In How To Turn Gmail Into A Multitasking Machine (Part I), I covered a bit about setting up the tools you’ll need to consolidate your multiple email streams. We went though installing the necessary Greasemonkey script, and configuring the Firefox extension Better Gmail 2. Then, we set up nested labels to categorize your email into, and selected only the most important to be displayed in the sidebar.
We move onto Part Two. Now that we’ve set up our labels, we need to do something with them. We’ll set up the filters in this part with some Gmail filter tips, so that labeling email isn’t as painful, and is mostly automated. I find that maintaining is the hardest part of organization, so if there a bit of automated help involved, hopefully that will motivate you to keep up the hard work of sorting through your communication.
Gmail Filter Tips
Having labels set up is excellent, but that doesn’t accomplish anything in itself, unless you plan on applying labels by hand to every email you receive. However, that would make this system tedious and redundant. That’s why we’ll use filters to automate email labeling.
Click on the Settings link in the upper right hand corner of your screen. In the page that pops up, click the Filters header, and you should be greeted by a list of the filters you currently have. Click Create New Filter.
You don’t need to fill out all of the boxes; it actually is best if you fill out as few of them as necessary, as the more boxes you fill out, the more likely you are to miss emails that should fall under that filter. On the contrary, the less boxes you fill out, the more likely you are to accidentally capture unrelated emails. Thus, it goes without saying that you should only be using very specific key words to set up your filters.
For example, my school job sends out mass emails to their mailing list by addressing all mass emails to “stc-all.” Thus, I created a filter for all the emails that were directed TO: stc-all. If you have more than one keyword for a particular box, you can use AND or OR to append that keyword to the filter as well. In my above example, I could put TO: stc-all AND ucla.edu, and that would filter out emails that are only to both stc-all and ucla.edu. If I had put OR instead of AND, then the filter would single out all of the emails directed to either stc-all or ucla.edu (which, in this case, would be inadvisable, since all of the emails directed to any ucla.edu address would not necessarily be related to my job. Keep in mind though, the separate boxes represent parameters that are added onto your search. If you typed something in both TO: and FROM:, for example, your filter would only catch emails that are directed both TO: keyword 1, and FROM: keyword 2.
From here, you can do a test search to see which emails your filter catches and if the keywords you are using blanket enough of the right emails. Then, if necessary, you can adjust your keywords if they do not filter out the necessary emails. Otherwise, you can move forward and specify what you would like to name your filter and do with the emails.
If you’re applying the “Skip the Inbox” option to any of your emails, you might want to consider unsubscribing from the newsletter or asking the sender to desist. The “Mark As Read” function is great for any emails that you need to check, but don’t want necessarily cluttering your inbox. For example, I use Freecycle, and want to see all the emails sent by its members, but if left alone, I would get ten or twenty some emails from Freecycle every day. Of course, leaving it as is doesn’t impact my workflow too much, but I prefer setting them all as “read” by default so that when I’m done sorting my important emails, I can select “Select: All Read” to quickly clear out my inbox.
We’re almost done! There’s only one part to go before we hit the final bend, and learn how to keep our inboxes tidy and efficient, so we’re not swamped by the influx of emails. Take some time before the next article comes out to play around with your labels and filters, and figure out a system that works for you. Perhaps you’ll only utilize some of the tips that I gave you, and that is definitely fine.
As always, whatever works for you is always the best path to take.