Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail

Ryan Dube 23-01-2013

tips for managing gmailEveryone knows that these days, it’s pretty difficult to survive or to manage your affairs without email. In fact, most people have two or three emails to manage, so without a good handle on email management, that busy inbox can get out of control pretty fast.


I know, you’re asking yourself do we really need another article about email management? I mean, just in 2012 alone we’ve had lots of them, like Tina’s article about managing email-intense projects in Gmail Manage & Collaborate On Email Intense Projects Inside Gmail With Streak [Chrome] Streak is a powerful Gmail project management add-on for Chrome. It comes with templates for many different types of projects, for example customer support or event planning. In Streak, projects are called pipelines. You can... Read More , and her email about importing and managing multiple accounts How to Import and Manage Multiple Email Accounts in Gmail Want to manage all your email with Gmail? Here's how to add multiple emails to your Gmail account and manage them with ease. Read More .  Yaara covered Gmail’s new Compose feature Instantly Compose New Emails in Gmail With This Bookmark Trick How can you cut short the already quick process of launching Gmail and clicking on the New button to open the Compose window? Use a bookmark! Read More , Aaron discussed how to get your email to stand out How To Make Your Email Message Stand Out In A Cluttered Inbox Have you ever sent an email you felt was important only to be answered many days later, or worse forgotten about? Granted, sometimes it’s out of your control, but there are things you can do... Read More in someone else’s cluttered email box, and just recently Yaara covered canned responses Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses Don’t have time to cook lunch? No problem, grab a can. Need some camping chow that won’t go bad? Easy, get some canned food. Tired of typing the same email replies? Try canned emails! Think... Read More . Aren’t we done yet?

Well, the truth is that one of the most common problems that people have is that despite all of their best efforts, despite all of the coolest plugins and creative folders they create to hold emails, the inbox inevitably gets cluttered again.

The reason for this is that no matter how much you try to organize your inbox, if you keep the system on a manual basis – if you depend on yourself to remember to take the time to go in and manage your inbox occasionally, it’ll never happen.

Instead, it’s best to completely automate the organization of your inbox with the use of the best tools inside and outside of Gmail. In this article, I’m going to show you five things you can do right now to automate your Gmail inbox so that you never have to worry about trying to dig through the clutter to find those important emails.

5 Tips for Managing Gmail Inbox

You don’t have to keep losing control like this. All that effort to organize your inbox into nice and tidy folders doesn’t have to become wasted effort in a month when all of those things change, and your new folder system just doesn’t make sense.


The great thing about Gmail is that there are some brilliant automation tools available that you can make use of to let Gmail itself do all of the hard work for you.

Use Filters & Labels To Automate Organization

This is something a number of writers here at MUO have preached often. In fact, Craig covered Gmail filters 5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox What filters should each and every person have in their arsenal so that their inbox is as orderly as mine? I'm here to help you get started in setting up your first five filters, or... Read More pretty well back in 2011, but beyond filtering and sorting just once, it’s critical to apply filters every single time you receive a new email in your inbox that wasn’t automatically provided with one of your existing labels.

Let’s back up a little bit. Let’s say that your email box looks a little bit like mine. A confused mess of junk email, a few old labels that I created years ago, and a scattered bunch of important emails throughout. Notice that my inbox has grown to over 10,000 emails? Crazy, isn’t it?

tips for managing gmail


So, let’s start doing the work telling Gmail what to do with those emails that come into the Inbox every day. By following these steps that I’m going to cover, you’re going to notice your Inbox count of emails begin dropping a few hundred emails at a time.

First, when you see an email in your Inbox that doesn’t have a label, figure out what you want to do with it. Are they emails from a client that you have to respond to in a timely manner? Is it a Google alert with interesting stories that you’re going to want to read when you have time later? For each message, create a label name that applies.

gmail tips and tricks

Once you’ve got your new label created, open up that email and use the dropdown list on the right to select “Filter messages like this“. This will automatically create the rule required that will identify that incoming email the next time a new one arrives – usually using the sender email.


gmail tips and tricks

You can set any additional rules that make sense in your case. Beyond the sender email, you can make sure that only certain emails from that sender – such as those that have certain subject lines or with emails that contain certain words, get applied with that label.

gmail tips and tricks

For each filter, you need to tell your Gmail account how to automatically organize or manage that incoming email. In this case, I know this email address is from a particular client, and that these emails are very important, so I’m going to have Gmail automatically apply a label where I can go to answer those emails on a daily basis – no matter how much clutter is actually in my Inbox.


organize gmail

That’s because you can just click on the label on the left side of your Gmail account and you’ll only see those emails. No more important emails lost in the pile of junk mail and low-priority alerts.

