"Oh hell yeah, an email from Bob!"
We’ve all been there. Missing that one important email because your inbox is cluttered with garbage.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Thankfully, there are numerous tricks you can use to make sure that you see the emails you want to see, when you want to see them. While the specifics of your digital streamlining will vary depending on your email provider of choice, that’s OK! We’re here to break it all down for you, nice and easy like.
Google’s Gmail offers up numerous options to flag important incoming emails, and even employs one of them by default. The default flag is called an "importance marker," and it’s slapped on an email after Google’s fancy algorithms have used a variety of factors to determine that it’s worth giving a damn about.
Those factors include, but are not limited to, practical considerations like "who you email, and how often you email them," "which emails you open," and "which emails you reply to."
If Google does decide an email is worthy of an importance marker, you’ll see what looks like a little rightward-facing arrow in your inbox pointing to the message in question. If you only want to see emails marked in this way, search "is:important" in your inbox search bar.
But what if this default option isn’t a good fit? What if Gmail’s importance markers miss your actually important stuff and only serve to confuse you?
That’s totally cool, because there are more tools in the Gmail toolshed.
Image: Stephen Lam/Getty Images
Such a special email.
Your first step after deciding to ditch importance markers should be to disable the feature. You can do this by logging into your account (via browser) and clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Next, select "settings" and then click "inbox." Scroll down to "importance markers" and select "no markers."
That’s it. You’re free of Google deciding what emails you should read, and, conversely, what you should ignore.
The magic of filters
That means it’s time to set up your own filters. The obvious one it to mark specific people as being really important: Your boss, your partner, your best friend, or your lawyer are people whose emails you wouldn’t want to miss.
The steps to mark specific senders as important are relatively straightforward. First, type the person’s email address in your browser search bar. After you search for them, select the "more" drop-down menu then choose "create filter." The next part looks tricky, but if you’ve made it this far into this story you can definitely manage. Make sure the important email address is in the "from" field, and then select "create filter with this search."
The next screen gives you the option to have Gmail star future message from that sender, mark them as important, or to make sure those messages stay out of the spam folder. For truly important people, we recommend you check all three.
Don’t forget to hit "create filter," and you’re done.
Easy, right? Now you’ll never miss another vital email in your Gmail account (jk — you totally still will every now and then, but that’s because you’re a human being).
Microsoft makes it easy to designate emails as deserving of special attention, and goes one step further by allowing you to automatically pin messages to the top of your inbox.
That’s right, whenever that email from your mom comes in it will stay front and center.
To turn on auto-pin, search for an email from said mom (she’s bound to have sent you at least one) and, once you have it open, click on the "more commands" ellipsis in the toolbar. Next, choose "create rule" and make sure the condition for "it was received from" is both selected and has your mom’s name in it. Then, remove any conditions that don’t apply and then click the "move the message to folder" drop-down menu. After selecting "pin the message," don’t forget to hit "OK" in the upper-left hand corner.
You have now mastered the Outlook Mail pin.
To designate a specific sender as important you can follow the same pinning steps up until the last part, and instead of selecting "pin the message" just choose the "mark the message" "with importance" option.
Boom. Easy. Kinda.
The first, and perhaps most important step you should take when using Yahoo! Mail is to stop using Yahoo! Mail (we only sort of kid). If you like the interface for whatever reason, or just don’t want to give up that totally sick "firstname.lastname@example.org" handle then there are some measures you can take to prioritize messages from the all stars in your life.
Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Run, don’t walk, away from your Yahoo! Mail account.
Start things off by creating a new folder in your inbox and titling it something like "Boss Baby." Next, make sure emails from any important people are automatically sent to that folder.
It’s simple enough to do: Open an email from one of your very Boss Baby-like friends or colleagues and select the "more" drop-down menu.
Now, click on "filter emails like this." The "from" field should include the address of your special person (you can add more than one address in the field), and, when you’ve added all the appropriate email addresses, choose your folder labeled "Boss Baby" from the "then move the message to this folder" drop-down tab. Lastly, click "save" and you’re good to go!
You still have a Yahoo! Mail account, but at least it’s modestly organized now.
The ugly truth
The reality of email these days is that even with the above steps, stuff you actually give a hoot about is still going to get lost in the mix. With that in mind, the best approach is might actually be to have multiple email accounts (I have five that I use regularly, and several other throwaways).
It sounds like a pain, but it’s not really. Almost everyone reading this likely has at least two different email accounts (work and personal) already. Try breaking out your personal accounts into themed groups. One account could be tied to all your social media accounts, a second tied to your friends, family, and banking, and yet another for any service or list that you need to sign up for. Then, within each account, go ahead and follow the steps outlined earlier in this piece.
This approach will take you a while to set up, but it is oh so sweet when you have it dialed in. And when you finally do, you can rest easy knowing that no notification from Facebook will ever again drown out that email from Grandma.