How To Create Multiple Inboxes In Gmail

If you run your business via email you’ve probably tried the same email organization tactics I have. These include organizing emails into folders or using apps that bounce the email back to you in a few days.

But, if you’re like me, that doesn’t really work.

Folders hide the emails from the main inbox, which makes them easy to forget about. Apps that bounce an email back to you require thought about when you want to see that email again, and you’ll forget about it in the meantime. Which means possibly missing something important.

However, I found Gmail’s Multiple Inboxes a few years ago and haven’t looked back since. I’m now an email ninja.

The way this works is that all messages will arrive in your general inbox. You’ll then quickly categorize them which automatically sorts them into the inboxes that you’ve created.

The new inboxes are like sections of your main inbox, so they are both organized and still in view.

This allows you to easily and effectively sort your incoming mail so you know at a quick glance what needs your attention and what doesn’t.

Setting up multiple inboxes in Gmail is simple and can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Here are the six steps.

Step 1: Determine The Number Of Inboxes You Need And Name Them

Gmail allows you to have up to five separate inboxes apart from your general one. You do not have to use all five available inboxes if you don’t want to.

You’ll also need to name each of your multiple inboxes.

You can literally call these whatever you want, but they should relate to your organizational strategy. Popular inbox names for business owners might be Clients, Receipts, Projects, Invoices, and Prospective Leads. Jot down your names for your inboxes on a sheet of paper.

Step 2: Assign A Symbol To Each Named Inbox

I know – you haven’t set up your multiple inboxes in Gmail yet, and we want you to worry about assigning each inbox a symbol?

Stick with us! It’s easier to do this background work now as opposed to toggling back and forth a lot later. You can find the symbols in the Settings of your Gmail account in the General tab.

On your Gmail account home screen, access to your settings is found by clicking the icon that looks like a gear in the upper right corner of the screen.

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When you click that icon, a menu bar will open up on the right side of your screen. In that menu bar, click on the button that says “See All Settings.”

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Once you click on See All Settings, a full menu will come up on your screen. Select the General tab at the top left of that menu, then scroll down to a setting called “Stars.”

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It’s a little bit of a misnomer because there are more symbols than just stars, but this is where you choose your symbols. Select one symbol for each of the named inboxes on your handwritten list.

As you select each symbol, do two things.

  • Click on the symbol that you want to use and drag it from the “Not In Use” section to the “In Use” section.
  • Hover over the symbol to get the official name of the symbol and write that down on your handwritten list next to the inbox that you want to have that symbol. For example, if you hover over the yellow exclamation point, you’ll see that it’s called “yellow-bang.” Write it down just like that, with the dash and everything.

When you’re finished, scroll down to the bottom of the menu tab and click the “Save Changes” button.

Step 3: Enable Multiple Inboxes In Gmail

Now it’s time to formally set up your multiple inboxes. Click on the Settings icon again. Scroll down in the menu bar. Under “Inbox Type,” click Multiple Inboxes.

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Step 4: Customize Your Multiple Inboxes

While you can enable the Multiple Inboxes feature with one click, it won’t do you any good until you customize the inboxes to fit your personal use. Immediately after completing Step 3, click on Customize right under Multiple Inboxes.

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When you do that, Gmail will automatically take you to the full page of settings, and you’ll be on the Inbox tab, which is exactly where you need to be.

Step 5: Label Your Multiple Inboxes In Gmail

This is where all of the background work that you did earlier gets utilized so have the list you made ready.

In the middle of your screen, you will see a section called “Multiple Inbox Section.”

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In the Search Query column, type in the symbols that you selected earlier, putting one in each section. Remember that you’re able to use up to five sections (inboxes), but you don’t need to use all of them.

Preface each one with “has:” and then immediately follow it with the symbol name, no spaces. For example: has:yellow-bang. You can see it done correctly in the example above.

Then on the Section Name (Optional) column, type the names of your inboxes that correspond with the symbol name on the left. In our example above, I had written that the red star was going to be my symbol for the inbox where I store emails from my clients. So that’s how it’s listed.

Once you’ve done that for each of your multiple inboxes, scroll to the bottom and click “Save Changes.” That will take you back to the home page of your Gmail account. It will look something like this.

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In our example, we selected that the multiple inboxes in Gmail would be on the right side of the screen. That’s what you see in the red box above. You might have selected a different setting, so your screen might look a little different. But there should be a set of the multiple inboxes somewhere on your screen.

Step 6: Archive Your Emails In Your New Inboxes

Filling your multiple inboxes is done by archiving each email in the appropriate inbox.

To do this, click on the column right next to the empty square where you would select the message.  It’s in the shape of a star, but clicking on it will change it into any of the symbols you chose to match your multiple inboxes.

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So for each message, hover over the blank star and click a few times until you see the symbol of the inbox where you want to store that particular email. Each time you click it will change the symbol in rotation. If you miss the symbol you were looking for just keep clicking til it comes around again.

When you’re finished selecting the inbox locations for as many emails as you want to archive, click on the empty box immediately to the left of the symbols column. Click on that box to select it. Select as many messages as you changed the inboxes for, then click the “Archive” icon at the top of the page.

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Once you’ve clicked archive, the messages will disappear from your main inbox. They will reappear in your multiple inboxes. Note: The archived messages may take a few moments to show up in the new inbox. If you want to see them right away you can refresh your account.

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That’s it! Your multiple inboxes in Gmail are set up and ready to go.

Once you’ve completed the setup, it will become obvious to you how helpful this system is and how much better your time management will be because of it. No more searching through thousands of messages to find the right one. All of your messages are quickly and easily cataloged and accessible in your multiple inboxes.

Accessibility On Mobile Devices

I’ll admit, multiple inboxes works best from your computer. Multiple inboxes display much differently on your phone vs. on your computer. The Gmail app only recognizes the yellow star, so you can’t categorize emails from your phone. However, you can access your starred emails from the Gmail app.

Your default setting on your phone is to your main inbox.  In that setting, you won’t be able to see any emails that you’ve filed in your multiple inboxes.

To access those archived emails in your multiple inboxes, open the Gmail account on your mobile device. Click on the three lines at the top left of your Gmail account on your mobile device.

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From there, click on the “Starred” option about halfway down your screen.

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What comes up is all of the archived messages that are in the multiple inboxes of your Gmail account. They’re organized by date and time, and they’re all marked with yellow stars, not the symbols you selected. However, the messages are all there, which is very important if you’re someone who does a lot of emailing from your phone.

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Final Thoughts

Becoming better at time management is critical to success, whether it’s in life or in business. Start with your email inbox. The simple task of creating multiple inboxes in your Gmail account is one smart step on your way to that goal.

Looking for more steps to help organize your email inbox? Check out 8 Simple Strategies For Achieving Inbox Zero or Tips & Tricks For Keeping A Tidy Inbox.

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