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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 john@gmail.com, you also receive any email sent to john+newsletter@gmail.com. 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 August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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