Using Filters For Email Efficiency And Stress Reduction

ECL Readers: At the bottom of this post is an embedded video tutorial on using email filters. Be sure to scroll down and check it out.

Does all of your incoming email automatically make its way to your inbox? For far too many years, that’s the hands-off approach I used to manage my incoming email. I’m ashamed to admit that it made working through my inbox time-consuming and stressful.

Coffee Filter

CC image courtesy of holycalamity on Flickr

Of course, my approach wouldn’t surprise you if you saw the way we managed our snail mail at home during those same years.

On most days, someone in our family of five (we had three sons at home at the time) would go to the street, empty the mailbox, bring the mail into the kitchen and pile it on the table. 

Slowly, very slowly, it would begin to disappear as we each stopped by to claim the mail that was ours. Every so often, after tiring of seeing the mess on the table for days, I would dig in and distribute it to the appropriate bedrooms and desks throughout the house.

Productivity Guru David Allen Offered A Solution

Finally in 2003, soon after reading David Allen’s bestseller, Getting Things Done, I made what seemed like at the time to be a life-changing move in our house. I went to Amazon, bought a basic letter sorter, labeled it with my handy dandy labeler, and strategically placed it on our kitchen desk. 

LetterSorter

Now with a place where the mail could easily be sorted and stored, our level of neatness in the kitchen instantly went up and our level of stress went down. It’s still working its magic today.

It’s funny how something so simple, and so inexpensive, can have such a positive impact. If snail mail is also stressing you in this way, I highly recommend a letter sorter with labels.

Applying This Idea To Your Email

Now I want to suggest that you consider adopting the same approach with your email.

Luckily, doing it with email is much easier because you don’t have to rely on anyone to pick up the mail at the street and sort it into the various mail slots. Your email client will do this for you automatically, 24/7.

It’s Fast and Easy To Do 

All you need to do is take a minute or two to give your email app the instructions regarding what you want done with incoming emails, based on criteria that you choose. The tool you use for this is called a filter (Outlook calls it a rule) and it’s simple to put into place. 

To help you set one up, and to show you how powerful an email filter can be, I put together the short tutorial video below. In it, I show you how and why filters are a must for quickly easing much of your inbox pain and suffering.   (Click here if for some reason you can’t see the embedded video)

So what do you think? Do you agree that email filters are a no-brainer? 

Seriously, letting Google filter the emails that I need only consume (i.e., read), from those that I need to act on, has made a huge difference in my inbox management efficiency.

It’s also made me a calmer person because my inbox is no longer bulging with emails that don’t require any action other than reading.

Note: As the video revealed, I currently use a Mac with Gmail as my email client, but all email apps offer the ability to filter or sort emails in some fashion. 

Question: What tools and techniques are you using to boost your efficiency, while lowering your frustration with email? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Readers: David Allen is the creator of what’s commonly known as GTD (derived from the title of his bestselling book). His productivity methodologies have spread across the globe and are worth learning about. I’ve found some of them to be very helpful.

May I ask a favor? If you know engineers, students, or others who would benefit from this post, please use any of the share buttons below to pass it along to them. Thank you!  

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