f 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 only care when people Decline a meeting. I’m assuming most people will attend.
- Regardless of your response, if you type a comment in the body I want to see it.
- Outlook retains all of the response information on each meeting automatically in the “Tracking” tab.
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:
- If an item comes in that is a Tentative or Accept meeting response, it moves it to my “Automatic Replies” folder and keeps it out of my Inbox.
- If it is a Decline it will remain in the Inbox.
- If the body has any content in it, regardless of the response type, it will remain in the Inbox.
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: