Using Outlook Rules with Distribution Lists

WARNING: This post will not make sense to you if you do not create rules in Outlook.

A great question came up today from an attendee in my Outlook class. He gets reports from several people, and he wants to create a rule that sends messages from these senders into a special folder. The email subject lines are never consistent and can’t be made a part of the rule.

Instead of creating a rule for each person, he wants to create a distribution list with all these senders in it. Then he’d like to create a rule to “Move messages from someone to a folder.” The “someone” would be the distribution list.

This can be done, but a message will appear “ListNAME is a personal distibution list that may not be used with this feature. Would you like to use the individual members of the ListNAME instead?”

If you click OK, the individual names in the distribution list appear with OR in between each name. This means that any message coming from anyone in the distribution list will go into the specified folder. This could be a solution only if messages from these people are always one of the reports.

Now if I had his job, I’d create a special database form on the company’s Website that people would have to complete (instead of sending a regular email). When they click Submit, the database form would be set up to send the information to an email address. He could program the subject line so he’d have enough consistency in the incoming message to create a rule that would work. The mail command on the form would look like this: for Leagues

I created my Website in FrontPage so this is pretty easy to do. His Webmaster will know how to do this.

If you have a better solution, please add your comments. Thanks in advance.


Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Turn Your Blog Into a Widget and Post It Anywhere

The scrollable box to the right of my blog with Recent Posts is called a blidget (a blog turned into a widget. In computer programming, a widget is an interface element that a user interacts with such as a button, check box, slider, drop-down list, etc.).

With my blog as a widget, every time I create a new post, the blidget is automatically updated everywhere it’s inserted, whether it’s on my Website, your Website, or wherever (about 15 minutes later). A big plus is that it’s also easy for you to create a widget of my blog and promote it in your blog or on your Website.

Go ahead. Create your own widget of my blog. Click the button Get My Widget for your site and add SUITE Minute to your Website or blog.

To create your own blidget, at look down the left side and click Submit a Blidget. This free service is very intuitive and with a few clicks you’ll be finished. You’ll need your blog URL and your feed URL (my feed is with

My blidget is also on my Website. Some of my associates who don’t update their blog as much as I do have my blidget too.

Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Are you getting a lot of spam? I'm not and here's why

If you’re still getting a lot of spam in 2007, you don’t have the right stuff. Here are some things you can do right now to reduce this pest.

  • Take your live email address off the Web. Spambots scour the Web looking for the @ symbol and they grab the email address. If you visit my Website, you will not see my live address anywhere. I also do not allow others to post it (except as noted in the next bullet point). All over my site, I write my address using “at” or “(at)” instead of @.
  • Have a special email address for miscellaneous uses. If I’m in a situation where I have to post an email address, I use one whose account is not set up in Outlook. I can only check its messages via Webmail and seldom do this.
  • Bump up the protection level in your email client. Outlook 2003’s built-in filters are so good, I don’t have to use any other spam technology. If you’re using this version and are still getting lots of spam, change the protection level (click the Tools menu, Options, the Preferences tab, Junk E-mail button, and change the level to High). Mine is set at low because I rarely get spam.
  • Use a spam blocker that works. Before I installed Outlook 2003, I used the spam blocker Cloudmark Desktop and loved it. It caught spam and sent it to my junk folder. It also caught phishing emails (e.g., the ones that look like legitimate sites such as PayPal and asks you to enter confidential information and then help themselves to your cash).Cloudmark is a favorite of mine because it’s a community of people who contribute to the blocked sender’s list. This technology also does not force legitimate people who want to send you a message to get permission by clicking a link… (this is a major pet peeve of mine and a ridiculous thing for people in business to use).For an immediate reduction in spam, visit Use my referral code if you try it (yggw4).
  • Stop creating rules or adding to the blocked sender’s list. Professional spammers change their email addresses before you can blink so using rules (or the command to add to blocked sender’s list) to send their mail to your junk folder is a waste of time.
  • Don’t respond to spammers. Responding to a message asking to be removed from a list is not the way to go. You’re only letting the spammer know that yours is a legitimate email address (it’s fine to click Unsubscribe links when you know the sender is not a thug spammer).
  • Stop using autoresponders. If you’re getting tons of spam, using an autoresponder is one of the worst things you can do. You’re letting the spammer know that your email address is valid, and they’ll know you’re out of the office and your backup’s phone number and email address.Instead of using the autoresponder, I would rather have the reputation of being someone who responds so when they don’t hear from me as quickly, they know something’s up. And to tell you the truth, I don’t want to be a day away from my email because just about everything that happens for me in business starts with email. I stay on top of it and can whip through it pretty easily.(If you want to know how to manage email (and my time) the way I do, check out my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2003. I also conduct workshops and Webinars on this too.)
  • Use a top-notch ISP and Webhost. If your mail server is in Joe’s basement, it’s time to go with one of the big boys. Top-notch ISPs have better technology and spam will be blocked on the server side before it attempts to get to you (my Website and main Webmail accounts are hosted by Network Solutions…wonderful customer care).

