Rules / Filters in Emails are awesome even if you don't receive a ton of emails

Jan 10, 2021 by Kolappan N

I have heard a lot about creating Filters in Gmail or Outlook to automate tasks such as organizing your email into folders. But I have never used a filter until a few months back.

You see, I don’t receive a lot of emails. My old email routine is a simple one. I have created various folders & labels. I keep all mails in my Inbox and once I am finished with a mail I either delete them or move them to a corresponding folder. If I am not done with a mail, it will stay in my Inbox. Additionally, I also Snooze an email so that it will show up again on a specified date when it is needed and will stay out of sight till then.

This is a fairly simple routine for which I didn’t think Filters would be useful. After all, I am not a guy who receive hundreds of emails per day, what need do I have for filter & rules?

Then one day I started receiving newsletters from a mail list that I had no option to unsubscribe from. After trying unsuccessfully to remove my email from the mailing list, I marked the email as Spam and decided to move on and let the Spam system do it’s job. This then repeated for a few newsletters & service notifications.

But one thing we often forget is that Spam is also an Inbox. A low priority one for sure. The contents in Spam might not be usually worth the time but we still need to look into it from time to time to make sure something worthwhile/needed does not end up there. These newsletters I marked as spam started showing unread emails in Spam. Although I do not check it daily, I had to check it from time to time and I do not want these newsletter to be shown as an unread mail anywhere. I want them silently removed. This is where filters came to the aid.

I created a filter to mark these email as read and move them to bin. This way I have the email silently removed from my mail account without any notification to me. I added additional conditions based on subject/body of the email in addition to the sender to make sure that I am targeting the email correctly. You can add multiple conditions to a filter/rule which is great. Always create multiple rules for a filter so that it will not target any other emails.

Once I found this to be successful I decided to apply this filter to more than just spam emails. For example, there is this one newsletter where you get 6 daily newsletters and a weekly round-up on Sunday. I don’t want the weekly round-up as it only contained news that I have already seen. But they are bundled into one newsletter. I would normally delete the weekly round-up manually. I decided to create a filter to silently delete the weekly round-up while still keeping the daily newsletter. It worked like charm.

After trying silently deleting emails, I decided to try just silencing them. Did you know that setting a filter to mark an email as read will cause the service Gmail or Outlook to not send a push notification on your mobile app? It was a great discovery for me. I then created and applied this filter to emails that don’t need my urgent attention like scheduled bills, newsletters, etc… Note that this only worked for me because I have a clean Inbox, meaning that even an unread email in my Inbox has a pending action just not urgent enough to send a push notification for it.

Even for a guy like me who doesn’t receive ton of emails, filters have been really helpful and productive. They are one of the most underrated tools. Just find out a repeated task you perform in your email. Anything from deleting known spam emails to organising emails you can automate it using filters. It is a real time saver.

Tags: Productivity