The abundance of email storage offered by Google has made us somewhat careless about how we handle our Gmail inbox. Today, it is very common to see a Gmail inbox filled up to the brim with irrelevant and junk emails (a majority of them unread), which leads to important emails getting lost in the chaos of the clutter. I’m fairly certain that as you’re reading this, you’re reminded about the mess of emails currently sitting comfortably in your Gmail account. So how do you organize Gmail inbox? How can you clean up a messy, overflowing account and better organize the emails in a Gmail inbox? Well, it’s easier than you imagine.
In this article, I’ll tell you the tips and tricks to organize your Gmail inbox and also explain some hidden or lesser-known features that help you organize your emails in Gmail. And for those of you who have thousands of unread emails in your Gmail inbox, I’ll help you bring some sanity to your inbox.
Table of contents
- Archive Emails That You Don't Need
- Enable the 'Send & Archive' Button in Gmail
- Sort Emails by Choosing Inbox Type
- Don't Use Emails for Internal Team Discussions
- Snooze the Emails You Don't Need
- Use Labels to Group Similar Emails Together
- Perform Frequent Actions with Filters
- Enable Nudges in Gmail to Avoid Missing Emails
- Use Gmail Templates for Frequent Emails
Treat Your Email Inbox Like Your Desk
In one of my previous articles where I wrote about the Simple Tricks to Declutter your Inbox and Achieve Inbox Zero, I talked a bit about how “Your Inbox is Like Your Desk.”
The first step in organizing your inbox and cleaning up the clutter is to treat your email inbox like the desk that you study from or work on every day.
On your work or study desk, you only ever keep the things that you want handy. You could have a pile of files or notebooks for the subjects/projects you want to work on right now or refer to. The rest of the files or notebooks are neatly stowed away in your cabinets, aren’t they? No one likes to keep old & unnecessary files stacked on their desk.
When you start applying the same fundamental idea to your email inbox, you’ve already taken the first step towards organizing it. You must learn to stow-away unwanted emails, so you can focus on the important ones.
How to organize your Gmail inbox: 9 Steps
1. Archive Emails That You Don’t Need
This is the simplest and most effective way to declutter and organize your Gmail inbox. Gmail has offered the Archive functionality for a really long time and yet I have seen so many users completely unaware of this feature. If the question, “What does the Archive feature in Gmail mean?” just popped into your head, let me explain.
The archive function in Gmail lets you move old or unwanted emails to a special “folder” in Gmail, away from your Inbox. Gmail’s Archive is a special section that is meant to be the home of all the emails that you’re done working with. Emails in Archive can be accessed whenever and as frequently as you want, so they’re really just a click or search query away. This saves your Inbox from getting cluttered and lets you focus on the important emails.
You can archive emails in Gmail clicking on the Archive button or using the ‘e’ keyboard shortcut.
2. Enable the ‘Send & Archive’ button in Gmail
More often than not, once you have replied to an email, you do not need to bother with it till you get a response. Traditionally and by default, your reply gets added to the email conversation but the email continues to sit in your inbox and you have to manually move it to the Archive.
By enabling the Send & Archive button in Gmail's Settings > General, you can automatically Archive an email conversation after you reply to it. This feature enables an additional button when composing a reply, which looks like this.
If this email conversation gets a reply from the other party, it is automatically moved back to your inbox, so that you can attend to it.
3. Sort Emails by Choosing Inbox Type
Gmail gives you a bunch of options to choose how emails are sorted and displayed in your inbox. You get to choose which emails have more priority and appear at the top of your inbox, and which ones appear below that. Typically, you want to organize your Gmail inbox such that all your important emails are up top so that you can focus on them first. You can choose from six different Inbox Type options in Gmail.
- Default — The most common view that you’re used to, where emails are displayed in the reverse chronological order.
- Important first — The emails that Gmail thinks are important are displayed first, followed by everything else.
- Unread first — As the name suggests, Unread emails are displayed first, followed by everything else.
- Starred first — If you use stars to prioritize your emails, this is the option for you.
- Priority Inbox — This is a powerful view of the Gmail inbox and is specially designed for users who deal with a lot of emails. With the Priority Inbox, Gmail prioritizes which emails are displayed to you on top. You can also select which types of emails get shown to you by Customizing the Priority Inbox in Gmail.
- Multiple Inboxes — This new Gmail inbox type view lets you set up a custom view with multiple inboxes in Gmail. You can add up to 5 custom sections that you can view alongside your inbox. Just enter a custom search query, name the section and you’re good to go.
