Taming Your Inbox
Using Outlook Rules to Manage Your Email
Email has become crazy. I don’t just mean those odd messages, that you get from friends or the forwarded links to YouTube videos. I mean just the huge number of email messages that a person receives in a day. I’m typing this post on a Wednesday night at 8:42, and as of now my work email account (this excludes my three personal email accounts) received 108 messages and sent 47 messages TODAY! How does anyone read and write this many messages, and still get things done is a task unto itself. It is a task that requires skills from reading quickly, to typing fast and having some way to organize your messages. The good thing is that Outlook has a tool that can help with the last step. The Rules Manager.
There are a number of categories that the email I receive can be filtered into. There are those news articles about IT and CIO related topics, alerts from our Managed IT System that we use to support clients, messages from my boss and coworkers, messages from clients and the occasional email from my wife. So, how can I make sure, that I don’t stop what I’m doing to answer an email that can wait. Well, this is where Outlook Rule Manager can come in. Using the rules manager, I can have all those newsletter messages filtered into a folder, so I can read through them first thing in the morning, allowing additional newsletters that come in to wait for the next day. Critical system alerts can come in, get flagged for immediate review and can even trigger a certain audio alert on my laptop. Messages from my boss can just sit in my email for me to look at later (really, if he wanted me he would send a text). And my wife, well, I forward her emails to all my email accounts, set off audio alarms, ensure a pop-up occurs on my workstation.
Overall, the best part about Outlook Rules is that you can quickly configure them from your Outlook client. If you have an Exchange server, they always process, even if your workstation is powered off. That means, if you filter these messages out of your inbox, your phone won’t set off an alarm. When the ThinkGeek daily price alert email shows up, since it gets sent directly to a subfolder and most phones only trigger alerts when messages hit your inbox. So, how do we set this up, well like most things, it all starts with a “right click” and a folder. So here are the quick steps:
The first thing to do is to create the folder, if you are sending the messages to a folder. On the right hand pane of Outlook, right click the location you want a folder to be and select “New Folder”. Allow the folder to be created and name it what you will.
Next, find an email message that you would like to filter. You can create a rule without a message, but it is much simpler, if you select an email. Some of the default information is already configured, so you don’t have to worry about mistyping anything. So, find that ThinkGeek email and “right click” on it.
Select “Rules” and then “Create Rule”. The Rule Wizard will start up and be split into two areas. In the top half, you get to select what you want filtered. Typically, the “From” checkbox is what you want to select, and you will see that it is already filled in for you. On the lower half, you get to select, what happens when that message shows up. Since I’m just moving this message, I would click on the “Move the item to folder”. Once I click on that, I can then select the newly created folder. Then I click OK to finish. Your rule is saved. These messages will always go into this folder.
If you want to create an audio, you can select any audio file on your computer and display an alert on your PC. Once you are comfortable with that, or if you just want to see what else you can do, click the “Advanced” button and many more options will show up for you to select from.
Rules aren’t going to reduce your daily intake of email, unless you send those pesky messages from your boss straight to the deleted items folder. What they can do is help keep your sanity, by allowing you to handle your email, when you want, instead of when it wants you to.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.