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How To Organize Your Gmail Account
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Over the course of the year it's easy to subscribe to a lot of email mailing lists. Every time you sign up for a new service most likely you opt in to receive updates from them via emails. It's very easy to start receiving 20-30 emails a day after awhile. Once you start receiving that amount of email it becomes increasingly difficult keeping track of the important emails.

Gmail Email Organization Tip #1 - Unsubscribe

Today when you open up your Gmail account look at all the new email you have received. Ask yourself do you still use their product or service? Do you get any value from their emails? If the answer to either question is no I would suggest that you consider unsubscribing from their email list. If you are not using their product or service and you are not getting any type of value from them, then why let your inbox get clogged with their emails?

Gmail Email Organization Tip #2 - Labels

You are really limiting yourself if you don't use labels. In case you didn't know gmail will let you label emails. Go to your inbox and click the check box to the left of an email. Then go to the top of your inbox and click on the label button. You will have the option of creating a new label. After you create a new label and apply it to that email, your label will show up in green to the right of the persons name who sent you the email.

This might not sound like a whole lot, but it can be extremely useful. Have you ever tried searching your gmail account using the search box, but you were unable to find the email you were looking for even though you know it's in your email account somewhere? This is where labels come in really handy. If you have all your emails labeled it makes finding them a breeze. Combine labels with filters and your well on your way to being organized.

Gmail Email Organization Tip #3 - Filters

Gmail lets you setup filters on your email. You can decide that whenever you receive an email from a certain person, domain, or email address you can have it automatically apply a label, archive it, or send it straight to the trash.

Setting up a filter is similar to setting up a label. You put a check mark in one of the check boxes to the left of your email. Now at the top of your email you will want to click on the "More" button which is directly to the right of the "Label" but you used in Tip#1. You are going to click on "Filter Messages Like These".

After you do that, a orangish create a filter box will open on the screen. On the first screen it will allow you to filter incoming email based on the following fields:

  • From: you can enter an email address here. I typically like to enter @domainname I figure I want to have the same label on all emails from that domain. A lot of times you might be receiving email from info@domainname, thomas@domainname, donotreply@domainname. by leaving the @domainname you will be able to filter all of them with just one filter instead of three
  • To: you can filter the emails based on who it was sent to. I never use this one. I'm not sure if I would know how to use it. If you have any ideas let me know in the comments section after the article.
  • Subject: You can have Gmail organize your email by the words in the subject line. I typically don't use this one either. I usually do just fine with the From: option.
  • Has the Words: This option will sort the email if it has the words you specify in the body of the email
  • Doesn't Have the Words: This is the exact opposite of the "Has words option"
  • Has an Attachment: You can have it filter by whether or not the email has an attachment

What's the Big Deal?

At this point you might be wondering what the big deal is about filters. Below those boxes there are three buttons "cancel" "test search" and "Next step". Cancel is self explanatory. Test search will let you search your email account and see what emails will show up based on your criteria. This is useful to make sure you are getting only the emails that you want with your criteria. The Next Step button is where the fun begins.

Let The Fun Begin - Next Step

Click on the "Next Step" button. Now you can tell Gmail what to do with the email that matches the criteria based on what you put in the boxes on the previous screen. You can have Gmail:

  • Automatically archive it: Great for those email lists that you still want to get emails from but don't want them clogging up your inbox.
  • Mark as Read:
  • Star It:
  • Apply a Label: This is the true beauty. You don't have to manually apply labels to all your incoming labels. Take the time to setup a filter and then Gmail will do the work for you from then on.
  • Forward It: Gmail lets you automatically forward it to another email account. You have to verify you're the owner though.
  • Delete It: 'Nuff said.
  • Never Send It To Spam: This is the equivalent of "whitelisting" an email address
  • Always/Never Mark It As Important: This is a relatively new option. You may have noticed those yellow arrow things on your emails. That is what it's talking about.

After you select what you want Gmail to do with the emails that match your filter you click on create filter. However, Gmail gives you the nifty option of applying the filter that you just made to emails currently in your email account that match your filter. This saves you the time from having to go back and assign labels manually to all of your emails.

Putting it All Together

I think filters are really powerful things. One of my favorite things to use them for are receipts. I buy a lot of things online and typically my receipt gets emailed to me. I have a label set up that is "2011 receipts". Everytime I get a receipt by email I apply that label. Then when it's time for taxes all I have to do is click on that label and there are all my receipts. I don't have to spend 10 hours digging through thousands of emails to find my receipts.

How are you going to use labels and filters? How many email lists are you going to unsubscribe from? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.


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