Priority Inbox is one of Gmail’s best unsung features. If you get a ton of emails a day, and sifting through them—let alone getting notifications for them—is a nightmare. Now your inbox is split up into multiple categories, so you see the important stuff right up top, out of the way of the junk.
With Priority Inbox turned on, Gmail will only notify you when you have an important message. If you keep Gmail open in a tab, that unread count only goes up if you get an important email, so you aren’t constantly tempted by an overflowing inbox.
If you use Gmail for Android, you only get push notifications when something important comes through, so your phone isn’t buzzing all day. Here are a few ways to speed that process along.
- First: Go About Your Email As Normal: Priority Inbox learns, first and foremost, just by watching you. If you frequently read messages from a specific sender, it learns to mark those as important, and if you frequently reply to emails from them, it knows even better. If you delete stuff without reading it, it’ll learn that those aren’t important. So, the last thing you should do is just go about your email as normal. Give Priority Inbox a bit of time to learn from your actions. If you have just a little bit of patience, you should use Filters and Labels features.
- Use Filters and Labels: Filters help Priority Inbox learn really fast. Say you want to mark emails from your coworkers as important. Just create a Gmail filter that matches from:yourcompany.com and check the box that says “Always Mark As Important.” Similarly, you can use any filter to never mark messages as important. Labels work well for this, too. For example, I have a filter that applies a label called “Internal” to emails coming from any of my coworkers. Gmail now recognizes that many Internal emails are important, though it doesn’t always mark them as important. Depending on the sender and the context of the message, it will use the Internal label as one more deciding factor.
- Actively Mark Messages As Important (or Not Important): Before it has time to watch your behavior, Gmail does a lot of guesswork when marking messages as important. Just like with its Spam button, it only takes a click to change a message’s importance. If Gmail gets it wrong, just click the little yellow tag to toggle that.
- See Why Emails Are Marked as Important: if you’re ever confused as to why Gmail’s marked a message as important, just hover your mouse over that little yellow tag and it’ll tell you! Usually it’s because of “the people in the conversation,” because you “often read messages with this label,” or something like that.