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I’m a big fan of the Clean Inbox concept for triaging my e-mail (more on that in a future postJ). This has naturally lead me to look for ways to keep ‘noise’ out of my Inbox and leave it as the single place to monitor mails that I need to triage (read/respond/defer). I already have a set of rules for keeping my distribution lists at bay inside their own folder, but have realized that a decent amount of noise coming into my Inbox had to do with meetings – specifically, responses to meetings that I scheduled.
If you’re anything like me, then you send and receive lots of meeting requests in Outlook. In a typical week I’ll schedule around 10 new meetings with different people – if a typical meeting has approximately five attendees that could be 50 responses that come back to my Inbox. I realized a few things about meeting responses:
I set out to tame my incoming responses based on those guidelines by using a rule that would automatically deal with the responses that I don’t need to care about. You too can create this rule and modify if to suit your work style.
Here’s how my rule works:
To get started, go to the Tools menu, choose Rules and Alerts, and then click “New Rule…”
Now click “Check new messages as they arrive”.
Click “Next”. In the resulting dialog, scroll down and select the “uses the form name form” condition.
The key is the “uses the form name” condition. If you click the “form name” underlined text to edit the condition, you’ll find the Tentative and Accepts response forms in the resulting dialog:
(Be sure to select “Application Forms” from the drop down at the top of the dialog or you might miss “Accept Meeting Response” and “Tentative Meeting Response.”) Once you’ve added the two forms, click “Close” and then “Next” in the main Rules Wizard window.
Now, choose a location for these meeting responses to be moved to. I keep mine in a separate folder called “Automatic Replies”, but you can just as easily move them to Deleted Items for easier removal. Choose the “move it to the specified folder” or “delete it” action depending on your choice:
If you do choose to move them to a folder, you’ll need to specify the folder in the conditions at the bottom:
Click on the ‘specified’ text and choose a folder. Once you’ve selected a folder or chosen to delete the items, click “Next” in the wizard.
The last step is to set a condition to check if the person responding typed anything into the body of their Accept, Decline, or Tentative response. To do this, I use the “except if the body contains” condition to check for a single space in the body. Select the condition in the list:
Then click the “specific words” text at the bottom to edit the condition. In the resulting dialog, simply type a space and then click “Add”:
Now click “OK”. This way the only responses that can slip through are ones with a single character in the body.
You should now be setup with the rule looking like this:
You’re almost done! Click “Finish” in the rules wizard. It’s also very helpful to make this the first rule in your list, so use the arrows to move it to the top:
When you’re done, click “OK” in the ‘Rules and Alert’s dialog to get back to Outlook.
The result is my “Automatic Replies” folder:
Voila! Nice and tidy. :-)
I hope you find this tip helpful. Let us know what you think.
Michael Affronti Outlook Program Manager
More info on managing meeting responses
Easier Ways to Create and Manage Meetings
I can't tell you how totally awesome this is - I support three senior vice presidents with approximately 75 total employees reporting to them and when I send out the monthly staff meeting invite - I regret getting all of those invites in my intray - NO MORE - Thank you so much!!