GTD Rule for Tracking Waiting for Items in Outlook

Last night I was working on the backlog of items in my reading list and came across this one from GTD Times titled Cool GTD tip for tracking Waiting For items in Outlook. The article describes creating a rule (below) that moves messages you send which require a response to a “@Waiting For Support” folder. The rule triggers on messages you receive from yourself where you are not in the “To” or “Cc” fields. In other words, it works on messages you’ve Bcc’d to yourself. I love the concept. It’s a great example of using a little automation to help get things done. I’m not a fan of using BCC to accomplish this though, so here’s another approach that uses a different type of rule.

Outlook has two types of rules: those that are triggered when a new item arrives, and those triggered when you send an item. The rule outlined in the GTD Times article uses a receiving rule. I propose using a sending rule instead. This has the advantage of moving a copy of the message to the folder immediately instead of waiting for the mail server to send a copy of the message back to your inbox. In my opinion that makes for a cleaner approach. Where the original rule triggers on messages you BCC to yourself, the alternative (below) triggers on the message being assigned to a category.

Here are the steps for setting this up. You can substitute different folder and category names as desired.

  1. Create a folder named “@Waiting for Support”.
  2. Create a category named “@Waiting for Support”.
  3. Create the rule shown above. I’m assuming you know how to create a rule, so I’m not going to go through that process step-by-step.

You’re ready to go. When you send a message that you want a response to simply add the category “@Waiting for Support”. This will trigger the rule and move a copy of the message to your “@Waiting for Support” folder.

One final thought. The rule in the GTD Times post does have one distinct advantage over this approach and that is sending from a mobile device. The receiving rule it uses will be triggered the next time you open Outlook and receive mail. The sending rule in my alternative approach won’t be triggered because the message was sent by the mobile device not by Outlook. That’s an important difference if you send a lot of messages from a mobile device and want the ability to track them too.


7 comments on “GTD Rule for Tracking Waiting for Items in Outlook

  1. Thanks David. I have been using a “quick step” to tag and move an Outlook item into the @follow up folder. This seems to be working. Thanks 🙂

  2. Hi,
    It’s been a while since you posted this. I hope you will see my question.
    Is it possible to create a rule that will copy an email to the @follow up folder if I add the category at a later time (not when the email is received)?

    I have several “old” emails that I’d like to tag with the category.

    Any suggestions?

    • Hi, Nicole.

      Yes, it’s possible to create a rule that will do what you described. However, rules only run on items as they are sent/received. The rule would not run on items already in your inbox unless you opened rules and ran that rule manually. In other words, while the rule is possible, it won’t behave the way I expect you want it to. There are some better solutions to using a rule. You could use a macro that reads the category and items belongs to and files the message based on what it finds. With this approach, you’d select one or more items, set the category, then run a macro that would file all the selected items. Another solution would be to create a folder and use some code to monitor that folder. When an item is added to the folder, the code would check it to see what categories it belongs to and file it accordingly. This is exactly like the first approach but instead of running a macro to file the items you’d drag and drop them to a folder to trigger the filing process. Would one of these solutions work for you?

    • Hi David,
      I’m very happy to see your response.
      Yes, I think one of these options should work.
      I don’t know anything about Macros, but I think this will be a good time to learn.
      Many thanks!
      I look forward to finding more tips and info in your blog 🙂

  3. For implementing GTD you can use this this application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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