Many people have used Outlook rules to automatically move incoming email to a folder. But there are a ton of other useful ways to use rules in Windows Desktop Outlook. In this article I’ll give an overview of 6 ways rules can help you. I’ll also tell you which lessons in the Outlook Inbox Ninja Video Course to watch if you want more details.
1. Moving Email Directly to a Folder
Anybody who uses Outlook rules probably does this. In fact, this is so popular that Outlook includes shortcut steps to set up such rules. See Lesson 2.4 for clear instructions of how to do this, including how to use the shortcuts.
2. Categorizing Incoming Email (and Leaving it in the Inbox)
Categorizing incoming email and leaving it in Inbox might be the most important new use of Outlook rules for anyone to learn. Why? Because doing this expands the range of email you can automatically apply rules to for auto-processing.
You see, most people use auto-filing rules only for very low, non-mission-critical mail, like newsletters. That’s because if you use rule type 1, above, you never see the email unless you open the folder it was moved to, and that’s risky to do for mission-critical mail.
But if you use a rule to auto-categorize (and choose to leave the mail in the Inbox), then you can apply such rules to important mail, because you still can read it in the Inbox. Then, after you are ready to dismiss the email, you can drag such categorized mail to whatever folder you want, even in bulk. Lesson 2.3 shows you how to do this.
3. Categorize Email that You Send
This is less important, but some people like to categorize mail that they send so that searching the Sent Items folders is easier to do. This is a bit harder to do and Lesson 2.6 shows you how.
4. Auto-Forwarding and Automatic Replies of Incoming Mail
Using Rules for Auto Forwarding and Automatic Replies to incoming email is also less-often done. But if you have a role where a lot of email queries come to you that need to be forwarded on to others, setting a rule to do it automatically is a huge timesaver.
Or, if you have a role where standard answers can be provided for standard questions, you can use rules to set up automatic replies with those answers. Lesson 2.5 shows how to do all this.
5. Rules For Limiting Email Notifications
This is an important one. Studies show that interruptions to our focused work take minutes to recover from, and unneeded email notifications are just that. Outlook rules can solve the problem.
In Outlook, it appears that the only setting you have is to turn notification off completely (and Lesson 2.7 shows how). But the next step is to turn notifications back on for certain people, and that’s where rules come in—also shown in Lesson 2.7.
6. Rules for Setting Exchange Retention Policies
Outlook/Exchange have powerful ways to auto-expire (after days, weeks, or months) and delete select groups of email. This is a great way to automatically clear your Inbox and folders for mail you want to keep for a short time. Lesson 2.10 shows how to use rules to apply these policies to the right kind of mail, again, automatically.