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Email Filtering Strategies

May 30, 2013

If you’re like most people, you’re probably receiving too many messages. A great way to keep your Inbox from feeling overloaded is to filter out low-ranking messages while highlighting the important ones.

Here are some of our favorite filters, along with some terrific suggestions from Postbox users, for keeping your Inbox tidy, relevant, and actionable.

Filters to Keep Your Inbox Clean

Shopping or Promotions

Create a new folder called “Shopping.” Create a filter called “Shopping by Subject” that CONTAINS ANY of the following terms within the Subject line, such as “receipt,” “statement,” “bill” “order,” “purchase,” “monthly,” “shipping,” “shipped,” “shipment,” “coupon,” “sale,” “% Off,” “free” or “promotion,” and then create a filter action that moves these messages to the “Shopping” folder.

Next, create a second filter called “Shopping by Sender.” Use the search bar to look for emails related to ecommerce, such as Amazon, Groupon, or Living Social, and then copy the email address from those senders, such as “auto-confirm@amazon.com” or “do_not_reply@itunes.com” and use those as an ANY filter criteria. Create an action that moves these messages to the “Shopping” folder.

Newsletters

Create a new folder called “Newsletters” and a new filter called “Newsletters.” Use the Postbox Search Bar to find messages that contains the following terms within the message body: “unsubscribe,” “opt-out,” “edit your preferences,” “update profile,” “manage your account,” etc.

Next, select a newsletter, click on the sender name in the message envelope, and select “copy email.” Paste the email address into the Message Filters panel, and repeat the process using the ANY criteria. Create an action that moves these messages to the “Newsletters” folder.

A slight variation of this to move messages to a “To Read” folder for newsletters or mailing lists that are more relevant to your business or lifestyle.

Social Updates

Create a filter that is based on the email addresses of messages from social media sites such as from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, etc.

Postbox Notifications Filter

My Messages and Files

Create a folder called “My Messages,” and then create a filter with the ALL criteria that looks for your email address in both the “From” and “To” fields. This is handy for working on messages and attachments that you send to yourself.

Unknown Senders

This filter keeps messages from senders that are not in your Address Book from entering the Inbox. Create a folder called “Unknown Senders” and then set the ALL criteria to first match “From isn’t in my address book.” To allow emails from work colleagues, add a second criteria to match “From isn’t @yourcompanydomain.com.” Create an action that moves these messages to the “Unknown Senders” folder, and then triage the contents of this folder at the end of the work day.

Block List

If a specific person is sending you inappropriate or unwanted email, add their email address to a “Block List” filter. Postbox will essentially look for emails from people on the block list and you can set the filter to delete these messages if desired.

No Reply

This is a great filter for catching messages that are not filtered by the above. Create a filter that searches for ANY email addresses that CONTAINS “noreply@” or “no-reply” and move them to a “No Reply” folder. Periodically inspect this folder for emails that should be added to an existing filter.

Filters for Managing Inbox Contents

Highlight Messages from my Boss or the Executive Team

This filter will make sure that you never miss an important email from the people who write the checks. First, create a Topic called “Execs,” color the Topic red, and for added emphasis, select “Apply the topic color to the entire row in the message list pane” within the Topic Preferences Panel. Next, create a filter that searches for email addresses from your boss and/or the executive team, and then applies the Topic “Execs” as an action.

Postbox Execs Filter

Alternatively, you can add these contacts to a dedicated “Execs” address book and filter by that criteria.

Add a Topic to Messages from a Partner Domain

This is great for organizing messages from other companies that you work with. For example, if you’re working with ACME Design on a new website, create a Topic called “ACME” and then create a filter that looks for all email addresses that CONTAINS “@acme.com,” then create an action to assign the “ACME” Topic to each message. From here, you can use the Focus Pane to only view messages from ACME Design.

Auto-Archive Old Messages

Create a filter where the “Age in Days” is greater than “90,” then move these messages to your Archive folder. You can even move messages to an Archive folder on a different account if your work account quota is starting to max out.

Keep Old Messages from Being Forgotten

The message list can get long, and messages that are out of sight tend to be out of mind too. Create a filter where the “Age in Days” is greater than “10,” and then create an action that adds these messages to your To-Do list. Pin To-Dos to the top of your message list to keep them in view. This essentially forces you to deal with messages within a 10 day time period instead of letting messages accumulate within the Inbox.

Copy Messages to a Backup Account

If you’re using a POP account and would like an easy way to backup new messages to an online account, you can create a filter for that! Create a dedicated IMAP account for storage (from Gmail or any other free IMAP provider), then create a “Match All Messages” filter to automatically copy all new messages to the storage account’s Inbox.

You’ll also want sent messages to get copied to this account as well by going into Preferences / Accounts / [your account] / Copies & Folders and under “Sent” select “Bcc these email addresses” and enter your email address for your storage account. This creates an online backup for your POP email that can be searched from anywhere!

Advanced Tips

Display Folders in the Favorites Bar

Once you’ve created dedicated folders for messages such as “Newsletters,” “Shopping” and “Social,” you can arrange them within the Favorites Bar for fast access. Alternatively, you can open each folder within their own tabs.

Postbox Favorites Bar

Mark Messages as Read

A useful add-on action to any filter is to mark the message as “Read.” This helps to keep unread message bubbles or dock badges from distracting your attention.

Mark as To-Do

A great filter action is to mark messages as To-Dos. This causes the message background to change color, and you can even “pin” To-Dos to the top of your message list so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Highlight with a Topic

Using Filters to automatically assign Topics is a very powerful organization technique! Once a message is tagged with a Topic, you can use the Focus Pane to only view messages that contains that Topic — great for staying focused on one thing at a time.

Filter by Address Book

In Postbox, you can group contacts by as many Address Books as you like. For example, if you’re coaching kids soccer, you can add the parents’ email addresses to a “Soccer” address book, and then create a filter that applies actions to messages from those senders, such as moving messages to a “Soccer” folder or applying a “Soccer” Topic.

Reply with a Template

A great filter action is the “Reply with Template” action that sends a pre-canned message Template. For example, a reply with template action could state: “Thanks for contacting ACME. Below you will find information on our company and products. If you require additional information, please reply to this message with ‘ACME Inquiry’ in the subject line and we’ll get right back to you.”

You could then create a second filter that finds messages that CONTAINS the subject line “ACME Inquiry” and apply an appropriate filter action.

Hint: Filters execute in the order specified within the Message Filters panel. By arranging the filters in a specific order, you can essentially create a filter-powered workflow.

Filtering Directly on the Email Server

While setting up filters within Postbox is most convenient approach, it is perfectly acceptable to set up filters directly on your email server. This allows messages to be filtered in the background, as “close to the metal” as possible, which will improve the overall performance of Postbox.

Hint: If you use a server-based filter to move messages to “Folder X,” within Postbox right-click Folder X, select “Properties…” and select “Check this folder for new messages.” This will allow this folder to automatically update when your Inbox is checked for new messages.


Have a favorite filter to share? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Posted by Sherman Dickman