Outlook Tip – Create a Rule for Meeting Responses

Juliet Awaits Romeo’s Outlook Meeting Invite Response | James Northcote | oil on canvas | c1790

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 Tip – Rules Rule!

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

In the Tags group, Under the Categorize button, click All categories
Then click new, and create a category for the new customer

Create Outlook Rules

In the Move group, click on the rules button and select Create Rule
A rule to tag email from the customer.
A rule to tag email to the customer.
A rule to tag email that includes the customer’s name in the subject or body of the email.

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.

Outlook Tip – Time Blocker

Here’s a secret: I’m not great at planning my time.
Good news: A strategy I’ve found for dealing with this that has proven very successful.

Jesse J Anderson introduced me to a method he calls the Tactical Time Blocker, based on techniques in the book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Everyday by Jake Napp and John Zeratsky.

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.

In the Folder tab of the Outlook Calendar form, you can create a New Blank Calendar

I grouped them together to make them easier to manage

Right click on the calendars area, and they can be organized in a New Calendar Group

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.

My Tactical Time Blocker workspace in Outlook

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.