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5 Types of Emails You Should be Automatically Filtering

5 Types of Emails You Should be Automatically Filtering

    How many emails do you have in your inbox right now? Are you an inbox zero freak like me? Or do you have emails piled up and unread that you’re hoping you’ll get time to get to?

    I’m not judging – I used to have as messy an inbox as anyone. And even now, if I go on vacation or don’t check my email for too long, I can get in a heap of trouble: the email piles up, and it can be a real chore getting back to my empty inbox.

    I’ve got a few tips up my sleeve though to make dealing with email a little less painful – and I’ve found the best defense is a strong offense. In this article, I’m going to give you some concrete tips and examples to reduce the number of emails in your inbox instantly – and help you keep it that way long term with the use of filters.

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    What Are Email Filters?

    Email filter is like my own little army single purpose email virtual assistants. You tell each one to check each email for a specific set of things and then tell it a specific action to do with it. Some criteria you can check on include:

    • Who is it from?
    • Who is it to?
    • What words are in the subject?
    • What words are in the body?

    Some actions you can typically take are:

    • Delete it
    • Mark it as read
    • File it somewhere
    • Send an automated response

    I use GMail and I know Outlook (and most desktop program) have this capability, you’ll have to check with your webmail provider for how it’s done. With that brief introduction, here are the five types of emails I always filter.

    1. Email Newsletters

    Any blog I sign up for, any marketing email list – the very first thing I do after confirming my subscription is I set up a filter to automatically filter this into a “ToRead” bucket. I do this two ways:

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    1. Use the + symbol to make a unique email address. For example, if you are [email protected], you also receive any email sent to [email protected]. I use a similar strategy, so all my email newsletters are sent to a specific email account that is automatically filtered to a bucket to read later.
    2. Filter by sender. A little more tedious, but you can set up individual filters for each sender as well.

    2. Friends Forwarding Me Articles

    I have a friend who constantly sends me political articles from a handful of websites. In spite of anonymously emailing them from http://stopforwarding.com/ as well as telling them in person, they won’t stop. I don’t want to filter all their emails, since occasionally they email me with something legitimate (a non-forward).

    So I filter them based on sender and checking for a handful of websites in the body of their email.  I do this with a lot of people, and it helps separate the junk they want to send me from the real conversations we’re having.  Every week or so I’ll take a look at my “Review Weekly” and see these emails in there – and usually just delete them.

    3. Comment and Ping Notifications on my Blog

    I’ve got a full time job, and while I take my blog seriously, I don’t need to be seeing all the comments and trackbacks instantly. I try to get to them every day or every few days, but I don’t want them clogging my inbox.

    I filter these into a folder that I try to review nightly – but if I can’t get to it nightly, no big deal. When I do get to it, I try to batch process them for at least 30 minutes at a time, visit everyone who has linked to me, perhaps leave a comment – and reply to the people who have been gracious enough to comment on my blog.

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    4. Facebook/Twitter/Social Media Notifications

    I don’t need to know right away when someone follows me, friends me, directs messages me, etc.  I usually check social networking and media sites at least once a week anyway, and can process the notifications at that time.

    For a while, I filtered all these and then checked them at my convenience.    For the most part though, now if I check the site often enough (like I do with Twitter and Facebook) I just turn off the email notifications altogether.

    5. Store Promotions

    I like hearing about the latest deals and specials, but there is no reason this needs to interrupt my normal daily workflow.   I looked at it, and realizedI might purchase something from one of these newsletters once a year – if even that frequently!

    So I filter all of them into a “Review Optional” folder – and if I have time, I’ll browse them at my leisure. If not – no big deal, I just delete them every couple weeks.

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    OK, I Have My Filters – Now What?

    Once you’ve created some of these filters, GMail (what I use) has an option to immediately run them on whatever you’ve got in your inbox. Use this to instantly filter low priority items away so you can focus on what’s important.

    Going forward, your filters will be applied to any new email that comes in. This will keep your inbox clean so you can read the relevant, important emails first, before you head to your folders to deal with these low priority emails that may still be important to you – but don’t require as quick a response.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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