A Place for Everything …

March 25, 2006

Rather than wade through a full inbox, why not create rules that automatically move incoming e-mails into a folder, for your review at a convenient time?

The biggest objection to this is … if new e-mail isn’t in your Inbox, won’t you have to waste a lot of time clicking through folders, looking for important new mail? No … you can also learn to create search folders so you can quickly see where new e-mail is, so you don’t have to worry about looking through the folders.

Let’s tackle creating rules first, and then we’ll learn how to create search folders that will identify new e-mail for you. The search folders can be set up to identify new newsletters, new personal e-mail, or new client, business, IMPORTANT e-mail.

Look at your inbox. Really examine it. I’ll bet there’s a combination of personal e-mail (funny, family, household stuff), client/matter items, and reading and research such as subscriptions to newsletters.

Your first determination may be to get all the newsletters out of the Inbox, into their own folders, or just one big catchall “Newsletters” folder. No problem!

  1. Sort the Inbox by Sender.
  2. Right-click on a newsletter/reading type of e-mail in your Inbox.
  3. From the shortcut menu, choose Create Rule.
  4. From the Create Rule dialog box (see 1st screen capture below) choose the criteria on which this rule will run.
  5. Then choose to move the e-mail to a certain folder. You can click Select Folder to browse to the already existing folder in which you want to store these e-mails, or, after clicking Select Folder, you can create a New Folder in which to house these messages.
  6. Click OK. A dialog box appears to let you know the rule has been created, and offers you a check box so you can run the rule on messages in your inbox. (See 2nd screen capture below.)
  7. In the example below, when I get mail from service@abanet.org, I’ll want the rule to move it to my Newsletters folder.
    create_rule.png

    create_rule2.png

In the screen capture above, as soon as I click OK, the rule will run on all the e-mail in my Inbox that meets the criteria, and that mail will be moved into my Newsletters folder. Future e-mail from service@abanet.org will flow into my Newsletters folder, thanks to the rule we just created.

Repeat this process, identifying newsletters, subscriptions, research feeds; personal e-mail (we all have a Humor or Funny folder, right?); until you winnow down the contents of the Inbox to e-mails related to business.

E-mails concerning clients, matters, internal e-mails of this ilk, now remain to be organized.  Think about your desired organizational scheme. Some like to create a top-level client folder, under which are created matter folders.  Sometimes it works best just to have a client folder, into which e-mails for various matters for that client will flow.

This is where you’ll become craftier about the rules you create.  And, this is why we eliminated the newsletter and personal e-mail types first – so you can think about the rules for moving the most important chunks of your e-mail into folders.

Rules can do all sorts of things!  There are very sophisticated rules – if you suspect you need rules more exotic than what we’ve discussed here,  ask for advice.  I’ll post a few great sites containing Outlook tips soon – or you can always contact me with your questions!

Look for my next few posts:

  1. Creating search folders so you tell, at a glance, how many unread e-mails (personals, newsletters, business) you have.
  2. Changing an Outlook setting so you can stop bcc’ing yourself, and your replies and forwards will file themselves away in the appropriate folder.
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