Starting tomorrow, Gmail users will have a little help setting their priorities at the start of the day thanks to the new Priority Inbox. The concept is pretty cool. From day one, Gmail will take a look at your incoming email messages to determine which ones are important and which ones not so much. The important messages get a gold flag and they stay at the top level of your Gmail inbox while everything else falls below the line.
The system is designed to use a variety of criteria to determine which emails are important and which aren’t. It looks at frequency and which senders you read and respond to and it also learns if you demote or promote items that the system got wrong the first time around. It also looks at keywords and is smart enough to read your behavior and make deductions from that. For example, if you star a particular email message, then a similar message will be deemed more important the next time it shows up. Delete without reading, then the followers will go to the bottom of the pile.
If you don’t fully trust the system, you can use filters to tell it which senders should always be marked important. You can also add three custom dividers, such as work contacts, friends, or all email devoted to a specific project, to further categorize your email.
Get a lot of mail in a day? You can close the “everything else” tab and leave only the Important and Unread items in plain view to reduce the anxiety that comes with seeing over 100 unread messages at 9:00 in the morning.
For the average person, the new Gmail Priority Inbox will do a great job of sorting out the newsletters, marketing emails, and website notifications from the actionable messages that need your immediate attention. This is NOT a spam filter. Gmail already has one of those. The Priority Inbox system is a tool designed to help you kick off your daily To Do list, while still hanging on to those emails you need or want to read when you have some spare time.
Right now, I only use Gmail for overflow with all of my important mail going to my Outlook account where it’s filtered with flags and category colors. It’s not an automatic process, so if this new Gmail system works as it says it does, it might be the incentive I need to begin using it for more of my daily correspondence.