Email Productivity Tip: Differentiate email sent “to” you, “cc”‘ing you, or including you on a list

Do you receive hundreds of emails per day, with varying levels of relevance and criticality?  Do you already apply mail filters to route certain lists or senders into folders, but still suffer with trying to triage email that doesn’t come from a one of these predefined origins?

There is no magic bullet, but I noticed a simple pattern that has provided me more gains than the low effort it took to implement:

Mail addressed directly to me, where my email address is explicitly in the “To” line, is generally more important to me than email in which I am only in the “CC” line.  Similarly, email received as part of a distribution list, where I do not explicitly appear in either “To” or “CC”, is generally of lower importance.


p>So, I have implemented a very simple set of filters to capitalize on this pattern.  Note that I have done this in the past with Thunderbird, Evolution, Outlook, and most recently with Zimbra.

  • Email where I am in the “To” field and the sender is one of a very specific set of VIPs (such as my wife or boss) gets highlighted a very bright color, like Yellow or Light Green
  • Email where I am in the “To” field gets highlighted a bright color, like Red or Blue
  • Email where I am in the “CC” field gets highlighted a lesser color, generally a pastel
  • Email where I am in neither the “To” nor the “CC” gets reduced color, such as light gray.


p>At a glance, this helps me determine what I should look at immediately, versus what can wait till later and doesn’t need to distract me now. YMMV, but I figured I would share.

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