As a decision maker in IT, I get dozens of unsolicited email messages a day. That may not sound like much but that is after some rather extensive anti-spam techniques:
- I never give out my email address except when I need to do business with someone.
- When people call and ask if they can email me a whitepaper I say NO.
- My spam filter blocks 95% of all email sent to my domain, and thus me.
- I unsubscribe from every email list I end up on.
- If a vendor does not have an unsubscribe function when they send me email I have a button I click which adds their domain to my blacklist and sends them a message that they have been blocked for not complying with the CAN-SPAM act. (I take particular joy in this … is that wrong?)
Still, I get SPAM. This frustrates me because I am in a position where I have to check email when it comes in. I get notified when a system is down via email so not checking is not wise. That means that the 20-30 unsolicited marketing messages that get through interrupt my work.
Enter the extreme SPAM filter process
Step 1: Who do I want mail from?
I want email from
- everyone in my company
- anyone I do business with
- anyone in my contact list
I don’t want email from anyone else.
Is this reasonable? Is there any compelling business reason to accept unsolicited email from everyone? In my position, I am not looking for new customers so blocking email shouldn’t affect my ability to do my job. The amount of time that is spent deleting unwanted email far exceeds any benefit I get from it. It just seems rude to ruthlessly block the world but then again, they are interrupting my day without my consent. I would love to know everyone else’s thoughts on this.
Step 2: Setting up the filter
In Outlook, on the Home Tab, select Junk –> Junk Email Options.
Click the Safe Sender Tab
Add every domain you know you want to receive mail from. Frankly, this will take a while. You have to add all your domains, all the domains your devices send mail from, and all the domains of the vendors your work with. I spent some time sorting through my saved email to come up with this list. I tend to whitelist domains instead of users.
I recommend checking Also Trust Email from my Contacts and Automatically Add People I Email to the Safe Sender List.
Step 3: Applying the filter
Click on the Options tab and choose Safe List Only.
Now email from someone not white-listed in the Safe Sender Tab is sent to your junk folder.
For the next month, you are going to want to pay attention to your junk folder and continue to white-list people you need to get email from.
I also try to add vendors as contacts since I do business with them and that keeps me from having to add them to the white-list.
Step 4: Not missing something important
Looking through all the junk in your junk mail folder is annoying but you need to do this regularly until you are sure you are not missing messages.
When you find a message you need in the junk mail folder, right click it –> junk –> Not Junk. I then delete all the mail in my junk folder to make skimming it later less of a chore.
Go back to the Safe Sender List you created earlier. You will notice lots of individual email addresses like email@example.com. If you need email from everyone in that domain, edit the entry so that only the domain name is left. (@domain.com)
A new way of thinking about email
I added the Junk folder to my favorites and moved in under the inbox. Because you have to check junk mail regularly you essentially have two inboxes. The first “Junk” inbox won’t make your phone beep, won’t make your computer beep, and won’t interrupt your day. Yes, you have to check it but over time that becomes less important.
The Inbox becomes a priority inbox from people you actually need to hear from and have your permission to interrupt your day.
Alternatives that are less extreme
I use this method because I only get notified of email that I have specifically approved. I find that I have to check my junk mail folder more often but since those messages don’t interrupt me, I am not losing productivity when they arrive.
You could accomplish something similar using rules and changing the notification settings.
Another option is to change how often Outlook checks for email. Setting it to 30 minutes guarantees you a half hour of productivity before someone derails your day.
Well, I hope this helps you stay productive. It has helped me but took a while to “fine tune.”