[w] = I’m waiting for you

Did you know? Using a simple [w] in your emails can greatly improve the quality of your life. Read this step-by-step explanation to find out exactly how this works in Microsoft Outlook.

If you delegate, order, or ask anything via email, you can command Outlook to add that email to a Waiting For list just by adding a simple [w] to the body of the email.

A [w] at the bottom of your email is inconspicuous, so most people won’t notice it. It’s a powerful tool to keep your Waiting For list up to date and your mind at ease

To enable this feature, simply create a new WaitingFor-Email folder and add a rule.

I copied this description from my webpage at http://waiting-for.com. I built that website to let others know about the [w] command and encourage you to do the same. Go ahead — make someone’s day!

1. Create a New WaitingFor-Email Folder

  1. Press Ctrl+Shift+E to create a new folder.
  2. Specify “WaitingFor-Email” as name of the new folder.
  3. Choose “Mail and Post Items” from the dropdown box.
  4. Select the highest (root) folder in the folder hierarchy.
  5. Press the OK button.
  6. Create New Folder

2. Add a rule to copy outgoing emails with a [w] in the body to the new WaitingFor-Email folder

  1. From the main menu select: Tools | Rules and Alerts.(If your Outlook is set up to connect with an Exchange-server, you may not be able to open this Rules and Alerts dialog until you are connected to the Exchange-server.)
  2. Press the New Rule button.
  3. Select the option “Check messages after sending”.
  4. Press the “Next” button.
  5. Select the item “with specific words in the body”:
  6. Using your mouse, click on the blue underlined text at the bottom: “specific words” to display the Search Text dialog:Type [w] in the upper edit box:
  7. Press the Add button:
  8. Press the OK button.
  9. Press the “Next” button.
  10. Select “move a copy to a specified folder”:
  11. Click on the blue underlined text at the bottom: “specified” to display the Rules and Alerts folder find dialog.
  12. Select the WaitingFor-Email folder, then press the OK button:
  13. Press the “Finish” button to return to the Rules and Alerts dialog box.
  14. Press the OK button to return to the main Outlook window.

3. Test your new [w] rule

Now test your new [w] rule to be sure it works.

  1. Press Ctrl+Shift+M to create a new email.
  2. Compose and send a new email to yourself. Don’t forget to add a [w] to the body of the email.
  3. After sending the email, press Ctrl+Y and navigate to the WaitingFor-Email folder and select OK.
  4. If everything has been set up correctly, you’ll see a copy of the message  you sent, with the [w] in it:

Although it takes few steps to setup, now you can add a [w] to any email you send and Outlook will automatically archive a copy for you in the WaitingFor-Email folder.

Now simply review the WaitingFor-Email folder every week (or more, if your situation calls for it) to check whether there’s any follow-up you need to do. Your subconscious mind can forget about needing to remember these things, because all is monitored inside your folder.


It’s easy to spread this news.  Just add the following text to your e-mails, instead of just a simple [w]:

[w] http://waiting-for.com

Adding the URL to this site enables the recipients of your message to see for themselves what the [w] is all about, and it gives them the recipe for a more serene life, too!

You can use auto-completion software like the built-in Microsoft Word editor to make this easy.


The Waiting For list is one of the crucial concepts inthe book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. If you’re interested in more ideas about attaining a more productive life, read Allen’s eye-opening book.

20 comments

  1. Filter Email to a “Waiting For” Folder Automatically [Email] · TechBlogger said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail.) [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  2. Filter Email to a “Waiting For” Folder Automatically [Email] » Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail.) [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  3. B On The Move - Tech News » Blog Archive » Filter Email to a “Waiting For” Folder Automatically [Email] said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail). [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  4. B On The Move - Tech News - Filter Email to a “Waiting For” Folder Automatically [Email] said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail). [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  5. Filter Email to a "Waiting For" Folder Automatically [Email] | DougsTech.com - Tech News, Reviews, and Guides said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail). [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  6. Life Clerks » Filter Email to a “Waiting For” Folder Automatically [Email] said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail.) [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  7. Filter Email to a “Waiting For” Folder Automatically [Email] said >

