Email Management Tips

I belong to a large number of email discussion lists, both psychology and computer related.  I receive, on average, 200 emails per day.  If they all landed in my inbox, I would be overwhelmed!  Instead, I have my email program filter messages as they arrive into a hierarchy of folders.  I can then review my mail topically and in my own time. 

The Rules or Filters function of most email programs allow you create a rule to automatically move or copy e-mail to an existing folder, to a new folder you create, or to delete certain e-mails without ever seeing them.  After reviewing the information on this page, I suggest that you refer to “help” within your own email program to find instructions more specific to that program.  Look in the table of contents or search help for “message rules,” “message filters,” etc.

Generally, if you want e-mails to go to a new folder you create, you first need to create the new folder.  You can add as many folders and sub-folders as you wish. If you are creating a folder for help groups that you belong to you can create a “Groups” folder and inside that, you can create a sub-folder for each group to keep them separate. You can add a folder to keep e-mail from your family or a folder for a project you are involved in.

After you have created your folders, you need to set up rules to do what you want.  You can have certain messages automatically forwarded to another user.  If you get junk e-mail repeatedly from the same source, you can have rules that permanently delete it before you even see it!  Or, if you have a project, you can create a sub-folder called “Project” and have all your e-mail with “Project” in the content or subject moved or copied automatically to that folder.  You can select the people associated with the project that send you e-mail and add a rule that all of the e-mail from those people should be moved or copied to the Project folder.

Let’s say you want to automatically move all of your messages from the AK-PA and AKPA-MH discussion lists to their own folders when they arrive.

1. Make new folders. Most email programs have a folder tree.  You can create these new folders under your inbox.  Call them something like “AK-PA List” and “AKPA-MH List”.

To do this in Outlook (most programs will be similar):

  • Right click on a folder in the Folder List. (I put sub-folders for incoming e-mail under the Inbox, but you can select any folder you wish.)
  • A dropdown menu will appear. Select “New Folder”, then enter the folder name in the space provided.
  • Click OK and the new folder will appear.

2. Create rules or filters.  In your email program, create rules or filters using the appropriate function.  In Outlook 2003, for example, it would be in the menu, Tools => Rules and Alerts.  In earlier versions of Outlook, it was called the “Rules Wizard”.  In Outlook Express 6, Tools => Message Rules => Mail, etc.

3. Select the conditions for your rule.  In this case, I would choose the option closest to, “Where the subject line contains specific words.”  Have one rule look for “[AK-PA]” and the other “[AKPA-MH]” since these are added to each subject line automatically by the listserver according to the list the message comes from.  You can also make a rule that is based on the address the message is sent to (e.g., or ).

4. Select Actions for Your Rule.  In this case, I would choose “Move to a specified folder” and choose the appropriate folder for each rule.  It helps to also select “Stop processing more rules” if you have such an option.  This will stop the program from looking at all the rest of your rules once this one has been applied.

5. Rule Description or Name.  Name your rules something meaningful, e.g., “AK-PA List” or “AKPA-MH List”, so you can find them when needed in your growing list of rules.

6. Enable the Rules.  Make sure the rules are active if there is a checkbox to turn them on or off. 

That’s it!  Create a few more folders and rules and you’ll be able to prioritize and organize your email and keep your inbox uncluttered.

For more information, you can do a Google search using terms such as, “email message rules tutorial” (without the quotes).  You can try adding the name of your own email program to the search to make it more specific.