If you take time to make these changes today, I promise you will see a big reduction in the amount of spam you receive.

Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

Are You Still Using a Paper Calendar?

I received a package the other day from a company that creates promotional products. Their gift idea was a nicely done 2008 Pocket Pal week-at-a-glance calendar. I chuckled when I held it up wondering why companies still spend money on these.

Hmmm…do I know anyone who could use this? All the business associates and clients I could think of use Outlook, PDAs, etc. Then I remembered — my handy man. He’s keeping appointments in his head (and forgetting) so perhaps he could use it. Yes, this could work for him because he’s not tech-savvy. He’s what you call old school.

I stopped using a paper calendar (or planner) so many years ago that I can’t remember, and I love how much more efficient I am with Outlook synched to my smartphone.

While I understand that some people are more tactile and like to put pen to paper, I suggest that you send handwritten letters and notes to satisfy that urge and use technology for your appointments.

Here’s why:

  • Transfer information. When a meeting request comes into Outlook, I click to Accept and it’s automatically added to my calendar. If the request comes in a regular email message, I drag it to the Calendar icon or I use Anagram (now called Copy2Contact) to magically turn it into an appointment. I don’t have to retype anything.
  • Keep all appointment data in one place. Instead of printing every piece of information related to a trip or meeting, I insert it right into my appointment as an Item or as an Outlook Note. Then if I’m traveling, I’ll print all the calendar details as one document (I do this only when I travel so I can have a backup to all my technology).
  • Create recurring appointments or events. With one click, you can schedule a recurring appointment whether it’s each day, once a week, every two months, and so on.
  • Find anything later. If I need to find out the last time I went to Chicago, I’ll conduct a quick search. If I were using paper, I’d have to flip, flip, flip until I found it. What a waste of time.
  • Back up everything. If you’re putting everything in a paper planner, what would you do if you lost it? You’re toast. With Outlook, all of my information is synched to my iPAQ. And MozyPro keeps Outlook backed up online every day. I am worry-free.
  • Make available to others. If other people need to view your calendar, they can’t do it if you’re using paper and have it with you. With Outlook’s AutoPick command, you can schedule a meeting and with one click find a day and time all of them can meet.
  • Connect the data. With your contacts and appointments in one program, you can look up one thing and also find something else. When you need to call someone you have a meeting with, it’s all there together.

So think about all this. If you’re not in the business world and never go anywhere, a paper calendar could work for you. Otherwise, come into this century and go electronic.

One more thing. When you go digital, avoid adding appointments directly to your handheld device. That could be too tedious. If you have to quickly schedule multiple appointments and add details while you’re on the road, you might need to print several pages of your electronic calendar to take with you (in Outlook, you can format this to print several different ways). You can enter new appointments by hand and update your digital calendar later.


Six Pages Many Small Business Websites Overlook

As you create or update your Website, make sure you have the right content that makes it easy for visitors to find everything they need. Below are some examples of pages to add that are often overlooked (or properly done).

