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5 Gmail Filters to Get You to Inbox Zero

5 Gmail Filters to Get You to Inbox Zero

The elusive Inbox Zero. It’s the moment when you have all of your “inputs” somewhat dealt with and the the slate is clear for you to concentrate on what is truly important. Some people think that it’s simply getting your entire email inbox to no emails. If that is the case, I could do that pretty easily by selecting all email and trashing it.

That’s not necessarily the point.

Inbox Zero is a state where we have our decks cleared, have the right things in the right places, and we can start to work on what is important. But, we can use some hacks to get us to this state a little bit easier everyday.

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Use the 5 Gmail filters to help clear out your inbox, achieve Inbox Zero, and free up the time and space to get done what really matters.

  1. The “you email me too much and you are going to get ignored” filter.This is one of my favorite filters that I have ever used and by far the one that gets the most use. Basically, if you get too much email from someone and you don’t want to see it in your inbox day-in and day-out, add the sender to the “From:” field in the filter.
      Using OR statements to combine email addresses
        Archiving and labeling email

        Depending on how much you really don’t want to see this person’s emails, you can either trash the email immediately (essentially turning this filter into a blacklist), or be a little more humane and give the email a “Review” label for later review.

        As more and more people keep sending you more and more email that you don’t want to see, you can simply add them to the “From:” field in the filter preceded by an OR operator.

      • The newsletter review filterSome people like getting a bunch of newsletters; really, they all aren’t that bad. One thing that I can’t stand is diving into a some unprocessed emails and seeing a newsletter that seems interesting. 30 minutes later after I have read it and probably clicked through to watch some video or comment somewhere else I wonder where time has gone.

        It doesn’t have to be this way. One way to clear out a bunch of these emails is to search the content of the email for “unsubscribe here OR unsubscribe”. Since it’s “unlawful” for individuals and companies to send email that you signed up for without an unsubscribe link, chances are you are going to catch most if not all of these newsletter emails this way. After you find these emails check Skip the inbox (Archive it) and choose which label you want to give it (I go with something like Read/Review). Now you can review these newsletters on your own time.

          Search for unsubscribe here OR unsubscribe

        • The social reviewIn the same vein as the last filter, if you get a lot of email notifications for social networks and you still want to receive and review them, you can set up a filter with a subject search of all of the social networks you are involved with. For instance you could say “facebook OR twitter OR linkedin OR google+ OR”, you get the idea.

          You can then Archive these and give them a label. Sometimes, a filter like this can be overzealous, like if you are waiting on an email with the subject of “Facebook wants to buy your company for a billion dollars”. But, as long as you review this label every couple of days you won’t lose anything important.

        • Get notified fastAll of these filters are great, but what if you are waiting for a specific email from someone and you don’t want to keep checking your inbox every 30 seconds? Well, then you can set up what I like to call “the poor man’s AwayFind”. All you need is a cell phone for this.

          Set a filter with the To: field from the email address you are waiting on a message from. Then, set the search to foward to a different address. Instead of forwarding to another email address, you are going to set up an forward address to your phone number. Follow this format of address for your carrier.

            Add a forwarding address
              Forward the important email to your phone

              I’m with Verizon, so my address is forwarded to 1234567890@vtext.com (couldn’t get the MMS address work). Gmail will send you a confirmation code, confirm the email address, and boom: you now get text notifications of any sender you deem as important.

            • Set yourself up to keep projects aliveOne of the best things that I have learned from GTD is to keep a “waiting for” list. It allows me to keep track of everything that I have outside of myself pending to be done.

              I have an @Waiting label in Gmail that I use all the time. Anything that I need to follow up on gets this label. I move a lot of email here manually, but you can set up a filter that can apply this label automatically when you send an email.

              Create an email with the From: filled out as your email address and the content of the email searching for something like “_wf_” (without the quotes). Then assign this message an @Waiting label. When you send an email to someone that you want to track it as something you are waiting on, after your signature simply type “_wf_”. After it sends it will be caught by your @Waiting label for further follow up.

              Waiting for filter will keep your projects alive

              Getting to Inbox Zero isn’t as hard as you think. Use these Gmail filters to set up your system so you can concentrate more on important work rather than checking your inbox.

              (Photo credit: Mailslot via Shutterstock)

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              More by this author

              CM Smith

              A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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              Last Updated on July 17, 2019

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

              What happens in our heads when we set goals?

              Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

              Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

              According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

              Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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              Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

              Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

              The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

              Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

              So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

              Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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              One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

              Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

              Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

              The Neurology of Ownership

              Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

              In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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              But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

              This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

              Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

              The Upshot for Goal-Setters

              So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

              On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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              It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

              On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

              But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

              More About Goals Setting

              Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

              Reference

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