A couple of weeks ago, I talked to a friend who complained that she often gets distracted by newsletters and other low-priority e-mail.

Do you know this feeling?

If yes, then you might benefit from setting up one or more e-mail filters in your mail program to keep your inbox tidy.

Idea #1: Newsletters

Newsletters are rarely important to read right away.

For every newsletter that you are subscribed to, create a filter that moves it to the a dedicated folder. Only check the folder once per day (or if you’re like me: once every 2-3 weeks!)

Afraid to miss a good offer? Just think about how often you’ve received a good offer that was time-critical to act on compared to the total number of newsletters you’ve received over the years. Yes, you might occasionally miss out, but often that’s a price that is worth paying for having a clean, stress-free inbox.

Idea #2: Notifications from social networks or internal systems

Do you receive notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. in your e-mail? Or do you receive notifications from internal systems, such as a bug tracking system, that you rarely need to read immediately or at all?

Create a filter that moves all these notification to a dedicated folder (possibly the same folder that you use for newsletters if you wish).

Or even better: Unsubscribe from the ones that you never read anyway or that you already get as notifications on your phone.

Idea #3: E-mails you’re in CC on

Do your colleagues put you CC on too many e-mails?

Create a filter that moves all e-mail where you’re not in the To-field to a dedicated folder. Check the folder as often as necessary, typically once or twice a day or once or twice a week.

And if you’re colleagues are wondering why you’re reading or responding to CC e-mails less frequently (or not at all), kindly explain to them that you would appreciate if they put you in the To-field if there are any action points for you in the e-mail.

Bonus tips for implementing the new habits

There are two important things you should be aware of if you decide to create such filters.

First, you might have to add one or more recurring items on your to-do list with a reminder to check the folders.

Second, try not to check the folders too often while you build your new habits. If you’re like most people, you’ll be tempted to check the folders obsessively in the beginning. That’s natural! For many people, e-mail is almost an addiction and your brain will be afraid that you’re missing out. Do your best to fight these impulses and stick to the intervals that you’ve decided on. Over time, it will be easier not to panic and it will be easier to only check the folders when you’ve decided to.

Experiment! Have fun! And enjoy your tidy inbox!

PS: You might get other types of e-mails that it also makes sense to create a filter for. By all means do it!

Three ideas for things to keep out of your inbox by using e-mail filters