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How to Create Gmail Filters to Keep Your Inbox Under Control

Do you find yourself wasting time managing your inbox? Trying to sort through emails from our clients, boss, colleagues, friends, and not to mention deleting all of those unsolicited newsletters and unwanted sales pitches, can be a real productivity killer. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of messages we receive and how often we need to check them. 

Without a doubt, email can be a huge mental drain, but fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize distractions yet still stay connected with your inbox. For those who want to streamline their inbox management process, Gmail's automated features may prove beneficial!

This blog post will show you how to reduce stress in your life with tips for managing and sorting your inbox using email filters in Gmail.

First, what are Gmail Filters?

To help you manage your inbox, Gmail has a filtering function that will allow you to automate how emails are handled. They can be sorted into folders or redirected right away by programming rules in the system. With this tool at hand, it is much easier for people who suffer from email anxiety and cannot keep up with all of my messages coming through without feeling overwhelmed!

There are all sorts of different emails that come in: some important, others not so much. It can be difficult to keep up with them all without the help of various filters and automation rules. In Gmail, filters allow you to automatically manage emails by redirecting them when they hit your inbox, thus saving you the time and effort of manually sorting and managing them. 

For example, you can assign filters to automatically move certain newsletters from specific senders to a folder within your inbox, or move emails from specific senders directly to the trash. Ultimately, allowing you to declutter your inbox so you can focus on the emails that matter. 

What kind of Gmail Filters can you create?

There are all sorts of filters you can create to personalize your inbox experience with Gmail Filters. ‘

You can create your own email filters based on:

  • Who the specific sender of the email is and/or where the email is coming from.
  • The text in the subject line.
  • Emails that contain specific keywords and/or phrases.
  • Emails that do not contain specific keywords and/or phrases.
  • Emails based on their storage space.
  • Emails based on whether they have attachments or not.

Email Filters 101: How to Create Gmail Filters 

To get started, select the arrow on the search bar within your Gmail inbox.

Once you select the arrow, a dropdown menu will appear where you can begin creating your new email filter with custom rules.  

To help you follow along, we’ll use a simple example. Let’s say you want to create a filter for promotional emails, you could input the word “Discounts” in the ‘Has the words’ field. 

Tip: you can also enter phrases instead of keywords by wrapping the phrase in quotations or parentheses. For example, you can enter the phrase “discounts with free shipping”.

Once you are done entering your keyword and/or phrase, select ‘Create Filter’.

Next, you’ll want to decide what Action you would like to perform for emails that contain the word “discount”. 

The following list of actions below are available on Gmail. See the list and image below.

  • Skip the inbox: automatically archive an email so that it doesn’t clog your inbox.
  • Mark as read: automatically mark an incoming email as ‘read’.
  • Star it: mark the email as ‘Starred’ in Gmail.
  • Apply a label: automatically add a specific Gmail label to an email.
  • Forward it to: automatically forward an email to another email address.
  • Delete it: automatically send an email to the trash bin.
  • Never send it to Spam: ensure that Gmail will never send certain email(s) to the Spam folder.
  • Always and/ or mark it as important: automatically mark an email as important.
  • Never mark it as important: ensure Gmail never marks certain filtered emails as important.
  • Categorize as: automatically moves an email to one of Gmail’s predefined categories of inboxes (eg. Primary, Social, Updates, Forums, etc.)

After you decide on what action you want to perform, select ‘Create Filter’. And that’s it!
Moving forward, any incoming email that contains the word “discounts” will automatically be redirected based on your filter criteria. 

Tip: if you wish to apply this filter retroactively (to all matching historical emails in your inbox), you can select the last checkbox “Also apply filter to matching conversations” from the list. 

Creating more Advanced Filters

Now that you have a basic understanding of how Gmail filters work, let’s take a look at how you can create more advanced filters to better suit your inbox workflow and make managing email easier than ever. 

Instead of using basic one-off keywords like “discounts”, you could get fancy and create robust search operators using multiple keywords and/or phrases. Below is a list of search operators that can be utilized in Gmail. 

“” Double Apostrophes (aka Inverted Commas)

Searches for phrases and sentences.

Similar to the example shared in the ‘How to create Gmail Filters’ section earlier, you can search for phrases instead of one-off keywords. For example, searching for “discounts with free shipping” finds all emails that contain the exact phrase.

() Parenthesis

Searches for keywords as a group, rather than phrases or sentences.

For example, searching for (New Discounts) searches for all emails that have the words “New” and “Discount”, but not necessarily as a phrase or sentence.


Gmail filters allow you to create search strings using multiple keywords. Note: Gmail operators use AND by default. Therefore, it’s best to separate keywords/phrases using the Double Apostrophes and separate them by entering ‘AND’ in between them if you have lengthy operators.

For example, searching for “New Discounts” AND “Free Shipping” will scan for all emails containing both words New Discounts and Free Shipping


Finds emails containing at least one of two keywords and/or phrases and sentences.

For example, searching for Discounts OR “Free Shipping” locates all emails which contain either the keyword Discounts or the phrase Free Shipping.

+ Plus Symbol

Searches for the keyword exactly as it is entered.

For example, +discounts locates all emails that contain the keyword “discounts” but not containing the term “discount” or “discounted”.

– Minus Symbol

Scans for emails that do not contain a specific term.

For example, -discount finds all emails without the keyword “dwight” in them, even if the email contains keywords like “discounted” or “discounts”. 

To Sum Up

Setting up your email filters to work for you is one of the most important things you can do to keep your inbox manageable. Gmail filters are more powerful than you think, and once it’s perfected, it can be used as a full-fledged filter that minimizes distractions and only shows you the emails that matter to you.

Now that you have an understanding of how Gmail Filters works, try creating your own. But remember: creating the perfect email filter for your Gmail is not a one-and-done, trivial task. Therefore, make sure you create, test, and iterate your various search operators until you can find a system that works for your workflow and email priorities. Good luck!

If you’re having difficulty creating your own custom email filter or can’t think of what types of emails you should create filters for, feel free to request a free consultation with one of InMoat’s email management specialists! 

Select the types of emails that are your priority and never miss an urgent or important email again.

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