Outlook 2010 : How to Set Up Desktop Alerts to Only Pop Up for High Priority Emails

Last month my mentor and I chatted about barriers to productivity – including how the staggering number of emails we receive on a daily basis can negatively affect our work performance. We both agreed how distracting and disruptive Outlook’s Desktop Alerts can be – popping up in the corner of our screens like a groundhog from a burrow every time a new email is received.

She suggested I consider disabling the desktop alert function for a set period of time every day to remove the temptation to divert from the task at hand. This solution made sense, but was not perfect – what if an ‘urgent’ email with vital information or amendments to the project was left sitting idle in my inbox for hours?

We agreed that removing the functionality altogether felt more like a Band-Aid solution that a flawless fit. In an ideal virtual world Desktop Alerts could be set up to only pop up for high priority emails. Convinced that Microsoft could not be shortsighted enough to not include this option, I promised my mentor a solution by the end of the week.

Big mistake. There were no step-by-step tutorials or YouTube videos on the subject. The closest topic I could find was how to set up an incoming email rule. I’m not the type to blame Google or admit defeat so I decided to design my own solution through a series of time consuming trial and error tests.

I’ll admit the following solution is slightly time-consuming to set up, but fortunately, once you’ve set it up it takes two clicks to turn off and on:

How to Set Up a Rule That Only Notifies You of High Priority Emails Using Desktop Alerts

Desktop Alerts are the Outlook 2010 notifications that appear on your desktop when you receive new email message.

To Set Up the High Priority Desktop Alert Rule

To adjust some of the features of Desktop Alerts to suit your preferences, do the following:

To be able to only see Desktop Alerts for emails marked “Urgent,” you will need to create an email rule that moves all new messages out of your Inbox except those marked “Urgent.”

  1. Create a new folder. This will be the location where your incoming emails will be sent.

I titled my folder “New Emails.”

  1. In the Outlook 2010 ribbon, select Home tab. In the Move group, select the “Rules” button. A dropdown menu will appear. Select “Manage Rules & Alerts”. A new menu will open.
  2. Make sure the “E-mail Rules” tab is selected. Click on the “New Rule” button. Under the “Start from a blank rule” menu title, select “Apply rule on messages I receive.” Click Next.
  3. The “Rules Wizard” menu will open, asking you to “Select condition(s)”. Do not check a condition. This will ensure your new rule is applied to every email you receive. Click Next. A warning message will appear. Click Yes.
  4. The Rules Wizard will ask you to “Select action(s)”. Check the box beside “move it to a specific folder” action. In the “Step 2” section that allows you to edit the rule description, click on “specified.” Select the new folder you created in Step 1. Click Next.
  5. The Rules Wizard will ask you to “Select exception(s)”. Check the box beside “except if it is marked as importance.” In the “Step 2” section that allows you to edit the rule description, click on “importance.” Select “high” drop the drop down menu. Click OK.  Click Next.
  6. Name your new rule “New Emails”. Be certain that “Turn on this rule” is selected and NOT “run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox.” Click Finish.

From now on, all emails you receive that are not marked urgent will be pushed to the “New Emails” folder. The folder name will appear in bold with a dark blue number beside it when new, unread emails are in it. You can always drag emails back into your inbox folder if you want to sort them there.

To Turn Off the High Priority Desktop Alert Rule

  1. In the Outlook 2010 ribbon, select Home tab. In the Move group, select the “Rules” button. A dropdown menu will appear. Select “Manage Rules & Alerts”. A new menu will open.
  2. Unselect the New Emails Rule. Click OK.

To Turn ON the High Priority Desktop Alert Rule

  1. In the Outlook 2010 ribbon, select Home tab. In the Move group, select the “Rules” button. A dropdown menu will appear. Select “Manage Rules & Alerts”. A new menu will open.
  2. Select the New Emails Rule. Click OK.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Outlook 2007/2010 Training @
Sector Learning Solutions

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