(NOTE: This post, which was first published in July 2010, is very popular. Obviously, a lot of you want help managing your overflowing inboxes and are turning to the Rules feature in Outlook to help you do that.)
If you are a heavy email user like me, chances are good that you subscribe to a lot of mailing lists. Unsolicited spam is one issue we battle in our inboxes, but perhaps more perplexing is the amount of email messages that we call “graymail.”
Graymail consists of all those newsletters, coupons, and notifications that can sometimes be useful, but aren’t the things that you want to appear at the top of your Inbox. For example, some of the graymail I regularly receive includes notifications from Netflix, sale flyers from a local outdoors retailer, and email from a food and wine discussion group.
I like to see what movie Netflix has shipped to me, or what is on sale at my favorite stores, but since these messages aren’t time-sensitive and I don’t need to reply, I don’t want them to appear in my Inbox. I would rather move the messages to a folder where I can browse them later.
Outlook 2010 makes it easy for me to sort emails that need attention from graymail. For example, when I received a shipping notification from Netflix, on the ribbon I went to the Home tab and then clicked Rules. Then I clicked Always Move Messages from: Netflix. The sender was suggested based on the message sender and recipients (if it was sent to people other than you).
For a destination folder, I selected my Notifications and Alerts folder so that all of my current and future messages from Netflix would go to that folder. I did the same thing for other companies that regularly send me messages about sales and events that I am interested in.
Now, I’ll never see another Netflix notification in my Inbox, but they are always available in my Notification and Alerts folder that I review at my convenience every day or two.
When I sign up for a new mailing list such as the Food and Wine list I am on I use this “Always Move” command to quickly create a rule that moves messages sent to that mailing list to a new folder I make specifically for those emails.
I hope this simple way to create rules helps you take control of your Inbox by moving graymail messages into their own folders and keeping only the most important messages in your Inbox.
Outlook Program Manager
More info on rules: