on unsubscribing. Then, when you have less emails in your box, it will be easier to create the labels and filters. Something I like to do is just work on the emails within a certain parameter, such as just one page of emails or through a specific date. Slowly but surely, you’ll get through them all!
Inbox organization can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming to clear it out and make space for the emails you don’t want to miss. If you follow the steps I listed above, I think you’ll be surprised at what at difference a little inbox organization can do for you!
Do you have any other tips to share on inbox organization? What are your pain points when it comes to organizing your inbox?