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Simple Email (work) filters and rules

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  • Simple Email (work) filters and rules

    I would like to setup a simple but effective work-email filter and looking for recommendations and best practices. This is for work email and the mail client is Outlook 2003.

    At the moment, I have too many rules setup - some for individual persons, some for a group of people. I bump into email management problem whenever I work on any kind of projects and I'm not sure if I should put that email on the project's folder or the person's folder or both.

    I got recommended a really simple rule;

    - everything comes to inbox

    - if I get Cc'd to something it goes to Inbox - CC (as an FYI)

    - Inbox external - for people outside my organization

    - Bosses - 3 up

    - Archive

    Would anyone have any suggestions?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    Here are my filters. They work well for my situation. Maybe you can take some ideas form the list.

    Most things are unfiltered and land in my inbox. I have to process it all anyway so it might as well all go there.

    I then have an @Tomorrow folder for emails that are never urgent. Mailing lists, departmental news, anything from HR, etc. I might take a leaf out of your book and add CC mails there. Basically, it's regular stuff that I want to read but is not urgent. Every day I go and look at the previous day's stuff. It gives a nice sense of perspective. If I'm busy and have a lot of mail, I might choose to delete some without reading it. It's harder to get that perspective as stuff arrives throughout the day.

    Finally, I have filters to automatically archive mail that I don't want to read. This includes a few mailing lists that spam dozens of mails a day that I could never read but that my boss might refer me to occasionally.

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    • #3
      You could try listening to this interesting podcast: http://gtd-vsg.blogspot.com/2009/02/...age-tasks.html

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      • #4
        Originally posted by chris345 View Post
        I would like to setup a simple but effective work-email filter and looking for recommendations and best practices.
        I have lots of rules but they are very simple in concept.

        The only messages that get filtered out are newsletters or e-mail lists on a specific topic (to a specific folder for each one) and advertising to a separate folder. It takes a bunch of rules to filter out the advertising stuff because I label each one separately but it's really all once big rule. Everything else gets dumped into one inbox. From there I process or answer it and all messages then end up in one huge Reference folder. I index that folder within DVONThink to give me faster searching for stuff if I can't find it using mail search terms.

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        • #5
          I'm skeptical that email rules do much good. I use a workflow where only four things can happen to email: it requires action, and those actions go on appropriate lists; it contains valuable information that I want to keep at hand for a project, and it goes into an area of focus folder until the project is done, when it is archived; it goes into an annual archive folder; it gets deleted. The only exception is a few emails from places I buy things from: I throw those into an @shopping folder and purge every month or so. My workflow works very well, and I can't imagine filing most email without looking at it. I'm willing to be informed if someone can explain the value of email filing rules.

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          • #6
            mcogilvie, when I have a lot of email including some I need to respond to quickly, it helps that the ones likely to be urgent are already automatically collected in a folder I look at first.

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            • #7
              Don't use rules to try to take the thinking out of the fundamental thinking process!

              I only use e-mail rules and alerts to either automatically trash e-mails that I know I will never want to see or read (e.g. regular mass-mails that don't pertain to me) or e-mail alerts (e.g. automated e-mails from monitoring tools that may indicate a serious problem with an application that I support).

              I do not use e-mail rules to file e-mails for me automatically. Doing so mixes stuff that I've not processed yet into my action and reference folders. I need to trust that my inbox is the only place that I have unprocessed stuff or I'll go numb to the whole system and won't trust it.

              The only exception to that rule is filing sent messages with *wf* in the body to my @Waiting For folder (a D.A. Outlook trick).

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
                I do not use e-mail rules to file e-mails for me automatically. Doing so mixes stuff that I've not processed yet into my action and reference folders. I need to trust that my inbox is the only place that I have unprocessed stuff or I'll go numb to the whole system and won't trust it.
                I have several folders which serve collectively as my inbox. I process them from there into my action folder and other folders. I don't mix the stuff that you don't mix. I simply (automatically) separate some things that you don't separate, to shorten my response time for more urgent emails, especially useful at times when I have a lot of email to process.

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                • #9
                  I have a ton of rules in gmail, but they mostly boil down to a few categories of things I know will automatically be "view later" kinds of things.

                  Newsletters: label by newsletter and archive (essentially, create a "to read" stack)
                  Spam lists I can't get off of (my university likes to email the entire student body): label and archive in case there was important info I'll need to refer to later, or label and delete if I know there's never anything useful
                  Coupons: label by store and archive, to be viewed before I go to that store
                  *wf: label outgoing messages with @Waiting-For.

                  I also use priority inbox, which amounts to a second set of processing rules.

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                  • #10
                    Color emails directly sent to me

                    I personally run Outlook with as few rules as possible, I think I have three at the moment and one is an Outlook 2010 default rule. I also try to use a few folders as possible - in the past I had my emails separated out Departments and then even in some cases by individuals.

                    Right now I'm running with only four folders (@Archive, @Follow Up, @Hold, Reference) and find it much easier to manage.

                    One trick I did want to share is something I've found pretty useful and that's making emails sent directly to me a different color than other emails.

                    My belief is if the email was sent directly to be, it's "likely" more important than emails that was sent to me because I was in a mailing list, they also more likely require some kind of action. To do this, do the following:

                    1. Click View (tab) > View Settings > Conditional Formatting
                    2. Click Add and then name it "Email to me" and then click Condition
                    3. Check the box next to "Where I am" and select "The only person on the To Line" from the drop down menu.
                    4. Click the Font button and set Outlook to highlight the emails sent only to you using whatever formatting you like - for me I have Outlook make the email Blue.

                    The above works for Outlook 2010. I would assume it works the same or somewhat the same for other versions of Outlook.

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                    • #11
                      I'd suggest the more simple the better. This does tie more broadly into your approach to email management. Do you aim (and regularly hit) inbox zero? If not, that is the bigger challenge to tackle and this is merely a subset.

                      That said, I would suggest a couple of sensible filters to split out emails into "for action" and "for information". Don't go crazy on this. I have 2 information folders - cc and news. Obviously just 1 rule to manage the cc, and for news - most of my news-related mail comes from a small number of sources, so I have maybe 2 or 3 rules.

                      Then you get to inbox management - using the GTD 2 minute guide, if you can do it in 2 minutes then do it; if not, put it on a list (and file the email). Likewise when you review reading folders - if you can read it in 2 minutes then do; if not put it on a list (and file the email).

                      good luck!

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