With coworker communications, critical documents, company newsletters, project updates, and more all coming back to back to back, your inbox can easily become flooded with all kinds of content — all with varying degrees of importance. Because Google tracks everything we do (Hi Google!) the company understands this and offers several tools that allow you to organize your emails and support your productivity.

If you rely on Gmail for work, you might find it helpful to use folders, or "labels" as Gmail calls them, to organize your inbox. Microsoft Outlook and other systems used a siloed, folder-based approach to organization in which each email can only belong to one folder at a time. Gmail, on the other hand, allows an email to have multiple labels, essentially existing in multiple folders at once. So it’s possible for an inbox email about a marketing department meeting to also be located in folders marked "Appointments" and "Marketing."

Using labels to keep things organized in Gmail is a process that offers simple benefits, like reducing the time spent looking for various emails. Gmail also gives users the ability to label emails automatically, helping them better manage their time. Regardless of whether or not you use folders or another system, good organization also allows users to find key emails faster so they can quickly respond to time-sensitive issues.

Adding a Folder (Label) in Gmail

If you want to use folders to simplify your inbox:

  • Click on the gear-shaped icon for "Settings" located at the top-right of the main Gmail screen. 
  • Click "See all settings" from the pull-down menu in the settings menu. 
  • Click on the "Labels" tab, and scroll to the bottom of the labels section.
  • Click "Create new label" and enter the name of the label you would like to create. 
  • If you would like a new folder to be nested in one that already exists, click the checkbox for "Nest label under" and choose the home folder for your new folder.
  • Click "Create."

Emails placed into a folder will remain there even after they are archived. This feature can be useful for long-term storage that keeps older messages out of the way, but still easily accessed.

Organizing Folders in Gmail

Once you have created folders for all of the types of emails you receive, it allows you to then apply a number of organizational techniques.

Using Gmail labels is very useful for storing certain emails long-term while removing them from the top of your inbox so they don’t get in your way. After you have assigned an email to one or more labels, simply send it to the Gmail Archive and it will be removed from your inbox, but it will still be available under the label you have selected for it.

If the number of folders you have created is a bit overwhelming, you can hide less-important folders to reduce clutter: 

  • Click on the "Labels" tab in the settings menu and scroll down to locate the folder you would like to hide in the "System Labels" column. 
  • Next to the name of the folder, in the "Show in label list" column, the word "show" should be written in black, bold-faced type, and the word "hide" should be in blue typeface. Click on "hide" to remove the folder from your labels list in the left panel.

If you are combining projects or want to reduce the number of labels by using broader categories, you can combine folders with just a few steps: 

  • Type "label:" and the name of a folder you wish to combine into the search bar. All of the emails with that label should pop up in the search results. 
  • Click the checkbox at the top-left corner above your search results to select all of the labeled emails. 
  • Click the "Labels" icon to the far right of the "check all" box and select the new destination(s) for these emails.

Gmail also allows you to automatically label your current and future emails:

  • Search for all of the emails that meet a specific criterion, such as emails with a certain email address. 
  • Click the select all box at the top of the search results.
  • Click on the "More" button.
  • Select "Filter messages like these." 
  • Adjust the settings for your filter to select specific emails.
  • Click "Create Filter." 
  • Select any actions you’d like to apply, including assigning filtered emails to a specific label. Gmail will then automatically label all emails that meet your set criterion.

Teamstand Makes It Even Easier to Find Information in Gmail

Don't want to go through the hassle of maintaining and building these folders from scratch? Teamstand is a Chrome extension that automates the organization of digital assets in Gmail to reduce the amount of time you spend searching for files. Our app presents organized lists of important files in a collapsible panel within Gmail, bringing critical assets to where you’re already working. Like the best apps, it’s intuitive and simple. Best of all, it’s free. Contact us today to get early access to Teamstand’s automated digital filing finding cabinet.