I know, I know. Choosing from these Inbox types is a little too inundating for you. Most users just want their email app to do all the heavy lifting for them, and that’s why we’ve built Spark to do just that for you. With Spark’s Smart Inbox, all your emails are automatically sorted for you with zero-configuration needed from you.
You can, of course, customize the Smart Inbox to your liking, but when you first install and start using Spark Mail app, it just works out of the box. You get a clean, organized, and clutter-free inbox for your Gmail account. There are more such incredible features built into Spark that help you organize your Gmail inbox, so download Spark for Free while I tell you what else you can do to clean up the emails in your inbox.
4. Don’t Use Emails for Internal Team Discussions
One of the biggest causes of a cluttered inbox is from emails that could’ve been easily avoided. Take a peek at your work email account and count the number of emails you have sitting in your inbox that are from within your team or organization and are about discussing the same topic or area. It’s very common to see team members communicate with each other using email, especially during this ongoing pandemic.
When you get an email from someone outside the organization (such as a sales query or client request), it usually begins a long chain of email discussions with the team about how to respond, who has the data, etc. One of the easiest ways to organize your Gmail inbox is to stop using emails for internal team discussions.
Spark is a beautiful email app that is specially designed for teams. With Spark for Teams, you can take advantage of some exceptional features to effectively improve team communication and overall productivity, all while avoiding your Gmail inbox from getting cluttered. You can Sign In with your Gmail account in Spark and access all your emails in it right away.
— Discuss Emails With Your Team
Spark lets you communicate with your team using in-line comments on emails, so you can discuss and act right where the context is. These comments are private, so only your team can see them.
This is a great way to quickly discuss external emails, ask for or share files from teammates, and respond effectively.
— Delegate Emails Without Manually Forwarding Them
Spark also lets you delegate emails to your teammates or subordinates with a few clicks, without having to manually forward them the email and without having to waste your time writing a message. When you have Spark for Teams, you can quickly delegate an email and even assign a due date to the task. All your delegated emails can be collectively tracked in a separate ‘Delegated’ section in the sidebar, without cluttering your main inbox.
By doing this, you not only avoid the clutter of a copy of the email being created in your Sent folder but also save your teammate’s Gmail inbox from getting cluttered.
— Draft Emails Together With Your Team
As you find yourself working from home during the pandemic, it’s just not practically possible to summon your teammates to your desk when you need their help writing an email. Of course, you could either write a bit of the email yourself and share a copy of the draft with them to proofread, or you could just send an email to them asking for help from scratch. Maybe you need to attach a file that you don’t have, so you send an email to your colleague asking for a copy of the file in return. Either way, you’re just creating more clutter in your Gmail inbox by sending unwanted & unnecessary emails.
The easiest way to avoid this inbox clutter is to switch to Spark, which lets you draft emails with your team in real-time in a collaborative workflow. Here’s what that looks like.
Using the same native experience of Spark, you can invite your team members to join you in drafting the email. Their edits and contributions appear in real-time, while internal comments and discussions are right there on the side. All of these features in Spark for Teams help you work from home more efficiently.
Spark has many more features that help get better at managing & organizing your Gmail inbox. Download Spark for Free and get started with the best email experience.
5. Snooze the Emails You Don’t Need
Much like the perks of archiving emails in Gmail that I’ve explained above, another really easy way to declutter and organize your inbox is to snooze the emails you do not need right now. Snoozing an email just means that you’re temporarily moving it away from your inbox till a preset date/time. For example, you should Snooze all your bill reminder emails till the time you’re actually ready to pay those bills. They serve no purpose while sitting idly in your inbox if you’re going to wait for your salary to arrive anyway. So by snoozing them, you clean up your inbox and can thus focus on other important emails and tasks.
While Gmail now has a native Snooze feature built into it, it is very limited. You only get 3 preset options and one custom one.
The annoying part about the Snooze feature is that there’s no direct way to edit or customize the Snooze settings in Gmail. You actually have to go to Google Keep to change the time on this, but that means you have to change the Reminder time for Google Keep as well.
When you use your Gmail account with Spark, you get far more control over the Snooze settings and you can fine-tune them to your liking.
You can enable or disable any of the above options in Spark and change the day or time to your liking. With this, snoozing emails from your Gmail inbox in Spark is far more effective and delightful compared to Gmail itself.
6. Use Labels to Group Similar Emails Together
Unlike most other email services, Gmail does not use a folder-based system. There are no folders on Gmail to manage or mess with. Instead, Gmail uses labels. Think of labels as tags (or hashtags on social media). Unlike a folder-based system, you can apply two or more labels to the same email, which makes it much easier to organize your Gmail inbox. For example, you can label your Credit Card Bill emails as ‘Finance’, ‘Bills’ & ‘Bank Name’. By doing this, you will be able to find that email in any or all of these labels. You can nest your folders so that a similar group of labels can have the same parent label. For example, a frequent traveler might have a parent label called “Travel” with several sub-labels for all the countries they’ve been to or plan to go to.
