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Workflow for Meeting Management in Email

A more effective way to handle meeting related emails so you can ignore noise but take action on the items that matter.

I’m not sure why it took me a couple of decades to come up with this but I’ve had these mail rules in place for a little over a year, and they are great! After putting these in place, I was able to streamline my processing of meeting related notices and more importantly take action on the important messages.

Folders

Create three folders in your mailbox like this:

Meetings
├── Affirmative
└── Review

The rules below will route mail into those three folders.

Rules

Note that my email rules are for Office 365 and Exchange Online. These would work directly in any Exchange environment, but I suspect that the spirit of these rules could be put in place in any email/calendar system with translation.

Invitations

My workflow for accepting meeting invites is completely unrelated to processing my email inbox. The first thing I want to do is get all meeting requests out of my inbox so I can deal with them while I’m planning out my day and week. I route these into my “Meetings” folder.

Rule: Meeting Invitation

After the message arrives and…
the message is Meeting Request.

Do the following…
move the message to folder ‘Meetings’
and stop processing more rule on this message

Typically first thing in the morning I process all items in this Meetings folder acting upon each request as appropriate.

Actionable Items

I want to take note of and possibly act upon three kinds of responses to meetings. These three rules catch these and places them in the “Review” folder. I review this folder right after going through the Meetings folder.

Decline

Action is required when people decline meetings. Declines are what made me evaluate how I process meeting notifications. The most common one for me is a repeating 1:1 with a declined occurrence. I would miss these declines and not cancel on the occurrence as the meeting owner. Then I would be waiting for the person to show up only to realize that they had declined the meeting weeks ago due to a planned vacation.

This rule will capture these declines so you can process them appropriately. By catching declines I’m able to make sure that all necessary people I’ve invited to a meeting are there, and we can have a productive session.

Note that this rule includes a forward as well. If you have someone who helps manage your schedule, forward these to that person as well so that they can take action on your behalf.

Rule: Meeting Declines

After the message arrives and…
the message is Meeting Response.
and the message includes specific words in the subject ‘Declined:’

Do the following…
forward the message to ‘John Doe’
and move the message to folder ‘Review’
and stop processing more rule on this message

New Time Proposed

Sometimes people don’t decline but suggest a new time. Now I need to visit my calendar and see if this alternative time works for me and possibly everyone else. I put these in the “Review” folder and also forward a copy to anyone that may help me with this.

Rule: Meeting New Time Proposal

After the message arrives and…
the message is Meeting Response.
and the message includes specific words in the subject ‘New Time Proposed:’

Do the following…
forward the message to ‘John Doe’
and move the message to folder ‘Review’
and stop processing more rule on this message

Forward

Meeting forwards don’t require revisiting the schedule, but I do want to know about it. It’s worthwhile to know that someone decided to add another person to the conversation. Possibly we’ll need a different room, or we may need to adjust the agenda.

Rule: Meeting Forward

After the message arrives and…
the message includes specific words in the subject ‘Meeting Forward Notification:’

Do the following…
forward the message to ‘John Doe’
and move the message to folder ‘Review’
and stop processing more rule on this message

Meeting Acceptances

Meeting acceptances are complete noise. The rules above make sure I see only actionable responses. These notifications I ‘mark as read’ and put in the “Affirmative” folder. I then delete them when a large number pile up. I could just as easily get rid of the folder and just delete these upon arrival, but I do like to see them there for some reason.

It is critical that this rule is last! If you put this rule ahead of the others, it will intercept important notices, and you’ll miss them!

Rule: Meeting Acceptance

After the message arrives and…
the message is Meeting Response.

Do the following…
mark the message as Read
and move the message to folder ‘Affirmative’
and stop processing more rule on this message

Optimize Schedule and Decrease Distractions

By using these rules I’ve been able to:

  1. Optimize my process for accepting meeting invitations,
  2. Completely ignore meeting acceptances, and
  3. Never miss that someone was unable to join a meeting and have a broken calendar when the necessary people aren’t there.

| 2016 |