In Gmail, adding a label to an email is very similar to adding an email to a folder in other platforms. However, there are key differences that differentiate labels on Google's email platform from others.

The biggest difference is that a single email can have multiple labels. For example, an itinerary email from an airline might be tagged with the labels "Las Vegas," "2023 Conference," and "Travel Plans." This allows you more flexibility when it comes to organizing emails with different categories of importance.

Adding a label in Gmail is pretty easy, but it looks different depending on whether you are using a mobile device or a desktop.

  • To add a label on a mobile device. Open the email that you would like to label and tap the "three dots" icon to open a pulldown menu. Tap the "Change labels" option to pull up a menu of potential labels from which you can choose.
  • To add a label on a computer. Select the email or emails you would like to label on the main screen. Click the "Label" icon at the top of the message list and select the labels you would like to add. Alternatively, you can right-click an email and select the "Label as" option.

Whenever a label is created, Gmail offers the option to place that label within another label that already exists. This nesting functionality allows you to create subcategories of emails for more advanced organization of your inbox.

Gmail also allows you to label outgoing emails. This is a great way to keep track of important files you've sent, or forgotten to send out. To add a label to an email you're composing, click the three-dot menu icon and click the label option. Then, you can select any pre-existing label or create a new one.

Adding Labels Automatically

If you are committed to using labels for organization in Gmail, staying organized can be overwhelming if you regularly receive a large volume of messages. While it does require some planning and time investment, Google offers a process for automating the labeling and sorting of all your emails.

The first step is to set up a filter for each label you would like to automatically apply. For example, if you would like to label all incoming invoices, you can create a filter that identifies any emails with the word "invoice" in the subject line. To create a filter: 

  • Select the "More" menu indicated by three vertical dots — either with an email selected on the main screen or in an opened email message. 
  • Click on the "Filter messages like these" option.
  • In the filter menu, select different criteria, such as a specific email address or keywords within the body of the email. 
  • Click “Create filter.”
  • Select the action you would like to apply to filtered messages by checking the "Apply the Label" box and enter the label you would like to apply.
  • Click “Create filter.”

After the entire process has been completed, any emails with the established criteria will be automatically labeled. Any filter can be modified in the settings menu under the "Filters and Block Addresses'' tab.

Leveraging Labels to Boost Productivity

Once you have a comprehensive system of labels in place, you can leverage this system to optimize productivity in several different ways.

Automatically labeling and archiving emails is a great way to direct email traffic into various buckets. However, you have to be careful not to create overly wide filtering rules that cause important emails to skip your inbox or risk mislabeling information  

  • Create a filter that identifies emails you would like to direct out of your inbox and into a specific label. 
  • After establishing filter criteria, click “Create filter.”
  • Select both the "Apply the Label" and "Skip the Inbox" options from the subsequent menu.
  • Click “Create filter.”

You can also give each label a different color, adding yet another layer of organization. To do this, hover over the name of a label in the bottom-left sidebar, click on the three dots, and hover over the "Label Color" option. That same menu also gives you the option to hide, show, or only show the label in the labels list if it has unread messages.

When a label has a large number of emails associated with it, Gmail's search function allows you to search within that label, such as emails from a specific email address. To search within a label, enter "label:" in the search box followed by the label name, followed by the text you would like to find, including email addresses. For example, to search for emails labeled "Social Media" from, you would enter "label: Social media"

Become a Gmail Power User with Teamstand

While labels are a great way to organize your Gmail inbox, they have limited use when it comes to immediately accessing important files. You have set aside time to build and curate them. You also have to dig through emails in the labels, and this can be hard to navigate if you have many different labels and sub-labels. 

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.