How To Simplify Your Life with Powerful Gmail Filters and Labels

Image of thousands of emails on iPhoneDo you get overwhlemed by a large number of emails in your inbox?

Do you find yourself deleting many emails without even opening them because they are junk mail and/or you don’t have time to read them?

I LOVE the feeling of “Zero Inbox!”

I feel a sense of calm when I have nothing in my inbox, or at least only one or two messages that I have already read. I have 3 email accounts, all of which are hosted with Google/Gmail. Earlier this year I ditched my mail client on my desktop and laptop computer and now only read my email in the browser. This took an adjustment, but the benefits are :

  1. My computer is much faster …. I don’t have to store thousands of emails that take up a lot of space on my hard drive
  2. I can view each mailbox separately, minimizing distraction while I am working, as I can keep my personal email account closed during working hours.
  3. Gmail has a filter that detects “Social” and “Promotions” messages, keeping your “Primary” inbox all about “real” email that needs your attention.

Gmail TabsGmail Tabs

On my phone, I use Outlook instead of the the iOS Mail App or Gmail. I like getting all my messages in one inbox on my phone so I don’t have to check multiple accounts. Outlook also identifies “Focused” and “Other” mail so I don’t get overwhelmed by blogs, promotions and other email that is not important.

Gmail Labels and Filters

Gmail FoldersFolders and Filters in Gmail are awesome, but I think relatively underutilized. If you use a mail client like Outlook or MacMail, you probably set up folders where you can save messages from different clients and keep your mail organized. It’s not obvious in Gmail that you can have “Folders” because Gmail calls them “Labels.” This is actually a great distinction, because you can apply multiple “Labels” to a message. The labels you create are assigned “Folders” on the sidebar of Gmail, so it looks and acts like a mail client’s folders. Once you apply a label to a message, you can “move” it to that label’s folder(s) and refer back to it anytime. When a thread continues on that email, you can hit the “Archive” button, and it will apply the label/file the message where the original message was assigned.


Gmail FilterFilters in Gmail are productivity magic! If you receive a lot of mail from a source that you don’t need to read, but want to file away or keep, you can filter these messages. Filters can allow messages to skip the inbox, to be moved to a folder/label or to be deleted without you even seeing them or having them clutter up your inbox. Setting up filters takes seconds to do, but will save you time and help keep your inbox from becoming jammed with messages you will never read or don’t need to distract you from important messages.

Gmail Filters
To set up a filter, with a message open in Gmail, select the dropdown “More,” then select “Filter messages like these.” Gmail will identify either the “From” or some other content from the message and autofill this for you or you can edit the setting. For example, if you don’t want to filter all messages from a certain blog/website, but only the messages that have a certain subject line, you can fill in the Subject that you want to filter.

Next, select “Create filter with this search” in the lower right of the pop up. A new window opens that allows you to choose how you want to filter these messages. You may want to skip the inbox, mark as read, star the item and apply a label to a message. For example, I have filters for emails coming from certain clients to automatically apply the client label to their messages. They still come into my inbox, but if I select “archive” after I have read the message, it will automatically move the message to that label/client folder.

Another helpful step before you finish creating the filter is to check the box “Also apply to __ matching conversations,” which will go through all your mail and treat past messages with your filter rules.

Gmail FiltersGmail Filter

Gmail Filters

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Other Tools

Of course, you can and should use the “Unsubscribe” link on the bottom of blog feeds and junk mail you no longer want to receive. Sometimes these can take a while to work, so you might set up a filter anyway to keep these messages out of your inbox.

You can also use Unroll Me to pool emails into a single “rolled up” feed and unsubscribe in bulk. Unroll Me is a free service that identifies your subscription emails, lets you easily unsubscribe and/or choose to “roll up” and receive a single email daily with your “rolled up” messages/content.

Unroll Me

 Get to know Gmail better and maximize your productivity. Eliminate the stress of seeing too many emails in your inbox!


  1. […] the ways I use Gmail and how I keep my thousands of messages organized and under control using labels and filters. I have also been using the Gmail app on my phone, as I like how it separates out […]

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