Take Control of your Gmail Inbox with Filters

Have you ever looked at your email inbox and wondered, “how did I manage to accumulate all of this nonsense?” From the constant crush of social media notifications to the latest from your favorite mailing lists (and even some real person to person communications!), the onslaught is truly, by definition, endless and insatiable. If you are a user of Gmail, I have a simple starting point for identifying the noisiest of this torrent and framing it for judgment. I’d like to take just a few minutes of your time to help you get started.

Do you use filters in your Gmail account? Regrettably, I didn’t discover their beauty until very recently, but I must say that I’m very happy now that I have. The veritable armada of filters that I employ today has transformed my inbox from an ever renewing heap of communications into an intelligent list of self-identifying inbound traffic. We’ll start simply with a single filter to highlight the awesome power of filters and set the stage for your own uniquely optimized email future.

One filter to rule them all:

No two inboxes are alike; the way in which an inbox fills is as unique as its owner. I have no intention to recommend a set of filtering rules to fit all users as I believe it would be far too generic to be useful. Instead, I’d like to propose a single filter that can be applied to 100% of inboxes and show the simple steps necessary to set it up. Yes, you read correctly: 100%.

If you’ve created an account in any of the myriad services available through the wonderful world of the internet, I’m willing to bet you’ve ended up with a good amount of marketing email. Thanks to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, the FTC requires that “a visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all [commercial] emails.” We will take advantage of this fact.

Create THE filter:

1. In your gmail account, click inside the Search box found at the top the window
2. Type “unsubscribe” (quotes or not, it all works the same)1 - search unsubscribe

3. Click on the down arrow icon at the far right of the Search box
4. At the bottom right of the resulting panel, click on “Create filter with this search”3 - set actions

5. Check the box next to “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)”

6. Check the box next to “Apply label”

7. Click “Choose label…” (to the right of the “Apply label” check box), select “New label…”

8. In the text field “Please enter a new label name:” enter “Unsubscribe”

4 - new label

9. Check the box next to “Also apply filter to matching conversations.” found at the bottom of the panel
10. Click on the button “Create New Filter” at the bottom left of the panel

Congratulations! You’ve now created a mini-inbox that will identify all inbound mail containing the word “unsubscribe.” You can see all mail labeled as such by clicking on the label found just under the “Compose” button on the left side of your screen.

5 - new mini inbox

What’s next? Search and Destroy.

Now that all “unsubscribe” email routing into its own area of your Gmail account, you’ve created a context for reading marketing email. Odds are, a good amount of it is useful. The rest no doubt falls under the broad general category of noise. If you’re feeling bold, I’d recommend killing it all. If not, then I’d like to suggest that now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party and finally make good on that Fed-mandated unsubscribe feature.

Happy filtering!

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