Tag Archives: Organising

A few tips on managing Gmail

Taking a quick break from all things fitness and running related, I wanted to share a little organisational tip from my recent exercise cleaning up my gmail.

I love gmail. I was a reasonably early adopter, and over the years I have worked through a variety of gmail addresses – for personal, professional, frivolous and serious reasons. The things I love most above Gmail are the things everyone loves about Gmail…

  1. as a webmail, you can get it anywhere
  2. practically unlimited space (15Gb)
  3. email tagging rather than folder structure – emails can live in multiple places

But, there are drawbacks!

Unlimited space means there is very little incentive to clean up your emails. Its very easy to let your inbox get out of control. In fact, Gmail’s tagline is “never delete anything ever again”. I personally subscribe to LOTS of email lists, advertising and info lists. I use email to remind myself of things to do, and to exchange useless pleasantries with friends and family. Also because I get emails on my iPhone, I rarely actually log into the web console anymore to do maintenance on my emails. They just bank up and aren’t serving any purpose.

Last week my inbox was over 3000 emails. Now it is less than 15. Here’s how I did it.

1. Find the guff

I looked at my inbox front page and immediately saw emails from businesses and advertisers. Clicking on one at a time, I used the feature Filter Messages Like This

filter messages


Then decide how much you love each bit of information. Love might be a little bit strong – maybe “how long will I need this in the future?”

2. Sentence the stuff

The filter window will appear and you can refine your filter to include words in the subject or whether there are attachments or not.

The really awesome feature of gmail’s search that I have used here is the older_than search variable. I get a lot of email that I don’t need to keep beyond a day, or maybe a week. Say, I order something off the internet, I need the invoice until I pay and my goods arrive. Then it can really be trashed without too much hassle. Or I might get an offer from Portmans telling me that skirts are on sale today only – I don’t need this email next week.

So, in the filter dialogue, find the box Includes the words and enter in


…and then the time frame. For most of my advertising stuff, I chose 1d e.g. 1 day. You can also use 1m or 1y for a month or a year. w doesn’t seem to work for week though! Use 7d instead! Choose any number of days or months or years… for instance I’ve chosen to keep some emails for 3y because they relate to a course I was studying, and might be useful later.

It might sound harsh, but most emails from my family and friends I am choosing to delete after only a couple of months. Mostly we have very chatty conversations via email, and don’t exchange important info this way. By keeping emails a few months, this gives me time to review them and decide if I need to keep them longer, but the blanket rule is that they automatically get deleted.





Click on Create filter with this search >>



Choose the action you want to do. I used to just filter all my emails into labels and keep them there forever. But now, I choose to have them all come to the inbox and then the filter deletes the ones that are older than my time limit.

You can also choose to archive it, or move it to a label category instead if you aren’t quite ready to let your Gmail do your deleting for you.

Gmail will tell you how many emails have been found and you can tick Also apply filter to x matching conversations.

Click Create filter!

3. Repeat

Repeat as many times as you can stand in one sitting. I attacked all my advertising emails first. It was very easy to part with them, and once I was on track with the mindset of asking “how long will this be information be useful to me?” it was very easy to continue that and apply it across all the more personal emails. You know the ones! The ones you keep because it would be rude to discard something sent to you by a friend. Or because one day you will need to be reminded of that silly conversation where you arranged to have cocktails in 2008.

I now have a bunch of filtering rules in my Gmail that are taking the work out of managing email. The main maintenance task I now have is adding a new rule every time I sign up to a new newsletter or promotional service. So its not seamless, but it takes the headache out of opening Gmail and having to swim through garbage to find what I need.

Good luck!