Migrating Outlook Rules to Google Mail Filters

I’ve been following the practice of Getting Things Done by David Allen for some years now, and one of the core things that I have learnt is to keep my inbox for unprocessed work only. You will find there are many other strategies for managing your inbox but essentially they all discuss the same concept of and dealing with the overload of emails your receive on a daily basis. One of the important concepts of the Getting Things Done methodology is triaging you inbox. This is done by applying what they refer to as the 4 Ds:

  1. If you can get it done in under 2 minutes: Do It.
  2. If it will take longer than 2 minutes: Defer It.
  3. If it isn’t important: Delete It.
  4. If you don’t need to do it: Delegate It.

One of the best ways to manage my inbox I found, was to get Outlook to automatically triage as many incoming messages as possible through the use of rules. I created several folders in Outlook to help me process the messages:

  • Inbox – CC
  • Inbox – External
  • Inbox – Alerts

Then I would have a series of Rules to move items out of my Inbox into the relevant folder. One of the key rules I had was to move items where I was being CC’ed into the "Inbox – CC" folder. The reason for this was that if someone included me on the CC list but not in the To list, this would mean that it was for my information rather than requiring any response on my part. The rule in Outlook looked like the following:


The Rules Wizard in Outlook covers many pre defined scenarios, so I was a little concerned with the move from Exchange Server to Google Mail that I wouldn’t be able to get the same functionality. There is however a very advanced search criteria functionality that comes with the filters which take a little getting used to. Many of the advanced functionality can be found at Using advanced search.

To re-create the above rule "where my name is in the Cc box", do the following:

  1. Under Settings -> Filters select Create a new filter
  2. On the Choose search criteria screen, set:
    1. To: -to:me (note the minus before the to)
    2. Has the words: cc:me
  3. Use the Test Search button to test the criteria you have entered.
  4. Click Next Step >>


  5. In the Choose action screen, tick the following:
    1. Skip the Inbox
    2. Apply the label: Inbox – CC
  6. Click Update Filter



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