I’m an organization nut. I geek out on keeping things tidy, in their place, with nice labels, so that if I leave someone knows exactly how to keep the ship afloat with me gone. Naturally a messy inbox is not something I can tolerate very well. But with an endless stream of emails – wanted and unwanted – it can become a challenge to bring order to the chaos. This is where I’ve found most success with Gmail filters and labels. Using a combination of the two, I am now able to quickly access emails related to a specific topic, from a certain person, or whatever I want.
This automation allows me to labels emails for categories that I need to quickly filter based on criteria I have pre-selected. Then, when I need to review emails related to a specific subject, I can easily view them by selecting the corresponding label.
A filter is like an auto-sorting mechanism that allows you to pretty much establish your if:then parameters and then apply select actions. To keep my inbox organized, I use this to autmoatically apply labels to emails I can anticipate.
Now when I receive an email from my bank it can be labeled with my “Bills” label, when my mom sends me one of her lengthy rambling emails it gets my “Family” label, and so forth. This has been especially helpful in keeping track of my auto-pay bills and spending alerts, something that comes in handy every month when tallying up expenses.
How to Set up a Filter from a Specific Email
- Log into your Gmail (or Google Mail) account at mail.google.com
- Select the email you want to filter in the future. For this example, I want to filter all emails from Google.
- In the upper right of the email frame, click the downward arrow to display a menu. Select “Filter messages like this”.
- This prompts your inbox to search for emails from that address, and displays the Filter options box. This is your ‘if’ statement, there are a lot of options here.
- Filter by the email From field
- Filter by the email To field
- Filter by a keyword in the Subject line
- Filter by the inclusion/omission of select words from the body of the email
- Filter based on an attachment
- Filter by email size
- Input your desired criteria and click “Create filter with this search”. For the sake of this article, I’m going to keep it simple by just filtering by the emails From field
- Now we are ready to apply our ‘then’ statement, choosing the action based on our previous criteria.
- Select the label we want to apply every time we receive an email from that address. You also have an option to create a new label at this step.
- As you can see, we entered "Google" as the label name. Which brings us back to the Filter prompt. You have an option to apply it to the previous matches of your Filter options by selecting the “Also apply filter to matching conversations” checkbox. I suggest using this to keep your inbox consistent and to further categorize your inbox for easy access.
- When we return to our inbox, we see the "Google" label applied to the conversations which matched the criteria selected. Boom, filters are in place!
More on Labels
Think of a label like a tag; they help you categorize your emails. You can apply multiple labels to one email, easily add/remove them manually or automatically (see the Create Filters section above), and give them a color to easily catch your attention.
Labels come in handy when sifting through the thousands of emails that are already in your life and will help keep the new ones in check. Try creating filters that relate to ongoing activities you know you need to refer to often. Set up a “Bills” label for your online billing accounts, or a “Shopping” label for the daily deals emails you receive – the possibilities are endless.
How to Quickly Apply and Customize a Label
- When you are in an email you want to label, select the tag in icon below the search bar. Here, a dropdown of your labels will appear.
- Select the label you wish to add (you can add multiples) and click "Apply".
- Your labels are listed on the left hand side of your inbox. Select the square to the left of the text of the label to change its color, edit its name, and toggle whether or not you want it to be visible in the main label list.
You’re done, it's that easy! Using filters and labels act as a great way to automatically file your emails into specific places for quick access when you need them.
Get creative with your filters! Maybe you filter nice messages you send yourself when you are having a bad day to improve your mood, because why not? Playing with the colors of labels also help you establish a hierarchy and urgency to certain tasks if you so choose. Find a system that works for you, and get filtering!