Even better, beyond just applying a label, tell Gmail to always mark those as important (so the yellow flag shows up next to them), and remember to check off “Also apply filter” so that the hundreds of emails filling your Inbox get organized immediately with one click.

organize gmail

If you’ve been getting junk mail for a long time and forgot to unsubscribe from those, then it’s possible you have hundreds or even thousands of emails filling your inbox that are completely useless. When you come across those, apply a filter and instead of creating a new filter, just tap the search button.

organize gmail

This will list all of the emails in your inbox from that sender. Now you can select all of them and delete them all in bulk. Watch your bulging Inbox quickly shrink faster and faster toward zero.

Keep Informational Emails Out of Your Inbox

One thing that is very common in my Inbox is constant incoming alerts or status updates from a bunch of systems that I’ve signed up for, like Google Alerts for certain search terms, or weekly data reports from Google Analytics or Google Adsense. You really don’t have to open those and read them all the time, but you do want to store that information away.

To keep those from cluttering your inbox, create a filter and select to “Skip the Inbox”, and make sure to apply a label so that you will be able to find those emails quickly at a future date when you have the time to devote to them.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail14

By now, you should already have your inbox to a wonderfully manageable number of emails – maybe even zero!

However, we aren’t done automating that inbox. The reality is that there are still more things you can do to automatically sort and file important information without ever having to actually do it yourself.

File Attachments Automatically

Aaron first covered Liberate Your Gmail Inbox Attachments With Have you ever received an email from your boss, family member, friend or some other connection with an attachment in it, then saved that email because you wanted to access the attachment later? You probably... Read More back last year, and in my opinion it is absolutely the smartest method to keep your Gmail box size well under control.

If you receive regular reports or data from people that work for you, the odds are good that they always use the same subject when they send you those reports (probably because they’ve automated their system as well).  You can connect the service to your Gmail account so that it can automatically download those attachments to your favorite cloud storage account – like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or SkyDrive.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail15

Once you’ve signed up for the service, it’ll show up on the right side of your Gmail account any time that you open an email with an attachment. You can just click “Send to your Cloud” to send off that attachment to your favorite online storage box, without the need to spend time downloading it to your PC.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail16

This saves time, but if you want to save even more time, automate the process! You’ll see a paper clip icon at the top of your Gmail screen. Click it and choose “Automatic Filing Rules“.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail17

Now you can create something similar to the Gmail filter you’ve been applying up to this point. For example, I receive weekly Adsense reports from a client, so I’ve created a folder for the Adsense_Files in my DropBox account, and here I set up a rule to look for emails from Adsense, with the subject line from that client.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail18

Now, when sees an incoming email that matches those rules, it’ll automatically upload the file to your Cloud storage account. That means you don’t have to do a single thing – you can just rest assured that when you go to that folder in your online storage account, you’ll always have the latest files there.

This basically converts your Gmail account into an automated assistant that receives information and sorts out all of the information for you. It’s like having a personal secretary, except you don’t have to pay benefits.

File Incoming Emails As Tasks

One of the coolest things that Google could do would be to add the ability to add a filter in Gmail that automatically creates a Google Task. Unfortunately, that feature isn’t available yet, but you can at least have your Gmail account sort out certain incoming emails as tasks that you need to manually add to your list.

For example, I receive voicemails and contact form emails from readers at TopSecretWriters that I need to occasionally reply to. I don’t always have time to reply when I receive them, but I do want to reply later.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail8

To do this, I just create a filter for those emails as shown at the start of this article, and then create a new label for it, and nest that label underneath a master label I created called “TASKS_TO_ADD“.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail10

Using this approach makes your Gmail account automatically file those sorts of incoming emails that you know will have tasks associated with them, underneath that label in your navigation bar.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail19

On a daily basis, or whenever you like, you can go to those folders, check out the emails, and if you think the email warrants a further action on your part, just click on the “More” dropdown lost at the top of your gmail account and click “Add to Tasks“.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail20

This automatically sends over that email as a “task” in your Google Tasks account.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail21

Again, if you auto-archive the email and remove it from your Inbox, those sorts of emails don’t have to clutter your inbox, but you know you won’t miss them because of your daily ritual to manage “to-do” items in your email account.

