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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 [email protected] (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 March 21, 2019

              11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

              11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

              Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

              You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

              But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

              To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

              It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

              “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

              The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

              In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

              Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

              1. Start Small

              The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

              Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

              Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

              Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

              Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

              Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

              It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

              Do less today to do more in a year.

              2. Stay Small

              There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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              But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

              If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

              When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

              I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

              Why?

              Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

              The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

              Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

              3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

              No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

              There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

              What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

              Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

              This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

              This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

              4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

              When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

              There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

              Peter Drucker said,

              “What you track is what you do.”

              So track it to do it — it really helps.

              But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

              5. Measure Once, Do Twice

              Peter Drucker also said,

              “What you measure is what you improve.”

              So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

              For reading, it’s 20 pages.
              For writing, it’s 500 words.
              For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
              For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

              Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

              6. All Days Make a Difference

              Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

              Will two? They won’t.

              Will three? They won’t.

              Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

              What happened? Which one made you fit?

              The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

              No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

              7. They Are Never Fully Automated

              Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

              But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

              What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

              It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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              The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

              It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

              It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

              8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

              Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

              Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

              When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

              The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

              Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

              9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

              The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

              Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

              You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

              But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

              So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

              If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

              This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

              The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

              Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

              10. Punish Yourself

              Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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              I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

              It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

              You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

              No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

              The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

              But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

              11. Reward Yourself

              When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

              Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

              The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

              After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

              If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

              Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

              If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

              In the End, It Matters

              What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

              When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

              And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

              “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

              Keep going.

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              More Resources to Help You Build Habits

              Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
              [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
              [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
              [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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