How to Organize Your Emails in Gmail

We all know that our digital life would be so much easier if we kept our email messages organized.  It’s easier said than done, but it’s time to get organized with Gmail’s powerful capabilities.

In the past, if you organized or attempted to organize your emails you created folders.  We all understand computer folders because they are a digital version of old-fashioned paper folders.  But simply duplicating a physical process within a computer does not fully utilize what your computer can do to help you save time.

Instead of calling them folders, Gmail uses Labels and the difference is significant:  you can assign as many Labels as you like to each message.  It’s like placing the same email in lots of folders, without taking up any extra space.

Why would you want to do that?  Let’s say you receive a work email from your boss about a marketing project and it’s an email you want to keep for future reference.  It makes sense to have a Label with your boss’s name and another Label for Special Marketing Project and “file” the message both ways.  Then you can easily find the email later based on whether you are searching for all emails related to that particular project or just wanting to review emails from your boss.  As you refer to your organized messages in Gmail, you will find this to be a real time-saver.

There are actually two types of Gmail Labels: System Labels and Labels.  Gmail provides the System Labels which you cannot delete or change, but you can choose to “hide” them if you want.  Gmail also starts you with a few non-system Labels which you can delete if you’d like.  Let’s take a look at these Labels.  Go to your Gmail account.  Click on .  Click on Settings.  Click on Labels at the top.

You can add Labels on this Settings screen or add them as needed when you’re reading your email.  I recommend that you start by creating some on the Settings screen that you know you will need.  If you have folders that you named in Outlook or another email program, start with those Label names.  In a future post, I’ll show you how to import those old emails from your former email program. 

Be sure to nest specific Labels under more general names.  For instance, I have a Travel Label with more specific travel related Labels within the main Travel Label.  This is what my nested Travel Labels look like:

To create Labels on the Settings screen, simply click on Create new label.  Enter the Label name.  If you are nesting it under a more general Label, check Nest label under and select the correct Label from the drop down list. (This label must be created before you can nest labels underneath it.)  Click Create.

To create Labels as you read an email message, click on the above your email.  Click Create new.  The same Label creation box will pop up.

Across the top you’ll notice a  to the right of the .  You can also label or create labels from this menu.  I don’t recommend using this method from your Inbox, because it will leave the message in your Inbox.  Generally, the point of labeling your messages is to both organize AND remove them from your Inbox.

Now that you have a labeling system for your incoming Gmail messages, you can set up Gmail as your only email program for all of your email addresses.  That’s my next post!

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