Gmail is one those things that I could never live without, but that’s also made my life a lot more annoying. I gave up on inbox zero years ago (I’d be happy with inbox 1000 at this point) and I get dozens of useless, spammy emails every day, making it all the more difficult to find any important messages that are less than a week old.
If you’re like me but you want to get better at managing your Gmail account, there’s a way to do it without committing to the herculean task of totally cleaning out your inbox. Instead, you can use some clever Gmail search tricks (courtesy of Popular Science) to navigate through the refuse and maybe even clear up some free space while you’re at it.
Tricks for Finding Old Emails
If you’re having trouble tracking down an old email there are a few search tricks at your disposal. It all depends on what kind of messages you’re looking for.
Need to find an important message that you never actually opened? Add “is:important is:unread” to your search to pull up unread emails that Google thinks are important to you based on who sent them and what they’re about.
Looking for something really old? Use the search term “before: 2016/12/31” (or whatever date you want). You can also search “before:2017" or another year if you don’t have a specific cutoff date in mind.
Finally, if you’re looking for a message sent through Hangouts (AKA Gchat) just add “in:chats” to your search. That will narrow the results and exclude any relevant emails.
Tricks for Saving Storage Space
If you’ve run up against Gmail’s generous storage allocation, you can also use some clever searching to free up more space. The quickest solution is to search “has:attachment larger_than:10mb.” That will pull up any emails with big attachments so you can delete the ones you don’t need.
You can get rid of unimportant emails you were copied on by searching “cc:me” or “bcc: me” (or both with “cc:me OR bcc:me”) and then deleting the ones you don’t want. You can also search for a specific person/company that clogs up your inbox with “from:email address.” Or try searching for a specific file type with queries like “filename:jpg” or “filename:gif” or “filename:pdf,” and then deleting those from your inbox.
If you want to avoid running out of storage space in the future you can use Gmail search to unsubscribe from a bunch of mailing lists at once. Just search “label:^unsub” to find all the emails with an unsubscribe link and go nuts.
Tricks for Staying Organised
Here’s one more Gmail search trick for keeping your inbox under control. If you’re the type of person who likes to keep your inbox organised with labels, you can search “has:nouserlabels” to find any messages that escaped your system. From there, either delete them or categorise as needed