How to use Gmail Filters to de-clutter your inbox

Cluttered Gmail

On a daily basis, your Gmail can quickly overflow into a miserable sea of disorganized mess and chaos. Checking your emails has now actually made the ‘to-do’ list. What feels like a constant uphill battle to trim back the ever-growing swarm of incoming emails can be mitigated by a quick and easy tool. These are called Gmail Filters. 

What are filters in Gmail?

What are Gmail Filters? And how can I use them to save me time?
Filters could essentially be analogised to you telling an assistant to do something with a particular email when it comes into your inbox. For example, “could you please mark all future emails from Ben as important?”, or “Could you automatically categorize all of the emails sent from Jerry as ‘Promotion’? He keeps trying to sell me stuff”. Setting rules for incoming Gmail can save you time and allow you to prioritise your focus on emails that are important. 

How to create a ‘Filter’

1. Go ahead and open up your Gmail.

2. You’ll notice that to the right-hand side of the search bar there is a pretty well hidden downward facing arrow- click on this.

3. You can now select emails based on who sent them e.g. Jerry who keeps trying to sell me stuff.
You can also select the words featured within the emails you receive. So I may put, ‘from:’ that ‘includes the word: ‘buy’. I can also choose to action emails that ‘do not include’ certain words that I can define, alongside subject lines, and attachments.


4. Once you’ve decided on your criteria, click ‘Create Filter with this search’ at the bottom of the search window. If you want to check that your criteria gives the desired results then you can click the search icon at the bottom left-hand corner of the search window. Once happy with your criteria, click ‘Create Filter with this search’ at the bottom of the search window.

5. You can then select do any one of the following:

  • Mark as read.
  • Star it.
  • Apply a label to the emails .
  • Forward it to an address.
    (this only works for new emails, it won’t suddenly forward all of your previous emails. You can create an unlimited amount of Filters, but only 20 that forward to other email addresses).
  • Delete it.
  • Never send it to Spam.
  • Always mark it as important.
  • Never mark it as important.
  • Categorize it e.g. Promotions, Social, Updates etc.

In this instance with Jerry, I’d pick ‘Promotions’.

  1. You can then click ‘Create Filter’.

Jerry’s emails that contain the word ‘buy’ will now always appear under my ‘Promotions’ tab. This is just one example of the many ways in which you can use Gmail Filters.


Edit or delete Filters

If you have gone ahead and created a Gmail Filter, you may now want to either delete it or edit it. The below will show you how to achieve this.

1. Go to the Settings option at the top right-hand corner of the screen.

2. Click on the tab that says, ‘Filters and Blocked Addresses.’

3. You’ll see a list of the Filters you’ve created.

4. Next to each Filter is an ‘edit’ button and a ‘delete’ button.


5. Once you’ve edited the Gmail Filter you can click ‘Update Filter’.

Export Filters

You may want to export filters so that you import them on your other Gmail accounts, or so you can share them with colleagues or friends.

1. Within the settings menu, below your list of Gmail Filters, you’ll see ‘export’.

2. You’ll receive an .xml file that you’ll be able to edit in a text editor.


Import Filters

1. Within the settings menu, below your list of Filters, you’ll see ‘import Filters’.


2. Select the file that has the Gmail Filter you are looking to import

3. Click on ‘Open file’.

4. Click ‘Create Filters’.

Gmail Filters Practical Uses

Now that you know how to create Gmail filters you can begin using them to cut down that ever-growing inbox of yours. Specifically, you can use filters to:

  • Force certain emails to skip the inbox
  • Automatically delete certain emails
  • Categorize emails into a separate tab e.g. Promotions, Social, Updates etc.

Another very popular way of managing your inbox is by automatically applying labels to emails using filters. The results can be automatic categorization of emails. Skipping your inbox, these emails can be automatically sorted and thus digested in your own time.

Create a dynamic to-do list from your emails

Most of the emails that we receive daily have some sort of action that needs to be taken as a result of reading the contents- even if this is simply an acknowledgement in the form of a quick reply.

Not all tasks have the same deadlines, and this means that emails that don’t need opening will just sit there clogging up your inbox. You want to clear up your inbox, but you aren’t ready to focus on the actions within that email yet. This means that you will want to sort your emails into some kind of categorization that reflects the time at which/by actions need to be taken.

A great way of doing this is by creating 3 labels: ‘Today’, ‘This Week’, and ‘Later’. Variations of these 3 labels may be more preferable/suitable to different individuals.

1. The first thing you’ll need to do is click ‘Create a label’ at the bottom left-hand corner of your Gmail homepage screen:

2. You now need to create a label called ‘To-Do List’:

3. Click the ‘create new label’ again. This time create a label called ‘Today’, and then ‘tick’ the box to the left of ‘Nest label under’. From the drop-down menu, select ‘To-do List’.


4. Click the ‘create new label’ again. This time create a label called ‘This Week’, and then select the box to the left of ‘Nest label under’. From the drop-down menu, select ‘To-do List’.


5. Now do exactly the same as the before points, but this time call the next label, ‘Later’; nesting it under ‘To-do List’.

6. The result will be a list of ‘Today’, ‘This Week’, and ‘Later’.


On a basic level you can label your emails with one of the three to-do actions you’ve created.

What you want to do is use Gmail Filters to automatically direct incoming emails into a category of your choice. You can re-name these labels in different ways, for example, you may choose a ‘priority’ format e.g. ‘High Priority’, ‘Medium Priority’, and ‘Low Priority’. You may know that emails that come from ‘Bob’ are not high priority, and you can then use Gmail filters to send these straight to a certain folder/label.

Organization in Gmail is a sure-fire way to maximise your time and increase your efficiency. Cut down the clutter and order your inbox into a logical list of actionable items. Once you’ve removed chaos in your inbox, it’s time to fix-up your Google Drive clutter- check out ‘How to Organize Google Drive- A Best Practice Guide For Teams‘. Here at Cloudfind we have tackled another Gmail issue- finding your email attachments. Our app allows you to find your email attachments instantly. It also allows you to tag and organize any other files you might have lying around in Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. 

Find email attachments & files faster.

Cloudfind works with Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

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