New Year's Resolutions: Shed those excess pounds (from my Google inbox)!

TL;DR → Smart links to quickly clear out your Gmail inboxes

Do you know your Do you know your current GMail storage usage?   How much is dead weight?

To ring in the new year, I decided to finally buckle down and clear out my GMail inbox. I spent a total of 10 minutes and, just by cleaning out old emails, my inbox dropped from a size 16GB to a mere 4GB!

There are more than 650 people at OCTO. If we all do a little inbox maintenance, we can quickly remove dozens of To from Google servers

Of course, great SaaS tools are available on the market to automatically clean up your inbox but they all require custom authorizations that aren’t necessarily in line with your (or our) company's security policies.

Fear not, there are other clever ways to free up space and lighten your footprint. Just between us, we have a few tips to share to help you painlessly sort through that mountain of old emails and clean house in just a few clicks.

You can either tidy up your inbox on your own or, better yet, you can take a couple extra minutes to prepare personalized criteria for your company that can then be shared with your team.

Below are some quick links that make use of smart sorting filters and save you time in cleaning out your Gmail inbox.

These sorting filters allow you to select and delete (don’t archive****) emails you don’t want or need to keep.

Start by clearing out the obvious

Then drop the dead weight... Attachments are the largest part of your inbox

The greediest consumers of inbox data storage are media and the files (pptx, prez pdf) sent as attachments. Use these links to see what you’ve got kicking around:

You can also unsubscribe from any newsletters or promotional emails by displaying emails with the Gmail “Promotions” tag that include an ‘unsubscribe’ link

And, finally, take a moment to create sorting criteria adapted to your company—and then share it with your colleagues

Start by answering a few simple questions:

  • Do you use Google Group or other discussion groups that send email notifications?
  • Do you use SaaS that sends email notifications?
  • What are the typical keywords used in your company's notification emails (for example, billing@, sales@, info@ etc.)?
  • What email addresses usually send out your company's notifications?
  • and ABOVE ALL: which are the senders and keywords associated with messages THAT MUST NOT BE DELETED?

Now you can quickly create clever sorting filters perfectly tailored to your business context:

  • first, prepare sorting criteria directly in a Gmail page using search operators
  • then, when you are happy with your search, just copy the URL of the ‘search results’ page.

The search URL has integrated your search criteria and can now be directly shared with any Gmail user. Nifty!

For example, searching for messages prior to Dec 1-2020 using keywords [my search] or [other search] but excluding [DO NOT DELETE] would show up like this in the search bar:

before:2020-01-01 "my search" OR "other search criteria" -"DO NOT DELETE"

And the corresponding URL would be:

  Custom Sorting IRL: OCTO

Here is an example of some clever sorting filters that are adapted to our specific context here at OCTO:

  • ‘Confluence’ notifications:

  • Notifications from ‘Google Group’ :

    • We use google groups for internal communication and therefore receive a lot of notifications and “Récapitulatif Partiel” (daily or weekly recap)
    • Therefore we use search criteria based on
      • ["Récapitulatif partiel"]
      • [Standardized Keywords] we use in our standardized or automatic internal emails

We then compiled this into an email, included all the sorting links, and sent it out to every Octo via a mailing list. That's it!

A few traps to avoid!


  • If your Gmail is set to “Conversation Mode”: then when you delete a post from google groups, you also delete private replies that followed a public post.
  • Remember to Delete and not Archive the messages that you want to permanently delete from your Gmail.
  • Afterwards, deleted messages are still accounted for in your storage total as long as they remain in Trash. You’ll have to “Empty Trash” or wait a few days for Gmail to do it on its own. But take care!
  • —after that, your deleted messages will be gone forever with no way to get them back if you’ve made a mistake.
  • Be sure of what emails you’re deleting before sending them the way of the dodo. And please remember not to hold us responsible for any errors or faulty manipulations!

Feel-good moment: Step back on the scale!

Display the new data storage usage for Gmail again and bask in the warm glow of your accomplishments.

If nothing has changed, try emptying your Trash and check back in a little while… Delayed gratification is all the sweeter!

How many kilos of CO2 were shed?

According to studies and assessments made by the ADEME dating back to 2011, a single email has a carbon footprint of 19 grams of CO2 (Sorry... the page is only available in French for now).

Sadly, most of this was emitted when the email was sent...But deleting them still counts!

While we clearly won’t change the world by cleaning out our Gmail mailbox, our own OCTO Carbon Footprint study shows us that every initiative counts. Beyond that, there is another purpose to all this: by visualizing these hoarded GB of obsolete data, we can collectively become aware of our digital usages and of how it impacts the planet.

So beyond deleting our emails, we should also strive to reduce traffic and network usage; to send less data, to fewer people; and, above all, to replace our digital toys a lot less often.

Deleting our emails doesn't always translate into real impact up the chain; while it could technically lead to fewer Google servers and fewer network components (both in terms of consumption and manufacturing), it remains to be proven. But it’s a step in the right direction.

We find this to be an exciting and complex subject which we discuss in detail here.

Sure, deleting emails gives you the warm-and-fuzzies and is helpful for the environment, but the real issue lies in rethinking our methods and changing the way we use our devices to become more sustainable at the office, with the ultimate goal of becoming better, greener citizens and workers in 2021.

Frédéric Bordage wrote a useful list of best practices to follow to help lessen our digital footprint while at work /

The ADEME website is also a must, including its page dedicated le guide pratique écoresponsable au bureau) ou Le guide pratique face cachée du numérique. (all doc in french)

Next weightloss target: Google Drive

"Tidying my inbox is cool and all, but my Google Drive seems a bit overweight too. Got any tips to help me sort through those files?"

Google Drive, as you might imagine, is a bit more complicated. It’s not just sorting files but managing the different statuses and rights associated with each Google App folder and file. Unfortunately, GMail’s search operators don’t work in Drive at all.

Google Vault can help but it's mostly used by domain admin for legal backup purposes.

For starters, you can:

We're still working on this but will provide more intel in a second blog post we hope to be posting soon. If we have any bright ideas, that is!

That will be our good resolution for 2021, promise!