“I didn’t get that email.”

Do you find yourself saying that to others when they follow up on communication? It’s an awkward situation. “Check your spam folder and see if it’s there,” you are told. Now, awkwardness turns to embarrassment when you find you did receive that important email. It just somehow wound up in spam among the various offers for bargain vacations and pleas for help for a Nigerian princess. You think to yourself, “Check spam? Why didn’t I think of that?

Spam filters are great when they work the way you want them to. They keep your already-overflowing Inbox from getting more out of control. Spam filters are terrible when they accidentally grab the good stuff along with the bad.

Why do items end up in spam?

Spam filters use a combination of indicators to determine what is marked as spam:

  • They come from senders who you have marked as adding to the spam list.
  • They are sent to many recipients (large number of people in the TO, CC, or BCC line).
  • The subject contains certain words, such as “free,” “amazing offer,” “sex,” etc.
  • The subject contains excessive punctuation or is written in all caps.
  • The email contains a great number of links, pictures, or has a large attachment.

How is your spam filter functioning?

Start by taking a look at where you are now:

  • Look in your spam folder right now and get an idea of what is there. You will surely be pleased to see all of the stuff which is not showing up in your Inbox.
  • Do you see emails which are actually not spam, emails you wish had come to your Inbox? It’s time to train your email program on how to recognize those as good emails next time.

If you use Gmail…

As you examine the items in your spam folder, place a checkmark beside items you wish had come to your Inbox. Click the “Not spam” button towards the top of the screen. This type of email will come to your Inbox from now on.

By the way, if you don’t see a “Spam” folder on the left-hand side of your screen, go to your Gmail settings (found under the cog in the upper-right corner). On the “Labels” tab, click “show” beside the selection for Spam.

If you use Outlook…

As you examine the items in your spam folder, right-click any email you wish had come to your Inbox. Under the “Junk Email” menu item, you will see an option to “Mark as Not Junk.” You will also see the option to “Add Sender to Safe Senders List.”

If you use something else…

If you use someone else for your email, you should see menu items that let you do those same two things:

  • Mark a particular email as “not spam.”
  • Mark the sender’s email address as one that should be considered as trusted.

Add the sender to your contacts list

If you want to avoid emails from someone ending up in spam to start with, go ahead and add the sender to your contacts. You generally see this advice when you sign up for any newsletter. If a sender is in your contacts, the chances of your email winding up in spam are greatly reduced.

The heavy artillery: Whitelist addresses

What if good email is still going to spam even after you’ve added the address to your contacts? I had that situation with two close contacts. Email programs allow you to write filters that will be sure to place emails from a certain address into your inbox and keep it out of spam. This article explains how to do it in popular email programs.

Check spam weekly

We all have repeating tasks to perform annually, monthly, and weekly. Those small, routine tasks keep life flowing smoothly. After reading this article, add one more task to the others you perform each week.
Once a week, look inside the spam folder. A quick glance will reveal emails that should have gone to the inbox. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

Personally, I am finding more and more good email that is being sent to spam. I can’t afford to ignore my spam folder. You can’t either. Nobody wants to be the “lost in spam guy.”

You can train your email program to keep the bad stuff out and deliver the good stuff. Now you know how.

Don’t leave without becoming an email list subscriber. I start you off with two free gifts. One gets your desk clean. The other puts everything you have to do in one place. Each week, you’ll hear from me with nuts & bolts tools and strategies to make life easier and more productive. You’re one click away from making it happen