Organise Your Inbox with Outlook Rules

December 5, 2011

by Justine Parsons

Rules in Outlook automate the processing of emails based on your criteria.  If you regularly respond to emails frUsing Outlook Rulesom a given sender or with a certain subject line in a certain way, then you can set up a rule to automate that process.

Rules fall into two general categories: notification and organization. Notification rules alert you in some way when you receive a particular message. For example, you can create a rule that automatically sends an e-mail message to your mobile telephone when you receive a message from a family member. Organization rules perform one or more actions on a message. For example, you can create a rule that moves certain messages to a folder or flags them for follow-up on a particular day.

You can also run one or more of your rules manually. Running rules manually allows you to selectively apply them to messages already in your Inbox or in another folder.

Example of Rules: 

I like to respond to website inquiries promptly, even if I am away from my desk.

In this scenario, I instruct Rules to look for any email with “Your Virtual Assistant Contact” in the subject line and flag it for follow-up within one day.   At the same time, a Rule is instructed to forward a template based email to the sender if I have my ‘out of office’ notifications turned on, letting them know I have received their email and will respond by the close of business.

You can also set up Rules to:

  1. Pop up an alert or make a sound when you receive a message from your boss.
  2. Move all emails from RSS feeds to your ‘Articles’ folder.
  3. Assign the category ‘sales’ to messages from containing the word ‘sales’ in the subject line.
  4. Delete messages automatically based on their content

Planning Your Rules:

The mechanics of setting up Rules in versions 2002 through 2010 has remained pretty much unchanged.  The key to success with Rules, though, is outlining them first:

  1. Conditions: Determine what criteria the incoming/outgoing email has to meet to get processed (email address, subject line, etc.).
  2. Actions: What do you want Outlook to do with that message?  Flag it?  Forward it?  Categorize it?
  3. Exceptions: If there are any exceptions to the Rule, note those.

If you’re interested in a detailed tutorial on how to set Rules up, or if you have your own special Rules trick you’d like to share, let us know in the comments below.

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