I have written on several occasions that I don’t use the Outlook Rules much but I have now managed to find an excellent use of this feature which has helped me stay focused and improve my productivity.
Do you subscribe to any email newsletters, mailing lists or groups?
I often find myself going to check my email and 30 minutes later all I have done is read through “interesting” articles instead of doing any real work.
Microsoft’s built-in Rules feature provides a solution.
Let’s start off with a bit of background about Outlook Rules for “Outlook Newbies”
What are Rules in Outlook?
According to Outlook 2013 Help…
“A rule is an action that Microsoft Office Outlook takes automatically on an arriving or sent message that meets the conditions that you specify in the rule”
For example… you can set a Rule to automatically move emails from a particular email address out of the Inbox to another folder.
Normally I don’t use Rules much because…
My Inbox is my To-Do list.
I don’t want anything automatically moved out of it. Even Outlook automatically moving items after they are read is NOT acceptable because I sometimes leave stuff in there to deal with later.
I want to move emails out myself after I have finished with them – I need to stay in control of my Inbox.
I use QuickFile for Outlook to simplify email filing out of my Inbox (and Sent Items).
But in this situation it makes sense…
I want the newsletter emails moved out of my Inbox and into a folder dedicated to newsletters.
These emails are not part of my daily to-do-list and I prefer to go through them when I take a break from real work.
How to create a Rule?
BEFORE creating the Rule, create a folder inside Outlook where you want the newsletter emails to be moved to. Then…
- Go to your Inbox
- If you are using Outlook 2013/2010. Click on File and select the Info tab and then click on Manage Rules & Alerts.
- For all other versions of Outlook, click Tools and then click Rules & Alerts.
- Click on New Rule… to display the Rules Wizard as shown below:
- “Move Messages from someone to a folder” will already be highlighted. (This example assumes that the newsletters come from the same email address – otherwise you can use one of the other predefined Rule Templates)
- Click “people or distribution list” to display the Rule Address screen.
- Choose a name from the list or type in the name in the From field and then click OK.
- Click the hyperlink word “specified” to bring up the Choose Folder dialog. Select the desired folder from the list and then click OK.
Now that the Rule is created, any emails coming from the list will automatically be moved to the chosen folder.
You can also apply it to any emails that are already in the folder by going back to the Rules and Alerts screen and clicking the “Run Rules Now” button.
Use Rules in this way to move emails that you know are NOT part of your REAL WORK.
This keeps your Inbox clean and focused on things that need your attention.
I recommend that you don’t use Rules to shift work related emails.
Keep them coming to your Inbox and use a tool like QuickFile for Outlook to manage their filing.
One Reply to “The Best use of Outlook Rules to improve Productivity (and Reduce Distraction time)”
Any thoughts on using the Outlook rules vs. the Newsletter function included in Quickfile? I had a heap of rules already set up for newsletters before I had the new Quickfile version with the Newsletter function. But from what I have observed so far, there is not much to separate them apart from the greater functionality of the Outlook rules.