Boost Your Email Productivity with these 3 Inbox Rules for Outlook 2013

People don’t generally like rules. Rules usually make us do things we don’t want and keep us from doing things we want to do, but in Outlook 2013, rules can help you be the master of your inbox email productivity and will keep things running smoothly with very little effort from you.

There are hundreds of ways Outlook 2013 can use rules to help you be the king (or queen) of your inbox. Here’s three of the most productivity boosting rules you can quickly set up today. These can be tailored to fit your needs by just changing one or two options.

1. Mark emails sent directly to me as important.

Anyone that has used email before should know about the different fields that can be used to send email to an address. The To, Cc, and Bcc fields all mean something specific. If someone wants you to be aware of an email but it doesn’t directly concern you, often times your name will be in the Cc field. If you find your name in the To field, odds are that the email affects you personally.

This rule can help you to quickly distinguish emails you are just copied on from the those sent directly to you.

Here’s how you set it up.

    • First, in the Home tab of the Outlook 2013 Ribbon, click the Rules button, then Manage Rules. A window will appear showing any rules you have already set up, if any.


    • Next, click the New Rule button to start the Rules Wizard in Outlook 2013.


    • This will bring up the Rules Wizard. Click Apply rule on messages I receive and then Next to continue. This will get us started on creating a fully custom rule for Outlook 2013.


    • Check the where my name is in the To box. Make sure this is the only item checked and click Next to continue.


    • The next step is where you tell Outlook 2013 what to do with the emails with you in the To field. Check the mark it as importance box. In the Step 2 box, click the word importance and select High. Click OK then Finish to complete the wizard.


  • You will get a warning telling you that this will only run while Outlook 2013 is open. Click OK to continue. This just means this rule only works inside of Outlook 2013 and not on other platforms, like your mobile device.
  • The last step is to click OK in the Rules and Alerts window. This will complete the setup for the rule that will mark any message with you listed in the To field as high importance.

This rule should help you know what is important and get the emails sent directly to you out to the front of your inbox.

2. Highlight Meeting Invitations

Outlook 2013 has a very robust calendar application built into it. This is great for scheduling meetings and get-togethers via email. Invitations can be sent and automatically applied to your calendar upon acceptance. To make sure you see these meeting invitations immediately, here is a rule you can use.

    • Since we just walked through the basics of getting a rule set up, I will skip the them. Once you are in the Rules Wizard, start with a blank rule by selecting Apply rule on messages I receive. Click Next to continue.
    • In the next window, click the which is a meeting invitation or update box and click Next to continue.
    • For me to make sure I see the new event invitation, I will add three actions to the Outlook 2013 wizard.
      • The first action is to mark it with High importance. Check this box, then click the importance word in the Step 2 box. Select High and click OK.
      • I like to hear a specific sound when I get this type of message. Click the play a sound box and in Step 2, click a sound to choose the sound you want.
      • Finally, we can display a specific message in the New Item Alert Window. Click this option, and in Step 2, click a specific message to type the message you want to see.
    • When you have all these items set up, it should look similar to this:


  • Click Finish to complete the Outlook 2013 Rules Wizard.

This Rule will help you see calendar invites more easily. Remember, you can replace
the meeting or update item with anything else in the Rules Wizard window to make those show up more clearly as well.

3. Follow Up Notifications for Sent Emails.

Rules can be applied to more than just emails you receive. You can set up rules for emails that you send as well. This rule will help you remember to follow-up on emails you send about a specific project.

    • In the Rules Wizard, select Apply rule on messages I send from the blank rules section. Click Next to continue.
    • Check the box next to with specific words in the subject.
    • In the Step 2 box, click on specific words and enter the words you wish Outlook 2013 to look for in sent emails. You can add more than one entry here, so if you send emails with a few subject lines when talking about a certain project, enter them all here.


    • Click OK when you have entered all the search terms. Click Next to continue.
    • In this step, select flag message for action in a number of days. In the Step 2 box, click this item to choose what flag it gets, and how many days away it should happen. Click OK to continue.


  • Click Finish to continue. This will complete the Rules Wizard. You will get the same warning as above. Click OK to continue.

That’s it! Now you will be reminded to follow up on emails you send with specific words in the search field.


Outlook 2013 uses these rules to help you get your work done without the need for manual review. Basically you just set it and forget it. The more rules you can set up to automate your work day the more time you have to focus on what’s important. Let Outlook 2013 do this kind of organization for you and you’ll never forget again!


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