Email, necessary evil or overlooked productivity tool? I used to think email was more annoying than voicemail, now I love looking at my neat little inbox that clearly shows me what I need to do on a particular day. It makes being productive easy.
In order to make your inbox a useful tool, you need to use the features that were built into your email suite to help you manage the volume. One of the most powerful and underutilized tools are Gmail filters.
Filters are rules that you set to tell Gmail how to process your email so you don’t have to do it yourself manually. You can tell Gmail how to handle the less important busywork emails so that all that’s left in your inbox is the important stuff. And they’re easy to set up. Spend literally 5 minutes each week adding a filter or two and before you know it, your inbox will manage itself. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
In this post, I’m going to teach you how to automate the process of filing, replying to, and automatically deleting emails in Gmail using filters so your inbox can keep itself clean.
Method 1: Change Your Settings
To create a new rule or access your existing rules (so you can modify or delete them) click on the gear icon in the top right, then Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses.
Click on Create a New Filter. A box will appear under the search bar where you will be able to identify what emails you want this filter to apply to.
These are the search parameters available:
- Has the Words
- Doesn’t Have
- Has Attachment
- Don’t Include Chats
To create a filter for all the emails from your client, you would use the From field and enter their email firstname.lastname@example.org (enter their email of course).
You can use multiple parameters together to get more specific. If you get two kinds of emails from one person, say a newsletter and special offers and you want to handle those differently, you could use From plus Subject or Has the Words to focus on the a subset of emails from one sender.
Once you’ve identified the emails you want to target with this filter, push the Create Filter link next to the search button.
Now you get to decide what you want to do with these emails. Here are your options:
- Skip the Inbox (Archive it)
- Mark as read
- Star it
- Apply the label: (specify the label)
- Forward it: (specify who to forward it to)
- Delete it
- Never send it to Spam
- Always mark it as important
- Never mark it as important
- Categorize as: (choose the category)
- Also apply filter to 0 matching conversations.
You can select multiple options for the same email. For that client email, you can use Forward it to send a copy to your assistant in addition to Always mark as important so you never miss a client email.
Method 2: Use the Search Bar
Creating a rule using the seach bar is similar to the method above. Accessing the rules from the search bar instead allows you to quickly create a filter once you’ve searched for a set of messages. This makes it easier to build filters as a part of your normal email checking workflow.
To use the search bar to set up a filter, click on the dropdown in the search bar.
You then use the following parameters to target the emails you want to create a filter for:
- Has the words
- Doesn’t have
- Date within
- Has attachment
- Don’t include chats
Unlike the rules setting above, you have two extra parameters to choose from when you use the search function: Search and Date within. These parameters are only for search and can’t be used to set up filters in Gmail.
Once you’ve set your parameters, click on Create filter next to the blue search button. Then like in the method above, tell Gmail what you would like to do with these emails by clicking on the checkboxes associated with the different options.
When you’re done, click on the Create filter button to activate the filter.
Method 3: From Within a Message
If you’re having trouble using the search parameters to target specific messages, then this third method is for you.
Select a message, click on the three dots and select filter messages like these. Gmail will then set the search parameters for you.
Gmail usually uses sender to set the search parameters, so if this is to broad of a search, you’ll have to set additional parameters manually. You’ll notice that behind the search drop down box, you’ll see the emails that the filter will apply to. If it’s too broad, add additional filters until you’re targeting the correct emails.
Once you’re happy with the emails you’re targeting, click on create filter and enter what you want to happen to the emails you’ve targeted.
Organize Your Email Inbox with Gmail Filters
Now that you know how to set up Gmail filters, spend a few minutes creating filters for some of your most volume-heavy unimportant emails. If you can remove these from your inbox, you’ll be able to focus on your most important emails.
If you need help setting up filters in Gmail or would like to train your staff on email management techniques, I work with people and businesses directly. Visit the work with me page to improve your productivity after just one session.
For more ideas on how to organize your email inbox, enter your email below to get my free ebook: Channeling the Flow, the Secret to Getting Your Email Inbox Under Control.