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    Mastering Email Filters

    Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 6:12 AM | Productivity, Simplification

    We all email. But we don’t all use email filters. Let’s see how filters may make your digital life much easier.

    What is a Filter
    A filter is a set procedure or action that happens when a trigger occurs. In this case emails will be our triggers. Some email clients call these rules (outlook) while other call them filters (gmail). They do the same thing in most cases.

    Why you Should use Filters
    They will save you time and help you organize your inbox. It can also help reduce spam if that is a problem.

    When Filters Fail
    If you truly don’t need a message, see if you can unsubscribe first. This is always better than setting up a filter. Stop the message at the source if you really don’t need it. If you still want to receive it but just don’t want to be a robot, filters are perfect.

    Where to Start?
    First consider what messages you get on a regular basis, and what you do with them. Glaring examples are online purchase receipts, automatic payment notifications and other non-actionable messages.

    Sample Scenario 1: Shopaholic  

    You order a lot of books on amazon.com and you get a lot of shipping notices and other messages. You could turn these off, but you like getting them so you have a “record”. But you are tired of them bogging down your inbox.

    Setup a filter to do the following:

    • Flag messages coming from amazon.com’s standard order confirmation address.
    • Label/classify them as Amazon Orders or some name that makes sense to you
    • Have the filter automatically move them to a folder/label and skip your inbox.

    Now if you ever need to check on your orders, head over to your Amazon folder and read your messages. However since you rarely need to do so your inbox will stay clean and clear.

    Sample Scenario 2: 9 to 5er

    You like to separate work and personal email but like to manage them all in one email central account. (I like to use one account to manage all 6 email accounts). With filters you can color code, organize and classify all mail to keep your accounts separate.

    Lets use a filter to keep work and personal separate so you are at home you don’t have to deal with your work email

    • Flag messages sent to your work address to be labeled/classified as Work Email or some name that makes sense to you
    • Have the filter automatically move them to a folder/label and skip your inbox.

    Now you have created a separate work only inbox, so you can enjoy your person time without mingling it with work. But they are still only a click away.

    Filtering can be amazing if you have unwanted emails in your inbox. You can use your providers mark as spam option, but this may not solve your problem. Here are a few tips for making your very own spam filter!

    Learn Your Enemy’s Weakness
    Each time you receive a spam message take a short glace at it. See what is common with other spam messages. Chances are you can think of several hot words that are used and notice other tricks spammers use.

    Setup a filter that automatically puts messages that contain these hot words in your spam folder (and skips your inbox).

    Here are a few ideas:

    • Unsubscribe. Nearly all spam has a link to unsubscribe, however it’s a fake link…meant to capture and confirm your address. Filter all messages that say unsubscribe!
    • Other “hot” words (you know what I mean). Add these choice words to your filter and put dirty messages right in your spam folder.
    • Those people that send you chain emails. They can go right into your spam folder and they will never know. Any message from them with the words FW gets spammed.

    Every time a unwanted message makes it through your filter, add a “catch” to this filter to prevent future messages from making it. After a while your filter should be bulletproof.

    Over time you will have to create conditions on your filters as you catch things that shouldn’t be in your spam folder. Maybe you have a less than professional friend using your hot words, or maybe some of your legitimate email has the word unsubscribe in it. Just make exceptions to your rule. This is why it’s best to have one massive spam rule that you can make changes to, instead of a bunch of individual rules to update.

    These are just a few very basic email filter ideas. I am sure you have many more ideas. Here are a few more:

    • Set a message to automatically forward to another co-worker or spouse
    • Automatically reply to certain messages
    • Color code mail accounts
    • Automatically add bills to a folder

    Do you have any life saving filters to share?


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