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Tips to Optimise Your Gmail Inbox

Want to get more out of your Gmail inbox? From selecting the right inbox type to leveraging filters and labels, we’re exploring a range of tips, tricks and features to help you organise your inbox more efficiently and improve productivity.

Choose Your Inbox Type

A short video demonstrating how to change your inbox type in Gmail on the web. The video begins with a title reading “Change your Gmail inbox layout”. It then transitions to a view of an inbox with the quick settings panel open on the right-hand side. There are six inbox types in a list: “Default”, “Important first”, “Starred first”, “Priority inbox” and “Multiple Inboxes”. A cursor clicks on each option, showcasing what the inbox will look like if the option is selected. A brief description of the inbox type appears in a box as each option is selected.

Gmail offers a range of options to customise the way incoming emails are sorted and displayed in your inbox. With six distinct inbox types 📫 to choose from, you can adapt your inbox to suit your needs and workflow, helping to maximise day-to-day productivity.

Wondering which inbox layout is most effective for you? Here’s a quick roundup of the different options available and why you might use them:

Default Inbox

The “Default inbox” option automatically sorts incoming emails into different tabs such as “Primary”, “Social” and “Promotions”. It can be useful if you want a quick and simple way to organise emails and keep less-relevant ones out of your main inbox. To take advantage of a tabbed inbox, enable the tabs from your Gmail settings and check them regularly to ensure you don’t miss anything important. If you’d prefer all of your emails to be displayed in one list, you can keep the tabs turned off.

Priority Inbox

The “Priority inbox” segments emails into three collapsible sections: “Important and Unread”, “Starred” and “Everything else”. It uses machine learning to adapt to your email habits and prioritise key messages on your behalf. For instance, the emails you star, archive or delete, along with who you respond to most often, all influence how your inbox is automatically sorted. You can also customise your priority inbox by adding an additional section based on a label.

Important First, Unread First or Starred First

The “Important first”, “Unread first” and “Starred first” inbox types all share similarities in that they offer a choice between prioritising specific email types at the top of your inbox whilst placing all other emails below. Depending on which one you choose, your inbox will be split into two sections with either “Important”, “Unread” or “Starred” messages at the top and “Everything else” at the bottom. Setting up your inbox this way can be useful if you want Gmail to automatically sort your emails but only have two sections.

Multiple Inboxes

If you want even more control over where each email goes, then the “Multiple inboxes” structure might be for you. This inbox type lets you create up to five customised sections based on specific search criteria or labels. For instance, you could set up multiple inboxes that correspond to “Action”, “Follow-up” and “Later” labels or create separate inboxes for colleagues, partners and clients. It gives your inbox more of a dashboard feel, making it easy to quickly scan emails and prioritise what is important to you.

💡 Tip: in addition to choosing an inbox type, you also have the option to control how replies appear in your inbox. Enable "Conversation view" to group responses together, or, if you prefer, disable it to display each email separately.

Organise Emails with Labels

A short video of a user demonstrating how to create a new label in Gmail on the web. The video begins with a shot of the user’s inbox. It then zooms in to the left navigation panel to show a close-up of their labels. The user clicks on the plus sign next to the “Labels” menu and a pop-up dialog titled “New label” appears. The user enters the name of their new label, “Happy”, and clicks “Create”. The label is created and is shown second in the label list on the left-hand side.

Do you regularly spend time trying to locate emails in your Gmail inbox? Labels 🏷 can help you find what you’re looking for faster. They enable you to keep your inbox organised and easy to manage by grouping relevant messages together. This could be based on topics, tasks, projects, senders or just about anything else you need. You can colour-code labels, create sub-labels, attach multiple labels to a single message and filter by a label using Gmail’s search functionality.

Whilst you can manually apply a label to one or more emails from your inbox or directly within the message itself, automating the process with filters can save you a lot of time and effort – we'll cover this in more detail next.

Note: when you apply a label to an email conversation in Gmail, it only affects the messages that are already present in that conversation thread. Any future messages you send or receive within that thread won’t automatically get the same label applied.

Automatically Sort Incoming Emails with Filters

A short video of a user demonstrating how to create a new filter in Gmail on the web. The video begins by showing the user selecting the “Show search options” button from the search bar at the top of the screen. Upon clicking this, a pop-up dialog appears and the user enters the search criteria they want to use for the filter. Specifically, in the “Has the words” field, they enter the word “emoji”. The user then proceeds to choose what they would like the filter to do. In this case, it is to star any emails that contain the word “emoji”. After selecting the “star” option, the user clicks “Create filter” and is taken back to a view of their inbox.

Instead of manually sorting through emails as they arrive in your inbox, Gmail filters can help you automate the process, freeing up time to focus on more important tasks. You can set up filters to automatically perform actions such as archiving, forwarding, deleting, starring, applying a label, and more, to emails that meet certain criteria. These criteria could include emails that are from a specific sender, contain a certain keyword and more.

Some different ways you can use filters to optimise your inbox include:

  • Applying a star or importance marker to prioritise emails from your manager or anyone you don’t want to miss.
  • Archiving email responses to your Google Calendar 📅 invitations for webinars and large events so they don’t clutter up your inbox.
  • Applying an “Internal” label to emails from anyone inside your organisation.

💡 Tip: For emails sent externally, Gmail automatically flags and labels them as “External” as a reminder to treat those messages with caution.

Delegate Access to Your Inbox

If you need someone else to monitor and manage your inbox, such as an executive assistant or team member, Gmail allows you to delegate access to trusted individuals or groups. These delegates can read, respond to and delete messages and create labels on your behalf, making sure important emails are attended to.

Once you’ve assigned someone to manage your inbox, you can decide whether emails sent by delegates should show their name as the sender or continue to use your own.

Discover More Gmail Tips and Tricks

Looking for some more Gmail tips? We’ve got you covered! Whether you need help writing emails faster or getting through your inbox more efficiently, we’ve got comprehensive resources for both.

Discover more in our Gmail productivity tips and tricks series:

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