Regain Control Over Your Inbox With These 5 Tips For Managing Gmail usegmail11

Use Canned Responses To Do the Grunt Work

The final tip on how to use Gmail automation to reduce your workload is through automatic canned responses.

In my case, I want Gmail to send a canned response every time I receive an email from my Top Secret Writers contact form. Just create a filter for those emails, and select “Send Canned Response“.

tips for managing gmail

Of course, you’ll have to have already created a canned response to use, but you can learn to do that in the article that Yaara recently wrote on the subject Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses Don’t have time to cook lunch? No problem, grab a can. Need some camping chow that won’t go bad? Easy, get some canned food. Tired of typing the same email replies? Try canned emails! Think... Read More .

Once you set up all of this automation in your Gmail account, you won’t have to worry so much about actively managing your Inbox manually. There’s no better way to regain control over your Inbox than to automate all of those tasks that can consume so much of your time every day.

Do you know of any other cool Gmail automation tricks to bring your Gmail inbox under control? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Robot Worker via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Email Tips, Gmail.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Anabel f.m.
    January 28, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Wow, I missed the article about, so I've discovered this service just now. Thank you, it will be very useful to me.

  2. Keith Swartz
    January 25, 2013 at 1:00 am

    CONTROL! Control, comrades; it is all about control!

  3. Kelly Buchanan
    January 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    One of the reasons I love gmail is the use of labels rather than folders. These tips along with others found here on MUO make email management much easier.

  4. James Becker
    January 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Great article! I've found that the Chrome extensions 'Boomerang' (which sends emails away until a time of your choosing) and '' ('rolls' all of your newsletters and such into a single unit, to be reviewed when you want) are very helpful. I spend most of my time at or near inbox zero as a result of using these.

  5. Bobby Lasley
    January 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    thank you ,thank you.i don't run a business I just play on the comp.but I get a lot of mail photos ect.from family that is scattered all over the world.and your article has showed me the light.i knew nothing about organizing my gmail.i do now and with other articles in muo.ill finally be able to find kinda new to muo.and I love your site.

    • Ryan Dube
      January 30, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      Hey Bobby - thanks for the feedback and I do think this is a perfect way to automatically organize your incoming emails from people that might send you photos. Perfect use for this.

  6. Anonymous
    January 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Good, helpful article. I need to get started on mine. Thanks

  7. Nevzat Akkaya
    January 24, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I usually have 10-20 a-mails daily, I like to have it displayed on my inbox, I think I like to be e-mailed :) If I don't get a couple of e-mails daily, if my inbox is silent for a long time, I get nervous :) I think I'm a little addicted to e-mails.

    • Ryan Dube
      January 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      That does sound a bit like email addiction to me. I do know what you mean though...I think I'm the same way! :-)

  8. Ahmed Khalil
    January 24, 2013 at 8:56 am

    gmail is walking with strong steps, to become the only best web mail service, i like it very

    • Ryan Dube
      January 30, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Ahmed - I agree. I discover something new that I like about Gmail nearly every day.

  9. Jorge Saborio
    January 24, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Excellent article! To be honest I was not aware of several of the Gmail options mentioned here. Thank you.

  10. Jeremy Garnett
    January 24, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Thanks. I actually use quite a few filters and responses, but I hadn't come across Looks interesting

  11. Sandeep
    January 24, 2013 at 4:37 am

    I am using most of these tips apart from cloud storage, so need to change that habit,

  12. Lucero De La Tierra
    January 24, 2013 at 4:01 am

    Ryan thanks for these tips. My Gmail inbox is turning into a monster that needs to be tamed. These tips will definitely be useful. . . if I take the time to apply them ;-)

    • Ryan Dube
      January 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      That's always the case - half the battle is just making the time to organize. But the time invested now will save mountains of time later (or so I'm told!)

  13. Jacques Knipe
    January 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Incredibly useful tips! My inbox looks, like most people's inbooxes, horrible! It will take some time sorting out. After this article I actually fell at ease trying to manage my email now.