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It’s alarmingly easy to let your Gmail inbox spiral out of control. Going too long without deleting messages could make it nearly impossible to sift through your overflowing email account.

There are, however, a few steps you can take to keep your inbox from becoming unmanageable. Here are a few tips:

  • Use Labels. If you have one primary Gmail account that includes all of your personal messages and work-related content, you’ll want to take advantage of Gmail’s labels feature. This allows you to organize emails into categories the same way you would put files on your computer into folders. To create a label in Gmail, click the “More” button on the lefthand side on your inbox and select “Create new label.”
  • Turn on Send & Archive. When you’re done with a conversation, there’s no need to give it precious real estate in your inbox. Gmail has a feature called Send & Archive, which automatically archives an email thread as soon as you reply to an email. Just click the small gear icon that appears in the upper right hand corner of the Gmail interface, press the “Settings” button, and look for the “Send and Archive” subsection. Click the bubble that says “Show Send & Archive button in reply.”
  • Add the “Mark as Read” Button. If you’ve got tons of emails coming in from friends and coworkers, you may not want to archive or delete them right away. If you want to quickly mark a batch of emails as read, you’ll probably want to add the “Mark as Read” button to your toolbar. To do this, navigate to “Settings” and click on the “Labs” tab. Then scroll down to the “Mark as Read Button” and click “Enable.”
  • Try a Third-Party App. Using features built into Gmail can only help so much when it comes to making your inbox as manageable as possible. Some third party apps take care of other pain points and inconveniences. Mailstrom, for instance, can identify bundles of related emails so that it becomes easier to delete unwanted messages in bulk. Unroll.Me consolidates newsletters, promotions, and other subscription emails into a single message to prevent your inbox from becoming too cluttered.
  • Purge Your Inbox in Your Spare Time. These tools and apps certainly make the process easier, but maintaining a clean inbox still requires some amount of effort. The best way to keep emails from piling up is to make the conscious effort to delete or mark emails as read as often as possible in your spare time. For instance, getting into the habit of sorting through emails when you’ve got 10 minutes to kill before a meeting can really make a difference.
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