How To Organize Your Gmail (To Get To Inbox Zero Faster)

These 9 tips will teach you how to organize your gmail like a boss so you can find anything and regularly reach inbox zero.

how to organize your gmail on an imac

how to organize your gmail on an imac

An email inbox: we all have them! But some are a lot messier than others.

I am sure the degree of inbox tidiness is as varied as the state of each of our closets: some are meticulously neat and others are overflowing with excess. 

If you lean toward the latter and aren’t sure where to start cleaning up your inbox, I have a host of tips for you to set up a system that you can maintain! 

Here are 9 ways to organize your Gmail like a boss.

How To Organize Your Gmail Inbox

1 – Change Your Inbox Type To Multiple Inboxes 

I will give credit to Gmail that they have built in a lot of ways to try to get its users organized. Tabs are one of them. Tabs sort your email by category: important, promotions, social, forums, etc. But divvying up emails into categories just means you now have more places to look and more places to accumulate digital clutter. 

There are six different inbox types you can choose from in quick settings. My preference for inbox is Multiple Inboxes, which sets up vertical tiers (one or a few) that allow you to auto sort your emails. My goal is always to use my inbox as an INBOX and not as a storage cabinet.

Thus I check Multiple Inboxes and set up my first slot to hold starred messages. This allows me to quickly sort through messages that need responding or action. 

2 – Remove Visual Clutter For A Minimalist Look

If you use these features, feel free to leave them on. But if you never chat in Gmail or use importance markers as part of your organization strategy – turn off that visual clutter! All of these changes can be made in settings. 

  • Turn off importance markers (unnecessary clutter!)
  • Turn off chat and meet (one of the navigation tabs in your main settings)
  • Choose the “compact” setting to avoid unnecessary white space between messages
  • Make your theme white and minimal (this is my personal preference, but it’s also my recommendation!) 

3 – Turn On Gmail’s Best Features

Some of Gmail’s best features will save you so much time! Be sure these are enabled in settings before you start to organize:

Keyboard Shortcuts

Enable shortcuts and make a sticky note with the ones you will likely use most: Go Inbox (I set this as simply an “I” on mine), Compose, Reply, Forward, Star. 

Send and Archive

This single button will save you SO many clicks!!!

Smart Compose

This feature learns your frequent responses to help auto fill them if you want. For example, when you type “My address is” your address is auto filled. Genius!

Smart Reply

Gmail suggests responses you can send in one click or tap with text like “Sounds good!” or “No thank you” or “That works for me!” based on the subject of the email. This feature is especially helpful on mobile. 

Templates

Turn this feature on! There’s more on these below.

4 – Archive, Don’t Delete

When Gmail debuted, one of its best features was the ability to store and search your email history. Instead of deleting emails you are finished with, you can Archive them in case you need to reference them at a later date or see a new email in the context of an old conversation.

Many people do not understand the difference between Archive and Delete. When you delete an email, it goes to your trash and is automatically actually removed from your history forever in 30 days. When you Archive, you are telling Gmail: “Take this email out of my inbox, but leave it in my All Mail history forever.” 

Archive = Remove from my inbox

I am a big fan of Archive because you never know when you need to reference an email or look for something you thought you didn’t need. Archive everything!

The only time I use the delete button is if someone sends me a batch of large files, like high res photos, that will clog up my storage. 

5 – Labels = Folders

Labels in Gmail act as tags for emails that allow you to group them. Some people think of them as folders, but really they are tags since you can have a label in your inbox or multiple labels on one email. 

Because of Gmail’s focus on search, you don’t really need to use folders. Many people waste hours trying to organize their emails by hand – don’t do it! Your time is too precious. The best way to use them is with an auto filter, which I will describe below! 

6 – Filters = Do Something Automatically 

Filters in Gmail are brilliant when you really want to make your inbox work for you and save you tons of time. 

Let’s say, for example, you get order confirmations for your business. I’ll use my Beautycounter business as an example. You could receive, read, star, and archive each individual order email manually. Or you could create a filter to do all four of those steps for you so that when you sit down to work all of your new orders are waiting for you. 

how to create a filter in Gmail step one

how to create a filter in Gmail step one

Any frequently received email is a great candidate for a filter:

  • Emails you might want to search but don’t need to read –> mark as read and skip the inbox
  • Messages you often/always forward to someone else, like a virtual assistant –> mark as read, forward, and archive 
  • Emails you batch on a particular day of the week –> mark as read, label, and archive (just don’t forget to check that label each week!) 

7 – Use Templates To Organize Frequently Sent Emails

If you find yourself writing the same email over and over templates are your solution! They are a bit buried in the compose email window, but once you find them you’ll know where and how to use them. 

Open a new email to compose and click the three dots next to the trash below:

how to use Gmail templates

how to use Gmail templates

Save, insert, overwrite, and delete templates from this area. You can include links to frequently attached documents too! Edit the template before you send if you’d like to personalize it a bit. This will save you SO much time!

8 – Use the 24 Hour Rule

Now that you have your inbox all set up, you’re ready to rock that email organization for the long term! Here are some quick guidelines to shoot for:

Respond or take action on starred emails within 24 hours

Star important emails and have a goal to respond or take action within 24 hours.

Use the Snooze Feature

If you can’t get to the email in 24 hours, snooze it for when you know you’ll need a nudge. Look for the little clock on the far right of the message when you hover over it or in the toolbar at the top when inside of an open message. Set the day and time when you want the email to “arrive” again. You can always access snoozed emails in your snooze label (folder). 

Turn it into a task (or move the info elsewhere)

If you aren’t sure when you’ll get to an email, turn it into a task in whatever to-do list software (or paper!) you use. Or transpose the information to your calendar. If you need to save directions for an event, just put the address right in your calendar. If you need to save an e-ticket for an event, screenshot the barcode and save it to your Notes app. 

9 – Video > See how to organize your Gmail in action!

If you’ve found these tips to be helpful, they only scratch the surface of all the digital organization you can conquer in your life! 

Check out my free workshop on all things digital clutter:free email organizing workshopfree email organizing workshop

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