3 Great Examples of Using Gmail Filters for Productivity

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gmail-filters-productivityIf you (like most of MUO readers, I suppose) receive and send quite a few emails daily, you should be using Gmail for two simple reasons: it’s free and feature-rich.

One of the best Gmail features is the ability to create and use customized Gmail filters. We’ve seen a lot of possible uses of Gmail filters already including creating an automatic email response and setting up Gmail SMS alerts. But most often, filters are used for increasing productivity and here are three examples to show you how.

1. Maintain To-Do Lists

You can send yourself email messages and store them in a separate folder until the task is completed:

Step 1: Create a label to store the task reminders.

  • Go: Settings -> Labels
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page, put the label name – TO-DO in our case – and click “Create”

Step 2: Create a filter for these messages:

  • Go: Settings -> Filters
  • Create the following filter:
    • From:me
    • To:me
    • Subject:TO-DO
  • Click “Next step” and there:
    • check “Skip the inbox” (you don’t want them to get stuck in your inbox);
    • check “Star it” (you will be able to remove the star after the task is competed);
    • Apply label “TO-DO”

using gmail filters

Now whenever you want to remember to do anything, send yourself a message with the task details and don’t forget to include “TO DO” in the email subject:

using gmail filters

2. Send Reminders to Others

This one is particularly useful if you have a few people (freelancers, partners, writers, etc) you manage. You can send reminders all of them automatically.

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There are two possible options to do that:

Option #1
Follow all the steps in tip 1 above but:

  • Instead of filtering messages with TO-DO, filter those that have “reminder” in the subject;
  • Instead of storing the messages in the TO-DO folder, forward them to the person you manage:

(Note: you will have to create a separate filter for each person you manage, there is no way to list two or more recipient addresses in that step as far as I know):

using gmail filters

Option #2
You can set up email reminders in services like RememberTheMilk and then automatically forward them to the people you manage.

  • First set up reminders within the time management service you are using – with RememberTheMilk this looks as follows:

    gmail filters advanced

  • Then create a Gmail filter to forward the reminder to the person you manage (just like in the above step but set up the search parameters accordingly i.e. the forwarded messages should be sent from the time management tool you are using):

    gmail filters advanced

3. Filter Google Calendar Events

You can organize your Google Calendar reminders more effectively by setting them up to go straight to your EVENTS folder.

Step 1: Create a label to store your events:

  • Go: Settings -> Labels
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page, put the label name – EVENTS in our case – and click “Create”

Step 2: Create a filter to organize your events: set up all messages from “calendar-notification@google.com” to you to go straight to your EVENTS folder:

gmail filters advanced

More Gmail Productivity Tips and Tricks

Useful Tips for Email Productivity in General:

And how do you get organized using email filters and rules? Do you have any tips to share?

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21 Comments - Write a Comment



I searched much in internet about gmail filters and how to use them, but have never found better article like this. Top notch!

Ann Smarty

Thanks, it is awesome that you found the examples useful


Geoff Jennings

Even better than needing to add TODO to the subject line, use googles + feature. Adding +word to the email address sends an email to just the same. That is, both:

Will go to the mailbox of Name@gmail.com

But you can create a filter, as you described, to filter out the one Todo, by filtering on the TO: line.

This allows you to create a contact named TODO in your contact list. Start typing TODO in the to: line of a new email, and it’ll popup. I’ve been using it for years.



The AND operator should allow you send it to more than one person. I haven’t checked it though.

Ann Smarty

I tried. It says that there can be no space in that field, so it doesn’t work…


On most (non-Gmail) Email clients to add more than one address in a line you would have it as:


Just a comma between the addresses and no space. I have to admit I haven’t tried this with the Gmail forward feature though.


Just tried my previous suggestion of using a comma between Email addresses. It didn’t work.

Ann Smarty

Yes, I tried many ways. Never worked…


I don’t know if this is the same as what you’re talking about, but I created one filter that accepts messages from a number of listed users and attached the label “friends” to it. I had to use trial-and-error to determine how to separate the e-mail addresses and I finally found that the vertical bar works (“|”).


richard williams

rather than using the title to filter on, use the multiple addresses available on gmail with the + operator. send mail to: me+to-do@gmail.com this leaves the title field open as a label for the task.


Anthony V. Gibby

Nice tips, did the TO DO option.

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