Outlook rules are a powerful organizational tool for any work environment. If you’ve ever searched for an email to no avail, scrolled through spam to get to the emails you need, or confused conversations with people, you could benefit by using Outlook rules to organize your inbox.

The first decision you have to make when organizing your emails is how you want them to be organized. Some of the basic methods of organization are below, though there are some less-common conditions as well:

  • By sender
  • By subject and/or body
  • By recipient
  • By importance, sensitivity, or flags
  • With attachment
  • By date received

Once you figure out how you want to organize your mailbox, you can create folders to move these emails to. For example, if you chose to organize by sender, you would probably have a separate folder for John Doe and Jane Doe. You can then go to the Rules window and click Create Rule. You’ll select “From John Doe” and then “Move the item to folder: John Doe.” The same would apply to Jane Doe.

For some of the other options, such as importance, with attachment, etc. you’ll use the “Advanced Options” in the Create Rule window. This gives you a list of different conditions to choose from. Once you’ve selected the conditions you want, you can click “Next” to choose your actions. Here, you may want to use one of a few different options:

  • Move it to a specified folder
  • Assign it to the ________ category
  • Delete it
  • Permanently delete it
  • Move a copy to the specified folder
  • Mark it as __________ (importance)
  • Mark it as read

Depending on the email, you may want to move it to a folder, copy it to a folder, or completely delete it. While it may take a little time to set up the folders and rules for your entire mailbox, in the end adding these rules help with organization and efficiency.

To further optimize your email, you may want to consider filtering unwanted emails, automating some of your forwarded emails and replies, and/or prioritizing your emails. If you have a unique situation, you may want to consider some of these lesser-known applications.


We like to give credit where credit is due. Featured photo from Hope House Press.

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