I make judicious use of filters. I don't know how I would function without them. Like most of you I receive a certain number (read - dozens) of emails each day that are important, but not something I need right in my face. These usually include the latest post from a blog, listserv, or online journal. Using filters these emails never touch my inbox and instead travel to a folder called "Daily News" and once each afternoon I give the messages a skim and scan. If you need help setting up filters check out this Google Support Page.
2. Gmail Search
I used to spend hours organizing my email so that I could find it later. I had everything neatly color-coded and filed. Sound familiar? Then someone introduced me to Gmail Search and I regained literally years worth of productivity.
Right at the top of your inbox is a search field that looks just like Google and it uses a set of terms that allow you to search your entire mailbox (inbox, archive, trash, drafts, etc.).
Let's say for example I'm looking for that email Jennifer Kloczko sent me about Minecraft over the summer and it had a flyer attached to it. I might type in the following information into the search box
from:email@example.com Minecraft before:2014/09/01 has:attachmentThis search phrase will automatically pull up any email from Jennifer with the word Minecraft anywhere in the message sent before September 1st that also has an attachment. It could be an email she sent directly to me or one in which I was just cc'ed. You can use search terms OR you can use the menu in the dropdown attached to the small triangle next to the search button
Google has a complete list of search terms on this support page. However, I have the following poster from Alice Keeler hanging above my desk and it has been a lifesaver. I suggest printing out your own copy.
Search is my also my secret for getting to Inbox Zero. On the last day of each month I head up to the search field and type before: and the first day of the month (before:2014/10/01), select everything, and hit Archive. It is a liberating feeling to no longer see those messages hanging out in my Inbox. If I find that I need one I know that I can quickly find it again using Gmail search terms.
If you have any questions about Gmail filters or search please let me know. I'd be happy to help you get your own system in place for managing email efficiently.