Email Pro Tip #1: Create a “Robots” Folder

I receive between 100 and 1,000 business-related e-mails per day. Out of necessity, over the last few years I’ve developed a numbers of systems that help me manage my inbox effectively. This is the first in a series of posts describing the systems I utilize to stay on top of my inbox.

First up is creating a “Robots” folder. This is a nearly foolproof system for easily separating e-mails sent from real humans from machine-generated e-mails sent by automated systems (including newsletters, alerts from software systems, Twitter notifications, etc.)

To determine which e-mails should be sent to your “Robots” folder, you need only set up a filter in your e-mail client to scan for the word “unsubscribe”. This simple heuristic will catch the vast majority of machine-generated e-mail, and saves you the effort of manually curating a list of “robot” senders.

You should subsequently send these machine-generated e-mails directly to a label or folder named “Robots.” You should set these e-mails to “skip your inbox” as they are not time-sensitive; you can review them in batches when you have the time.

Creating such a filter in Gmail is relatively straightforward. Simply create a filter that:


  • Contains the word “unsubscribe”
  • Skips the Inbox (Archive it)
  • Apply the label “Robots” (I use “@robots” so that it sorts to the top of my labels)

You can create a similar rule in Outlook with similar logic.

Using this simple technique you’ll filter out the dozens (or hundreds) of machine-generated e-mails that you likely receive every week.


  1. Fantastic tip Jack. I have implemented it with one variation. I have some list emails that include the word unsubscribe that I want to specificlly show up in my inbox. In Outlook 2010, I can add exceptions to the rule to keep these emails in the main stream.