Tech Tip: Use Outlook Rules to Automate Your Inbox

Outlook LogoHow many emails do you get on a daily basis? If you’re like most of the corporate world, your inbox is probably inundated with emails. Some folks like to just keep everything in the their inbox, but you can use the tools built into Outlook to keep you organized. Microsoft has some good videos on the basics of setting flags, reminders, creating folders, and more. But today we’re going to chat about most powerful way to keep your email in-check: Outlook rules.

We touched on Outlook rules a few months back to create custom alerts for important emails, but there are so many other things you can do in the rules wizard to automate your inbox. Rules work great for actions you always perform on a type of message. Get started by right-clicking a message and select Rules > Create Rule to get the process started.

First, you have to setup rules for the types of messages you’re looking to filter. Click on “Advanced Options” to really see all the powerful options available:

Once you get in there, you’ll want to set the conditions that will trigger the rule and subsequent actions:

So you can run rules based on who the message is from, who it’s to, words in the subject line or body of the message, whether it has an attachment, or more. And you can run a rule based on any or all of the above conditions.

Once you set your conditions on which you want the rules to run, here are a few things you can do with those emails:

Play A Different Sound: The standard Outlook email notification gets tuned out when you hear it enough. You can setup rules to play different sounds depending on various rules. We used this in our office to notify our team of critical server alerts, for example.

Move/Copy the Item to a Folder: If you need to keep an email for record keeping purposes, but don’t need read it immediately (or even at all), you can automatically move it to a folder in Outlook so it doesn’t clog up your inbox. Or you can copy it to a folder to safe keeping.

Delete It: If you know that you don’t even need to read a certain type of email, you can set it up to automatically be trashed.

Forward The Email: If you always forward a certain type of email to one of your contacts, you can set it up so that Outlook does it for you. We use this to get payment notifications or invoices to our bookkeeper, for example.

Auto-reply to the Message: You can setup an auto-reply based on the rules in Outlook so you can have a reply sent without you even doing anything.

Print It: You can have an email automatically print when it comes in.

Mark it as Read: You can mark messages as read as they come in.

There are several other actions you can perform on messages based on Outlook rules, but those are the most common and useful. You can also combine them, too, so you could, say, play a sound, mark a message as read, and move it to a folder, all in one rule.

You can also set exceptions to the rules, if necessary:

Rules are insanely powerful and handy tools to keep your inbox clean (which is why I have over 35 rules on my inbox to tame the hundreds of messages I get daily).

Comment below: How do you use Outlooks to tame your inbox?

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