Media Room
Why it’s important
– 80% of business is marketing and PR is a great way to get free publicity. The media room gives a journalist everything they need including your media history, sample articles, topics, high resolution photos, company news.

Why it’s overlooked – Small businesses often don’t realize the power of PR and how being mentioned in the media gives you credibility. You have a third party citing your expertise and you’re able to reach audiences you never would have otherwise.

How to create – You’d create it as you would any page, putting a link to it somewhere on the homepage, either as a main tab or on a drop-down menu.

News Room
Why it’s important
– The News Room is where companies should post news about the company. You’ll write media releases and post them whether you distribute them or not. Some items are not newsworthy and wouldn’t pique a journalist’s interests, but having the information on the Website will give you an opportunity to use your key words in articles. This will help your site show up in search engines and may give journalists ideas for stories.

Why it’s overlooked and how to create – Same as given for the Media Room.

Contact Us
This page isn’t overlooked, but it’s underutilized. I don’t know where the notion of putting only a contact form on a page came from. It should be easy for a potential customer or client to contact you. A contact form is so impersonal, whereas, a page with your complete address (it’s OK not to put this if you work from home and rarely need people to mail something to you), phone number, email address, hours of operations, etc., is so much more inviting. (The About Us page usually has the same problem. There is not enough detail about who the people in the business are and how you’re different from the competition.)

On my Contact Us page, I also provide links to pages for my main contacts (meeting planners and journalists).

Why it’s underutilized – This page is underutilized because people do what they see the majority of other people do without thinking it through.

Tips with Way to Opt-In to Email List
Why it’s important – Great content makes your Website sticky, and the longer you keep their attention, the more likely they are to buy. It also makes people tell other people, and gives everyone a reason to come back. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to stay connected. Collect their email addresses so you can continue  delivering value to people who like what you do.

Why it’s overlooked – They might not think they have tips to share, or might not write well.

How to create – This section of the Website could be a newsletter or tips page. You should give away a lot of free stuff…nothing that would cost you money to give away but things that add tremendous value. For instance, when you sign up for my private email list, you’ll receive regular computer tips, templates to help you get organized, a time management cheat sheet, and more. This page should include a database form for capturing email addresses. The opt-in graphic is on every page of my Website and at this link.

I created my sign-up form and maintain my email list using iContact.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Why it’s important
– This page will help potential customers or clients get answers to common questions. They won’t have to take time to call you and you won’t have to handle a lot of inquiries with these common questions.

Why it’s overlooked – You just didn’t think to do it.

How to create – You should make a list of common questions people ask with answers anyone could understand. On the Webpage, you’ll create a list of these questions and create hyperlinks to the bookmarked answers. This page should be kept updated as people ask new questions.

Raving Fans
Why it’s important – People want to know how real people feel about your product or service. They will believe what others say far more than what you say about yourself.

How to create – Ask for them first. After my seminars, I’ll circulate an evaluation that has a space for a testimonial. However, the best ones come from people who email me later. (Always get their consent before you post. I also sprinkle these gems throughout other pages.)

P.S. If you’re a speaker or trainer, add a Meeting Room that has everything a planner will need before and after they hire you. Here’s mine to use as a guide.


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Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

You Can Add Your Logo, etc., to Your Outlook Signature

UPDATE: For a newer post with instructions for Outlook 2007, click here.

Have you seen graphics in the signature line of email messages and wondered how it’s done? It’s easy as long as you already know how to create and/or edit a signature.

First, you have to save the desired graphic inside the Microsoft Signatures folder (for your signature, write it then scan and save as a graphic). Then you’ll create a new signature (or edit a current one) in the Advanced Edit mode and insert your graphic from this folder by clicking Insert, Picture, and inserting a file saved on your computer.

Note: By default, when using Word or FrontPage as your advanced editor, a copy of the picture in the Signatures folder gets inserted automatically when you click Insert, Picture so you can ignore the instructions below.

