Techno Tuesday: Organising emails on GMail

Some people freak out with Gmail because of the fact that there are no folders as such and the main fear is: “how do I organise my email! Where are the folders!”  Well let’s discuss how to organise your emails which will help you to efficiently sort through them at a later stage.

Categories for your inbox.

Did you know you can add categories or tabs to your inbox? This means that messages can be categorised and collected into different parts of your inbox.  Why would you do this? Well, your inbox, for one, won’t be cluttered and two, you will feel better knowing you only have 10 work related emails, 20 blog and social media related emails, and 20 promotional emails.  You won’t be so overwhelmed with “work”. Its all about perception!

Filters and Labels

Gmail has filters that you can set to your email that will assign a label and organise your emails.  The beauty of Gmail labels is that you can organise your emails into more than one label.  So if your boss (lets call him Mr. Boss) emails you to do a budget report, you can label the email “Mr Boss” and you can label it “Budget”.  So if you are looking for all emails from Mr. Boss, you will find it labelled “Mr. Boss” or if you need to report back on budgets, you can look under the “Budget” label and you won’t miss it.

How do you create the labels (or folders for the want of a description)? Click “More” in the list of labels on the left side of the main Gmail screen. When the list expands, click the “Create new label” link. Enter a name for the label in the “Please enter a new label name” edit box on the “New Label” dialog box. Click “Create” to finish creating the new label.

Once you have your labels set up, you need to instruct Gmail to send emails to those labels.  There are two ways you can apply labels to your emails. You can apply labels to messages while leaving the messages in your inbox. You can also move messages onto labels as you would move them into folders.

With the first method, you need to select the check box to the left of the message to select it (or open the message). Then click the “Labels” action button and select one or more labels from the drop-down menu.

To apply a label to a message already in your inbox, and to move the message out of your inbox at the same time, all you need to do is to drag the message to the label you have chosen in the list on the left. As you move the mouse over the list, it will expand to display labels that may currently be hidden.

You can also change the colour of a label by moving your mouse over the your chosen label. Click the down arrow to the right of the label to access its drop-down menu.

To open a label, all you need to do is click on it as if it’s a folder! Whalla!

If you want to learn more about Gmail’s labels log onto this link:

Searching for emails in Gmail.

I’m hoping that by now you are hooked on Gmail. But for first time users, there is still the fear of not finding your emails.  Even if you have organised your emails well with labels and filters, you may still need to search for an email. 

There are some handy short cut tips for searching for emails.  Firstly there is the easy to use search function. Its kinda hard to miss! 

All you need to do is to fill in the “form” and hit the search function.  Gmail is excellent at finding emails and unless someone sent you a blank email, you should be able to find your emails in no time.  Its quick to search though the thousands of emails you may have. 

The most common mistake is to search without specifying parameters.  For example, if I am looking for all my OPSA terrific Tuesday newsletters, and I just type in OPSA, then Gmail will bring back ALL emails that relate to or have the word “OPSA” somewhere and anywhere in the email.  This is great but its not necessarily efficient.

But what about refining the search via short cuts?  If you are looking for emails from a particular email address, you can just simply type in the search box as follows: FROM:  This will bring up all emails from that email address making your search MUCH more efficient.  

You can add to the search criteria. For example, I want to search for a previous Terrific Tuesday newsletter that had an article on facing your fears. So I would search FROM: AND fears.

You should not be afraid of not finding emails in Gmail.  The search function is quick and effective and Gmail can become an amazing storage unit for information that you can find at a click of a button. For more info on how to search for emails in Gmail and for shortcuts, click on this link: 

Written for OPSA by Marié Mieny

Marié Mieny is an administrator within the School of IT at Monash South Africa (MSA).  She has been at MSA for 13 years of which 7 years have been in the School of IT

Marié has a reputation for revolutionising the mundane tasks she is given by using technology to make her very efficient and effective in her job. As a result her school is one of the top schools at MSA with a reputation of being highly organised and effective.

Marié has two honours degrees – one in Criminology and one in Psychology.  She plans on doing her Masters in the near future

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