Download My Gmail Filters

Posted on August 1, 2012

I received 5035 emails during the first two weeks I started working. Compared with the 613 emails I received for the same period the year before, this was a staggering 7x increase. I was completely unprepared for such high email volumes and quickly fell behind in keeping up. As a result, I’d be lost during team meetings–and even miss some messages entirely because they were buried under a deluge of automated alerts and other noise. What finally got my email under control was setting up filters that automatically moved emails from my inbox to different labels.

Setting up rigorous filters for noisy emails at work made me realize that I could save a lot of time by also filtering my personal email. Here, I’d like to share the Gmail filters that increase the signal to noise ratio in my non-work inbox. You can download my Gmail filters so you can try them in your inbox too.

Air travel emails are among the worst at cluttering your inbox. A flight booked with United typically has three emails: a reservation confirmation, an eTicket Itinerary, and a check in reminder. The first two merely parrot information about a flight that was booked only moments before; it’s much better to label these emails under ‘Flights’ and have them skip the inbox. Only the last email serves a useful purpose as a reminder to check in, but since I already track my upcoming flights in my calendar using TripIt, the check in reminder also skips my inbox.

Other filter/label combinations I’ve set up to skip my inbox include:

  • eCommerce Receipts
    These quickly become very annoying with the high number of orders I place on my Amazon Prime and iTunes accounts.
  • Shipping Notifications
    Heavy Amazon Prime usage leads to many annoying shipping notification emails that I never end up reading.
  • Facebook/Twitter Notifications
    I’ll admit that I am on Facebook often enough that I don’t need a separate notification for Facebook activity.1
  • LinkedIn Notifications
    It’s easier to deal with LinkedIn notifications all at once.
  • Google Calendar Reminders
    I already have calendar notifications on my phone and laptop. A third reminder via email on top of that is completely overkill.

Did you spot the pattern? Most of the emails I filter out are either unactionable or contain redundant information (or both). I try to practice inbox zero and have as few emails in my inbox as possible. Those that do remain become my todo list for the day. Thus, emails that may be characterized as “notifications with no further action required” (e.g. receipts and shipping notifications) should be categorized into the proper label (so I can find it later if I need to) and immediately removed from the inbox. Emails from airlines, Facebook, and Google Calendar that fall under the category of “stuff I already know” should be likewise filtered.

A cluttered inbox exhorts a cognitive tax every time you look at it as you mentally separate important messages from unimportant ones. Yes, these Gmail filters have saved me time from archiving and categorizing, but more importantly, given how frequently I look at my inbox, they have also decreased the amount of stress in my life.

Download and Contribute

You can download these Gmail filters on my github and import them into your own account.2 Feel free to contribute your own Gmail filters to the repo! I hope to make this the premier source of Gmail filters for most common needs.

  1. I’m sure some people check Facebook more than email. Perhaps it would make sense for Facebook to notify them when they receive an email, instead of vice versa!

  2. See this lifehacker article for screenshots on how to import filters into your Gmail account.