While my preference in meeting sizes is to abide by the two-pizza rule, sometimes large meetings are necessary. After sending a large meeting invitation, the trickle of meeting responses to my inbox throughout the day becomes an unnecessary distraction.
My solution is to create a new folder for meeting responses, and a rule to sending all meeting responses to that folder. No more distracting inbox pings for every response, though I can see a summary of meeting response activity by looking at the unread messages flag on the folder. At my convenience, I can right-click on the folder and mark all as read if I don’t care about responses, or I can dig into the folder and have an easily filtered view of meeting responses received.
This rule is easy to setup in the Outlook Web App (Outlook.com)
Create Rule for Meeting Responses
Step 1: Create folder for meeting responses.
Step 2: Sign into Outlook.com, Click on settings, Search for rules, Select Inbox rules.
Step 3: Create rule name, Choose Type: Event response for condition, Choose Move to [created folder] for action.
Outlook rules are one of the oldest, most under-utilized productivity hacks in the business applications toolbox. They’re excellent for getting distractions out of your inbox.
Newsletters you only occasionally read? Make a rule to send them to their own folder!
System generated messages you never check? Mark them as read!
Let the computer do your work for you.
Today I want to share a set of rules I create when I start working with new customers to help me manage my inbox. But more generally, I just want to encourage you to use more Outlook rules.
Create Customer Category and Rules
When I start working with a new customer, I like to create an outlook category for that customer, and rules so that all customer-specific emails will be tagged with that category. This works for me because I frequently work across multiple customer projects at the same time, though rarely more than a handful.
Create New Outlook Category
Create Outlook Rules
OK, What’s the Big Deal?
Automatically categorizing email by customer visually organizes my inbox. I can quickly identify customer vs. internal emails, as well as recognize which customer they pertain to.
It also provides the same visual distinction when looking at meeting invites for the week.
How do you manage your email inbox? Do you use any practices or rules that are exceptionally effective? Let me know in the comments.
Essentially, plan out your important tasks and schedule them at the start of your day. Then, track what you actually do during the day. At mid-day, revise your schedule based on what you still need to accomplish, new tasks that have come up, and revised priorities.
Jesse explains this better than me, as well as how he manages it on a sheet here:
I liked this format, but the sheet wasn’t working for me, so I recreated the experience in Outlook.
I created three new calendars, naming them Planned, Actual, and Revised.
I grouped them together to make them easier to manage
I made a Day view in the calendar section aligning my Work calendar with my Planned, Actual, and Revised calendars.
I also pinned my tasks in the todo bar on the right.
I like this approach for a few reasons:
At the start of each day, I fill my planned calendar for the day – transferring my work meeting first, and then figuring where I will insert time for the work tasks that I need to accomplish.
Outlook’s “current time” bar sliding down the calendar is a great reminder for me to keep my Actual calendar updated during the workday.
Having multiple calendars allows me to block out my day, while still giving colleagues visibility to actual availability in my work calendar (which is shared with them).
I can view and add to these multiple calendars from the Outlook mobile app (which works great with Siri for appointment scheduling, btw)
Maintaining my actual calendar facilitates easy time entry at the end of the day.
Do you have any good time management strategies that work for you? Do you think this will be helpful to you? Let me now in the comments.
Also, if you prefer the paper version of this technique, Jesse’s printable version is available for download on Gumroad.