Most people get a sizable number of newsletters or other mass mailed email messages every day; I’m not referring to spam, here. The type of messages I’m referring to are newsletters or emails from sites like LinkedIn, trade associations, etc. that have content you eventually want to read. These emails, however, are not urgent and are often better off filed into a folder for later review. Keeping these message out of your primary inbox folder accomplishes several things that improve productivity.
First, it allows you to focus your attention on emails that may require a response. You will never be required to respond to a newsletter or daily digest email so this process allows you to pay attention to what matters most. Second, it keeps your mobile device from alerting you about messages that aren’t urgent. If I’m in a meeting and my mobile device is buzzing constantly it becomes a distraction. Finally, having these emails filed in a subfolder enables you to attend to them at the appropriate time. If a newsletter ends up in my inbox while I’m busy, I usually mark it as read so it doesn’t dilute the importance of my other unread emails. That means these emails often never get read at all.
My process is to read these emails when I have downtime or I just need a break from a task I’m working on. As I mentioned, these emails aren’t spam. They contain content that is relevant but not urgent. If they don’t get read for an entire week or more it’s no big deal. Keeping up on industry news is important but it’s not urgent and it should be treated accordingly. These are what Dr. Stephen Covery referred to as Quadrant II activities as you can see below.
The best way I’ve found to keep your inbox limited to Quadrant I communications is to route non-urgent messages to a subfolder and unsubscribe to spam. The best way to do this for Microsoft Outlook users is by using Rules. Rules are very easy to create in Outlook by using the “Create Rule” wizard. Going through the wizard is pretty self explanatory in most cases so I won’t address that here. What I’m going to focus on instead is a special case that isn’t quite as easy to deal with.
Emails from Multiple Senders
Sometimes trade associations like the American Bar Association send emails from over a dozen different email addresses. The ABA sends emails from email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc. This becomes tough to deal with if you use the simple “Always Move Messages From:” option on the Rules menu as shown below because you have to do it for every email alias. This is inefficient and it clutters up your rules.
A much more effective way is to create a generic rule that sends every email to a subfolder that comes from an address that ends with @americanbar.org. This will route every email from the ABA’s domain so if you get emails from them that need to dealt with immediately you’ll need to create an exception or use another process. For this process you choose “Create Rule…” from the Rules menu. This brings up the simple “Create Rule” dialog where you will click “Advanced Options…” as shown below.
You will click the “with specific words in the sender’s address” checkbox on the following screen and then click the hyperlink circled below.
Enter the domain name for which you which to route emails. In our example we’ll enter americanbar.org and click the “Add” button. You’ll then select the action you want to take with the email on the following screen. In this case you’ll click the first checkbox and specify the folder you want to use to store the messages. The next screen in the wizard allows you to choose exception criteria if applicable. The final screen in the wizard prompts you to specify a name for the rule and click Finish. This final screen looks like the screenshot below for our example.
Once this rule is added to Outlook you can create similar rules for other non-urgent emails which will improve your email productivity.