Email Colours = Email Triage

Statement     | we get heaps and gobs of emails
Problem     | what can we do to lower the chance of missing emails
My Answer    | Piles of rules coupled with colours, categories, and flags


Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to deal with the massive amount of email coming into my mailbox on an hourly basis. Today’s trick is one of the most effective methods I’ve worked out for email triage. I rely very heavily on message rules. In a long past life I wrote some code to get around the 32K message rules ceiling in Outlook because I needed more rules. I was asked by Microsoft to never publish the tool; being an MVP I listened.

As messages come into my inbox Rules do a number of things to the messages. The core of what my rules do is tag messages and move messages based on the TO and CC field. My rules tag messages before the messages are moved to allow the tagging to persist to the subfolder if the message is moved. The image to the Left is a view of my mailbox from a few hours ago. Notice all of the pretty colours next to the messages. These colours are custom message categorizations I’ve created. The colours | tags | categorizations allow me to very quickly triage my inbox and read the messages most important to me and greatly lowering my changes of missing messages

The colours mean the following to me:

  • Red box   Messages are categorized with red box when Only My name is in the To field. When I see a red box I know that I have to read the message because it was directed only at me. I don’t miss messages directly to me because of this rule. I’ve taken it a step further and setup a search folder showing me unread messages with a red box on them. I click on the search folder and I’m shown everything I need to read in every folder.
  • Yellow box   Messages are categorized with a yellow box whenever My name is in the To field. When I see a Yellow box I know my name is on the To line and I figure I should pay attention to the message. Again I have a search folder around these messages
  • Pink box   Messages are categorized with a pink box when My name is in the CC field. I figure these were sent as something informative to me and I should read them but I don’t have to read immediately.

Use this trick how you would, pick whatever colours mean more too. My suggestion to ya’ll is – setup some rules to categorize emails; at a minimum flag messages with your name in the TO or CC fields.

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