To find the Signatures folder (if you’re on a company network, the C: path below may be something different):

  1. Right-click on Start and click Explore.
  2. Follow the path
    C:Documents and SettingsyournameApplication DataMicrosoftSignaturesThis is where you’ll save your graphic. When you get ready to insert it into your signature (in Advanced Edit mode, click Insert, Picture), it has to be inserted from this location.

P.S. Your email format should be set for HTML in order to see the logo. If you reply to a plain text email, you won’t see the logo.

September is National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month, and I have included enough information in my blog to help you get ready. Anything could happen anytime…naturally or man-made.
A backup is not a backup

if it’s not offsite.

Here is a list of articles in my blog you’ll want to revisit.

And on another note, a key element of preparedness is getting paperwork organized. For all the help you need with this, check out my eBook, Get Organized So You Can Think! You’ll learn how to prepare a logical filing system (particularly for office paperwork and computer files) so you can find anything you need the instant you need it. Word templates that I created that will make this easy and a File Index to get you started are attached.

(The templates make it easy to create file labels. The File Index is a complete layout of a filing system that you can tweak to fit your needs.)

Don’t just file stuff. Create a system so you can find it later. And don’t keep junk or send it to storage.

Schedule some time to take care of this soon…this week? this weekend? When?

Are You Backing Up Your Blog? I Sure Am.

I’m very meticulous about backing up my files, especially since I work exclusively from a laptop, and I travel a lot speaking and training…love it!

I’ve written about Carbonite in previous posts. This service is an online vault that automatically backs up my computer files online every day as they change on my laptop. I’m especially keen on Carbonite because they keep my files organized as they are on my computer. In another post, I explained how, what, and when to back up.

Update: I’ve switched from Carbonite to MozyPro because they also back up my external hard drive and have 24/7/365 support.

But what about my blog? I’d found ways to back it up, but they all required that I do something. I want automation and peace of mind.

The service I saw the most buzz about was At this writing, it’s in beta and no one is sure how much it’ll cost later (latest word is that it’ll be $20 every 3 months…that’s a lot when you consider how inexpensive Carbonite is to back up my entire computer — $50 a year).

Then I found and signed up right away. I have a basic account of 50MB for FREE. It automatically backs up SUITE Minute every day.

Don’t lose all your hard work. Stop right now and set all this up.

P.S. Don’t just save files: organize them first. If you need help developing a good filing system for your papers and computer files, check out my ebook, Get Organized So You Can Think.

Also check out my Webinar, Get Organized at Work. Join me live on the Web…new dates always added.

Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

If It's Not a Hyperlink, Don't Underline It

One of my pet peeves when reading electronically, either in an email message or on a Webpage, is text that’s underlined but not a live link.

Spread the word. Don’t do this. There are all kinds of ways you can make text stand out.

  • Make it bold.
  • Change to a different color.
  • Change the typeface.
  • Increase the font size.
  • Change it to italics.

If your document is loaded with these underscores, what will make me continue to try the ones that might actually be a live link?

Free Up Space on Your Hard Drive with Three Simple Steps

I needed more space on my laptop’s hard drive so I did two things (after I deleted all temporary files and emptied the Recyle Bin).

Reduce the amount of space reserved for the Recycle Bin

The first thing I did was to reduce the amount of space that was reserved for the Recycle Bin. Right-click the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop, click Properties. On the Global tab, move the slider to 1% (the Recycle Bin will still have over 200MB reserved).

Delete all but the last System Restore files

Next, I deleted all but the last System Restore files. Right-click on the Start button, click Explore. Find your C: drive and right-click on it, then click Properties.

On the General tab, click Disk Cleanup. Let the Disk Cleanup do its thing. When it’s finished, View Files and decide if you want to delete anything.

Stay in this dialog box.

To delete all but the last restore point, click the More Options tab. In the System Restore section, click Clean up, Yes to delete, OK, Yes.

It’ll take some time for it to finish. Click OK when done, then go back to Properties to see the change.

These two simple steps freed up over 5GBs of space on my laptop. Now I won’t have to buy a new one.

Update: Reinstalled Windows and laptop is like new. This was the biggest improvement of all!