Use Rules to Delete Out of Office Replies

I use iContact to collect email addresses of subscribers to my private email list. One of the reasons I chose this technology is the ability to set up autoresponders that send emails to new subscribers at various intervals (a computer tip a week for four weeks).

When I set up the autoresponders, I used my main email address as part of the process. iContact handles all bouncebacks/undeliverables and automatically deletes them from my list. But the Out of Office replies came into my Inbox.

In my efforts to keep my Inbox lean, mean, and to one screen, I had to make some adjustments.

Problem: Every time an autoresponder was sent, I could easily receive 100 Out of Office messages piling up in my Inbox.

Solution: Set up a special email account for autoresponders only. Then create an Outlook rule to recognize the messages coming from this account and then permanently delete them if they are Out of Office responses.

Here’s what I did.

    1. Created a new email account with my ISP and in Outlook to only use with the autoresponders sent via iContact.
    2. Set Outlook up to not download email from this address when checking my other accounts. This way I decide when the messages come in (I might be traveling and on dial-up and don’t want the hundreds of Out of Office messages clogging the system).

To set this up, from the Inbox view, click Tools, Send/Receive, Send/Receive Settings, Define Send/Receive Groups, Edit All Accounts. Under Accounts, click the one to turn off, then untick the Include the selected account in this group box, OK, Close.

  1. Created a rule that permanently deletes all email coming to this special email account with the text, Out of Office or Out of the Office or On Vacation, in the body of the email.

Later, I’ll check this special account manually (click Tools, Send/Receive, point to the special account, Inbox). All email for this account is then downloaded from the server and zapped. If it’s a reply (usually praise for the tip) from a subscriber and not an Out of Office response, it’ll land in my Inbox. Works great!

To learn more about Outlook rules and managing email, it’s all in my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook, or sign up for my training. See my training Website for details.


PPeggy Duncan, personal productivity expert