Gmail’s labels are also much easier to work with, as you can apply or remove them much faster than moving emails in and out of folders. Moreover, Gmail lets you pick custom colors for your labels, so there is a visual identity that can be applied to your labels. I recommend choosing colors based on the priority of the emails, so Bills and Due Date emails typically get orange colors, while work or business emails get light blue colors.
All of Gmail’s labels work with Spark as well, so you can seamlessly switch between the two if you want.
7. Perform Frequent Actions with Filters
Coming from the best Search Engine company on the planet, Gmail is powered by the best email search functionality available today. Not only is the search lightning-fast, but it also comes with a long list of search operators that you can use to empower your search. Thanks to all this, locating any email in Gmail takes just a few seconds.
Of course, Gmail still lacks the amazing Smart Search functionality in Spark that lets you search for emails using natural language search strings like, “PDFs from Adam from last week.”
Download Spark for Free and try searching for any emails in your account, we’re sure you’re gonna love it.
Not many people know that Gmail’s impeccable search functionality can be used to perform frequent actions on your emails with the help of filters.
When you click on the little dropdown arrow on the right-hand side of the Search field, it reveals Gmail’s filtering functionality. You can filter emails with the help of any or all the options shown above in the screenshot. Then, just click on Create filter and you can automatically perform a variety of actions on the filtered emails.
By doing this, you have fewer emails to deal with in your Gmail inbox and thus, it becomes easier to organize it.
For example, you can filter all emails from your bank’s email domain that have attachments and contain the word “statement” in the subject line to filter all your Credit Card Statements, and then Star it, Apply the “Bills” label, ensure that it is never sent to Spam and is always marked as important.
This list of frequent actions, combined with Gmail’s powerful Search feature is one of the best things about Gmail.
8. Enable Nudges in Gmail to Avoid Missing Emails
Gmail has a nifty feature called Nudges that reminds you about emails that you haven’t replied to, or emails that haven’t received a reply from the recipient and require a follow up. With Nudges enabled in Gmail, the algorithm automatically suggests and re-surfaces old emails that you might have forgotten to respond to, as well as the emails that you probably need to follow up on as they haven’t received a response.
Nudges can be enabled in Gmail Settings > General > Nudges. Unfortunately, there is no way to manually set up a Nudge in Gmail. You have to depend on an algorithm to remind you about follow ups.
If you prefer to manually choose when you want to be reminded about follow-ups, you should switch to using your Gmail account with Spark. It lets you choose which emails you want to enable the Follow-up Reminder feature for, and even lets you pick the exact date and time when you’ll be alerted.
If you haven’t already done so, you can download and switch to Spark as your primary email app for FREE.
9. Use Gmail Templates for Frequent Emails
If sending out emails is an integral part of your job, you’ll often find yourself typing out and sending the same email message over and over again. This usually happens when you have a public-facing job profile, such as in customer service, sales, or PR, but may also happen when you’re running a small business. In such cases, to avoid the hassle of repeatedly typing the same type of email, you can make use of templates (also known as “canned messages”). Not many are aware that Gmail has added support for template messages, although this option is disabled by default and you have to venture deep into the settings to enable them.
To enable templates in Gmail, go to Gmail Settings > Advanced tab and click on Enable next to Templates. Then click on Save at the bottom. You’ll now find the Templates option in the toolbar when composing an email or response.
A major drawback of the Templates feature in Gmail is that it’s far too limited. In fact, it feels like a feature that was shoehorned into Gmail just for the sake of it. A far better example of email templates is in Readdle’s Spark email client..
The templates feature in Spark includes the following auto-fillers or placeholders:
- Your First Name
- Your Last Name
- Your Full Name
- Recipient’s First Name
- Recipient’s Last Name
- Recipient’s Full Name
- Custom Placeholder
When you include these auto-fillers or custom placeholders in your email templates, they’re automatically replaced with the corresponding value in the email when you compose it.
Templates in Spark help you save a lot of time, so you can instead focus on other emails that have a higher priority.
What’s more, with Spark for Teams, you can create and share templates with your entire team so that there is a consistent and unified response style from the team when sending emails.
You can get started with Spark and start using templates for FREE. Download Spark now and switch to the best email experience on the market.
Just like all of Readdle’s apps, Spark is designed to be an elegant & feature-rich solution to common email problems and annoyances. With Spark, you get everything you need to take control of your inbox and start loving email again.