I don’t have to tell you that getting a ton of emails isn’t the most fun experience in the world. (It’s right up there with getting your teeth cleaned or watching water boil.)
It’s why we’re constantly writing about ways to keep your inbox at bay—from new tools to out-of-office messages to a good ol’ fashioned email purge.
But the thing is, a lot of the stuff we get in our mailboxes is actually kind of important. Yes, we want to get rid of clutter, but we also want to ensure that key messages are getting through loud and clear. In other words, we want to safelist contacts we like and block those we don’t.
I can name so many instances when an email from a crucial work contact or a newsletter I subscribed to was lost due to an accidental deleting spree on my part—or, even more annoyingly, because of my spam folder.
So, what can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen? We have a few suggestions. By the way, these are mostly for Gmail users—but we have some tips for Outlook as well.
1. If You Keep Missing Messages From Key Contacts
You can “whitelist” or “safelist” important contacts to ensure you’ll never miss their messages. In Gmail, hop on over to your spam folder and find your latest missed email from the person. Click “Not spam” in the top left corner. And to ensure this person always shows up directly in your inbox, click the three vertical dots in the right corner and choose “Add [Person’s Name] to Contacts list.”
(You can do the same in Outlook by choosing “Not Junk” and adding the person to your “Safe Senders” list.)
Oh, and if this happens with your emails to other people, recommend that they do the same.
2. If Important Emails Land in Your “Promotions” or “Social” Tabs
You can easily drag and drop the message into your “Primary” tab so it’s front and center always.
Not a fan of these tabs? You can remove them by clicking on the gear in the right-hand corner of your Gmail account, choosing “Settings” > “Inbox,” and unchecking the boxes under “Categories.”
3. If You Can’t Help But Lose Track of Certain Conversations
Your inbox is a big, scary place. Don’t just let everything you receive pile up in one giant folder.
You can easily organize messages into categories by utilizing filters and labels in Gmail and folders in Outlook (more tips for using these effectively here).
Or, you can use Muse writer Jenni Maier’s subject line trick to always be able to find exactly what you’re looking for.
4. If You’re Not Sure if Someone’s Been Blocked
It’s possible you’ve accidentally blocked someone you never intended to. To see who might be getting filtered out, go to “Settings” > “Filters and Blocked Addresses.”
Found their name? Check their address and click “Unblock selected addresses.”
5. If You Really Can’t Find That One Message
Check out your trash and spam folders in Gmail, or search your inbox by using the terms “in:trash [Name or keyword]” or “in:spam [Name or keyword]” (you can do the same in Outlook by narrowing your search by folder). And follow the steps above so it doesn’t get lost again.
Fun fact: When you delete an email in Gmail, it stays in the trash for 30 days before it’s removed forever—something to keep in mind before you move your messages here.
I’m all for getting rid of useless emails, but some of the good stuff can get lost, too. So, before you do anything drastic (like clear out your entire inbox), make sure you’ve taken these precautions. You don’t want to be the person your boss reams out for not getting back to them or missing a big deadline, do you?
That’s what I thought.
P.S. Some email newsletters are worth missing. We may be biased, but we don’t think ours is one of them. Get curated career articles right to your inbox by creating an account here. Oh, and make sure you add us to your “Primary” inbox!