Manage Your Priority Emails with This Simple Tagging Tip

Learn how to use tags in the body of your email to keep your high priority email visible, while you just might ignore the rest.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #430

Email! I just love email … no, I don’t. I hate email. Especially because there’s so darned much of it. Most of us are pretty fed up with it, but we can’t stop sending it. On the receiving end, we get a hundred emails a day, which range from useless to incredibly important.

You want to handle the urgent emails before the others, but they’re all mashed in together, like a glorious Hungarian goulash (which I hear is pretty darned glorious). One solution is to do what the most powerful people all do: create a high priority inbox on your own private email server in your basement and make sure all the other powerful people have that special email address.

But then you’ll discover, to your horror, that powerful people also want to send you funny jokes, top–10 lists, and their personal endorsement for “this great new body part enhancement formula that really works!” And even with a legitimate conversation, you won’t always know it’s high priority when it starts. A conversation might become important halfway through. Or unimportant halfway through. Or people might send important stuff to your low priority inbox. It’s a mess and for perhaps the first time in all of human history, there’s no app you can download to solve the problem! (Did you catch the irony there? I was trying to be subtle.)

It would seem the only solution is to return to the world of mind-numbing drudgery, and categorize inboxes message by message, since the separate-email-addresses trick isn’t working. But we’re smarter than that! As Masters of Our Universe, we have other tools at hand. We can tag our email bodies for a sorting system as flexible as it is powerful.

Use tags to sort by priority

Putting tags in the email body lets you auto-sort between high and low priority inboxes. It does the same work as email-address-based sorting, but no extra addresses to manage! No risk of anyone getting ahold of your high priority email address—not the paparazzi, not Vladimir Putin, no one.

A tag is a sequence of characters you sneakily add to your email signature. A tag is short, discreet, and unique, like some of the people I’ve dated. So what would you use for a tag that means “high priority?” To you and me, the answer is obvious: zplf.

With your tag chosen, you next set up a folder in your email called “High priority inbox.” Then you create a rule in your email program so any time a message contains ZPLF it gets moved to that folder. If you use webmail like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, or FastMail, you can make the sorting happen by setting up a rule directly in the service. If you read your program through a program like Outlook or Apple Mail, most email reading programs also let you set up rules to move a message to a folder once it’s fetched from the server.

When your unsuspecting conversational partner replies to your message, they almost always include previous messages in the thread. Well, that previous message contains your high-priority code. So once you put the code into an email conversation, replies to that message will also go into your high priority inbox. Sneaky, eh?


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.