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.