Filtering Inbox Noise

To me, one of the greatest obstacles to my personal productivity – and a source of work-related stress – is an overflowing inbox.

I get a LOT of work-related mail per day and, if I don’t have a system for reducing the “noise” of my Inbox, it’s easy to start overlooking important mails and wasting time with unimportant issues.

A while ago I decided to really try and have Outlook work for me (as opposed to just with me). So I took some time to think on a few simple heuristics that I could define as Outlook rules to filter my inbox.

Here’s what I came up with:

Inbox is considered “High Priority”, so I the mail I keep in here are mails sent directly to myself (my name/alias is in the “To:” box) that, usually, require my immediate attention.

I keep a second folder named “Medium priority”, where I move all mails where I am in the “Cc:” box. From experience, these are lower priority mails, and I’m just being notified of something that is occurring but someone else is usually taking charge of the situation. I usually scan this folder a few times a day to check if something important has slipped through or if I can/should contribute to some on-going discussion.

I keep a third folder named “Low priority mail”, where everything else is moved to. I can get by with a cursory look over the items in this folder (I do it once or twice a day). Most items in this folder can be safely deleted by the end of the week.

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