How to organise your Gmail with labels
If you’re a Gmail user (and over 1 billion of us are) you may not be aware of labels and how they can be used to make life in your inbox more organised and easier to navigate. I'm definitely not an 'inbox zero' type of person naturally but I'm trying. And there's no doubt that by using labels it helps me in my quest out of inbox chaos.
A label is a tag that you can add to any email in Gmail, whether sent or received (or even a draft). You’re probably familiar with using folders in many other programs - I’m thinking back to my Outlook days! Labels are different from folders because one email can have multiple labels applied. If you were in a program using folders, you would only be able to have the message in one folder.
Although the ios app for Gmail is brilliant, you can’t add new labels from there although you can change labels that have already been added. Therefore, you’ll need to be in the web app to follow the steps in this post.
So below you’ll see images which are of my inbox for a 'spare' gmail account I have. I don't use it actively which is why there are hardly any emails here! And until now, no labels.
I’m going to take you through step by step how to organise your Gmail with labels. Ready?
To add a new label, scroll to the bottom of the left hand menu and click 'create new label'.
Give the new label a name. In this case, I'm calling it "Every September" because I'm going to add all the test emails I send to myself.
The new label will appear in the left hand menu - as you can see here under the Bin icon. The icon is grey by default but if you hover over it and click the 3 dots to the right, you can choose a new colour for your label. And mine is now pink.
Next I want to add the label to all of the relevant emails. You can either search for a keyword/email address to find those emails, or if your inbox is pretty empty like mine, just manually select the checkbox next to each message.
Then you have two choices. If you want to move those messages out of your inbox to the label - so that is the only place you can find them, choose the 'move to' icon at the top which looks like a folder with a right arrow in it (see below). You then choose the label you want from the drop down and click 'apply'.
Alternatively, if you want to keep those messages in your inbox but want to apply the label as well, choose the 'labels' icon. Then find your label in the list, select it and click 'apply'.
You will then see the label colour and name against all of the relevant emails in your inbox (in this example I did not move the messages out of the inbox).
As you might expect, when you click on the label name in the left hand menu, you'll see all of the messages tagged with that label.
If you need a quick reminder of the steps I went through above, here’s a video recap for you:
You may have several label names that fall under one category. So for example, you might create labels for individual clients by using their names. The category for those labels could be 'clients'. Or you might want a label for all of your Amazon order emails and then another for eBay emails. Those two labels could be nested under the category 'shopping'.
To create a nested labels like this, when you click create new label, first of all create the parent or category name, as you can see below with 'shopping':
Then create another new label, for example, Amazon. Click 'nest label under' and from the dropdown choose 'shopping' as the parent.
In the left hand menu you'll see the Amazon label nested under the Shopping label.
Once you have your system of labels set up, you can apply rules so that the relevant messages are automatically labelled.
The quickest way to do this is to select one of the emails that is already labelled. In this example, I have chosen one with the Google Play label.
Click the three vertical dots at the top and choose 'filter messages like these'
In the next box I want the filter to apply when the message is from Google Play. Click 'create filter'.
Check the box next to 'apply the label' and choose the relevant label, so here I've chosen Google Play. Click 'create filter'. And you're done. Any new emails from that sender will automatically be labelled accordingly.
The aim of labels in Gmail, based on how I use them, is to either delete or label every email that comes in. You can then choose to remove the labelled messages from the inbox all together but you will still have them under the relevant label.
So for my Google Play example, select the messages in the inbox and click the 'move to' icon. Choose the Google Play label from the dropdown and click 'apply'. They will instantly disappear from your inbox (photo) and can only be read via the Google Play label on the left hand menu.
By using this approach, you can achieve inbox zero if that's what you're aiming for. For me though, labelling emails means I can always easily find what I need and it makes me pay attention to whether I actually need to keep each email, or whether it can be binned.
changing the name of a label
If you need to change the name you’ve given to a label, just click on the three dots to the right of the label name (in the left hand menu list). Click ‘edit’ and you can enter the new name. At the same time you also have the option to change if/where the label is nested.
removing a label from an email
To remove a label from an email, select or open the email and click the ‘labels’ icon at the top (remember it looks like a tag or label!). Uncheck the label name in the list that is shown. Alternatively, at the top of the email you’ll see all of the labels currently applied to that email. Just click the cross on the label you want to remove.
deleting a label
If you no longer need a label at all, you can click on the three dots to the right of the label name and choose ‘remove label’. This will delete the label but will not delete the labelled messages.
I hope this has been useful and you’ll be on your way to creating a little inbox calm with your new Gmail labels!