Getting More Out of Gmail (Keeping Organized Part 2)

As I discussed in Part 1 of my series, Keeping Organized Without Losing Your Mind, I rely heavily upon Gmail for client communication and organization.

If you aren’t familiar with Gmail – though I’m not sure how that’s possible – it is, in my opinion, the best free email platform available. In fact, even after using paid email clients for a number of years, I prefer it even over its “premium” competitors. Its features, add-ons, and ability to link across multiple devices and with other Google apps make it second to none. If you don’t have a Gmail account – go here and get one. We will break this Gmail segment down further into 2 parts: Creating filters and labels in Gmail and integrating multiple accounts into Gmail.

The Inbox

inboxI think of this as my command center. It’s the first page I check every morning and I have a tab for it up all day, every day. I’m actually a little bit obsessive compulsive about having my emails organized and making sure junk is deleted and important emails are labeled and either left unread or followed up on. Gmail offers TONS of ways to keep emails organized and prioritized, more features than even I use. Between multiple colors of starring, importance labeling, and custom filters and labels, the possibilities are endless for creating your own organizational structure. While the built-in starring and importance labeling are pretty self-explanatory, creating custom filters and adding labels requires a few more steps. Let’s take a look at that feature next.

Custom Filters and Labeling

inbox sortedAs a very visual-minded person, I love having colored labels to feed me information at a glance. Using my labels, I know instantly who the email is from, and for larger clients, what it pertains to. As you can see on my inbox screenshot above, I have a ton of custom labels; one for each client, as well as a personal and business labels to keep important information saved and accessible. By clicking on any of the labels, Gmail will automatically filter my inbox to show only emails filtered for that label. If I’ve deleted any of the filtered emails, Gmail will give me a message that says so, and offer to show them to me (handy if you accidentally delete something you’re searching for!).

Create a Filter

Creating an email filter for labeling is very simple. Follow the steps below to set up a filter that we will next create a label for.

  1. Click on the email you would like to create the filter for to open it. In the top toolbar, click the MORE button to open the dropdown and select “Filter messages like these.”

    The MORE button on the opened email.
    The MORE button on the opened email.
  2. The filtering dialog box will pop up below the search bar. You can filter based on a number of variables, including sender, recipient (useful if you have multiple email accounts integrated – more on that in Part 2b), subject, the email containing certain words or not containing certain words, having attachments, or by size. You can also include or exclude matching chats from the filter. More often than not, I filter my emails by sender email address. Having many clients and many projects for each client, this just works for me. For clients with large, long term projects, I might also create a sub-label filtered by subject or content and nest it under the client label. My husband uses labeling to look for emails containing the words “invoice,” “payment,” or “bill” to filter and label our household bills. I also use filters to sort out my various service invoices so that I keep my business expenses readily accessible. Once you fill out how you would like the email filtered, click “Creat filter with this search” at the bottom of the dialog box.

    Fill out how you would like the email filtered and then click "Create filter with this search."
    Fill out how you would like the email filtered and then click “Create filter with this search.”
  3. The next dialog box lets you choose what to do with the email filter, because labeling is not the only option! But, since we’re discussing creating labels, we’ll talk about that. So click the box for Apply a Label and then either select a label you’ve already created or select New Label.
  4. If you’ve selected an existing label, simply finish by clicking Create Filter and your filter will be saved. (Note: You will have to go back to the email you were using and manually apply the label to that one, the filter will affect emails moving forward. You can create a filter without an existing email by going to Settings and then the Filters tab. Create a New Filter is at the bottom of the screen, you may have to scroll down if you have many filters as I do. The Filter tab is also a useful interface for managing or deleting your existing filters.)
    The settings menu on the upper right side of the toolbar.
    The settings menu on the upper right side of the toolbar.

    The filters tab under Settings.
    The filters tab under Settings.

Creating a Label

    1. The process for creating a new label to apply to your filter is just as simple. Continuing from step #3 above, if you select New Label:
    2. The “New Label” dialog box will pop up. Fill out the label name and select whether or not to nest it under another label. Then click Create.
    3. The new label will be created and will appear in the left-side menu of your inbox. It will not, however, automatically be given a label color. The default is just white.
    4. To change the label color, click on the box next to the label to open the label options (it may be hard to see if your in box background is also white, but you can see the general location on my screenshot based on the other colored boxes. A dropdown icon will appear when hovered). The label options dropdown gives a few options as to when and whether to show the label. Click Label Color for a second dropdown containing an array of pre-made label colors. You can use on of these or choose your own custom color.
Choosing the label color through the label options menu.
Choosing the label color through the label options menu.

Note: Much like Filters, Labels can also be managed under Settings and then the Labels tab.

Customize it!

This article has really only just scratched the surface of what you can do with filtering and labeling in Gmail. I showed you what I use regularly and what works for me. Feel free to experiment with the settings and the labels to create a workflow that helps you stay organized.

More in the Series

  1. Keeping Organized Without Losing Your Mind Р Part 1 (The Overview)
  2. Getting More out of Gmail (Keeping Organized – Part 2)
  3. One Account to Rule Them All (Part 3)


Author: Sarah DaSilva

Sarah DaSilva is the founder and creative guru behind SuperPowered Web. SuperPowered Web provides online marketing and website design to fitness studios and fitness professionals. As a military spouse, Sarah has lived all over the country but currently resides in Honolulu with her family. She is an avid fitness enthusiast and foodie and can often be found lifting weights... or lifting a fork.

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