How to Only Get Notifications for Certain Emails

February 12, 2019

Interested in turning off email notifications, but concerned you may miss something important? One of the tools in your toolbox should be custom notifications.

But before you start down the path of creating custom notifications, it’s important to understand the real reason most people leave notifications on. Understanding the reason behind the reason enables you to more accurately predict whether using custom notifications will help you.

You can use custom notifications to allow notifications for only those emails that meet certain characteristics you define (e.g., sent from your supervisor, marked as high importance).

Here’s how to create custom notifications in the common email applications and platforms:


  1. Make sure you’ve allowed browser notifications from Gmail (see how in Chrome)
  2. Click the gear icon toward the upper right of the Gmail window
  3. Click on the ‘Settings’ link
  4. Scroll down to the ‘Desktop Notifications’ section and select ‘Important mail notifications on’
  5. Scroll to the bottom and click ‘Save Changes’
  6. Return to ‘Settings’
  7. Click on ‘Filters and Blocked Addresses’ tab
  8. Click ‘Create a new filter’ link (you may need to scroll to the bottom of the page)
  9. In the ‘From’ field, type in the name and/or email address of the person you want to receive custom notifications for (or enter other descriptive information about the emails you want to be notified about) and select ‘Continue’
  10. Select ‘Always mark as important’ and then, ‘Create filter’


  1. Click on an email from the person you want to receive custom notifications for
  2. Select the ‘Home’ ribbon on the top left
  3. Select ‘Rules’ in the middle of the ribbon
  4. Select ‘Create Rule’
  5. Under ‘When I get an email with all the selected conditions,’ select the sender’s name
  6. Under ‘Do the following,’ select ‘Display in the New Item Alert window’ and/or ‘Play a selected sound’

iPhone Mail:

  1. Launch the Mail app
  2. Tap Mailboxes in the upper left corner of your screen
  3. Tap the VIP inbox directly underneath your regular inbox
  4. Tap Add VIP
  5. Tap on the name of the contact you’d like to add to VIP (If a contact is grayed out, it means you’re missing their email address and can’t add them until you enter it)
  6. Tap the ⓘ on the right end of the VIP inbox row
  7. Tap VIP Alerts
  8. Turn notification settings on

iPhone Gmail:

  1. Follow steps 1-5 above for ‘Gmail’
  2. Launch Gmail app
  3. Tap the top left menu button
  4. Scroll to the bottom and tap ‘Settings’
  5. Tap an account and then select ‘Notifications’
  6. Tap ‘High priority only’

Android Gmail:

  1. Follow steps 6-9 above for ‘Gmail’
  2. Select ‘Apply the label’ and add label you want to use for all your VIP contacts
  3. Launch Gmail app
  4. Tap the top left menu button
  5. Scroll to the bottom and tap ‘Settings’
  6. Tap an account, scroll down, and select ‘Manage labels’
  7. Tap label that you just associated with your VIP contact and check the box for ‘Label notifications’

Email notifications, and even checking email, is just one part of a productive email management approach. You can read about the four other main elements of the approach in, “How to Cut the Time You Spend on Email in Half.”

If you want some help getting your email under control, consider joining our Email Management Workshop coming up on October 14th.