    […] When you send out that email request you’re waiting to hear back about, you can automatically shuttle it into a “Waiting For” folder with the right outgoing rule. Microsoft Outlook expert Taco Oosterkamp recommends adding a unique and unnoticeable notation at the end of any email you’re waiting on (he uses [w]), and then use an Outlook rule to filter messages with [w] in the body to your Waiting For folder. Hit the link for a step by step tutorial on setting it up in Outlook; seems like an easy thing to replicate in other clients that support saved searches (like Thunderbird or even Gmail.) [w] = I’m waiting for you – a step by step explanation [via Each Day Empty] […]

  8. M said >

    I use BCC fileld for this purpose. If I send an e-mail and I want to wait for response, I add myself into blind carbon copy field. A rule is prepared than all messages sent by me with me in BCC is moved to folder Waiting for.

    This method is unvisible for recipients.

  9. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi M,

    Thanks for the idea.

    I myself do like my recipients to see that I am really waiting for them. But if you do not want them to see this, you can also use a category as the waiting-for flag. Especially in Outlook 2007 you can easily categorize an e-mail by pressing the shortcut key that you have set up for that category. The rule can then check if the category is set.

    Enjoy,
    Taco

  10. Alex said >

    Hi Taco,

    I started to use the [w] in my business email. But as the GTD mail approach is now used more widely in the company, I get also emails with [w] from collegues in my waiting for folder. I do now use [p] to distinguish my mail from collegues mail.

    Heard of this before? Or do I do something wrong

    Regards, Alex

  11. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Alex,

    Yes, I hear that quite often, so you’re not doing something wrong at all. The solution you chose is quite simple and smart.

    Another approach would be to create an exception to the [w]-rule to not process messages which subject starts with “RE:”. This way you won’t get replies to end up on your Waiting For list. However, if you want to reply to a message and still want to use the [w], you’d have to remove the “RE:” by hand.

    Still another way would be to use the Category for this, as I explained to “M” above.

    Take care, Taco

  12. Gert-Jan de Rooij said >

    Very helpfull indeed!

    Question I have is why do you use a mail folder and not just the waiting for task list. What distinquish do you make between the two?

    Cheers Gert Jan de Rooij

  13. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Gert-Jan,

    There are two reasons why I do that.

    1) On some computers Outlook rules refuse to copy an e-mail item to a task folder. In that case you have no choice – and because of the wide reach of this site and my book I decided to describe a method that would work on most computers.

    2) The distinction between the regular Waiting For folder (tasks) and the Waiting For Mail folder (e-mail) makes it possible to sort the items in the Waiting For Mail folder on the “To” field. This makes it easier for me to do my Weekly Review.

    Does that help?
    Taco Oosterkamp

  14. Constance said >

    My Blackberry has a nice shortcut for filing. I can’t find the equivalent in Outlook and am wondering if I am missing something. On the Blackberry, when you designate an e-mail and select File to place it in a Folder in Outlook, an app suggests the most likely folder for you to select. 90% of the time, it is right. Is there an equivalent feature in Outlook? My Outlook is currently configured to pull up the last folder I used when I select Shift-Cntl V.

    Thanks,
    Constance

  15. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Constance,

    That sounds like a great function, indeed. As far as I know native Outlook doesn’t sport such a feature. You may want to check out SimplyFile, an Outlook add-in that promises to do just the same. I haven’t got any experience with it myself, though.

    Kind regards,
    Taco Oosterkamp

  16. David said >

    can you please explain what would be the best place to file [w] mails for which you received a first input and you’re awaiting further details?
    Do you create a Waiting for task item of that first response message?
    Or do I move this first input mail (ALT + 2) to the Waiting for mail folder?
    (In the Each Day Empty book, ALT+2 is only used to move items to the short archive.)
    Thanks, David

  17. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi David, I will probably put a [w] in the e-mail that I sent back to the person when he/she sends me input for the first time. While asking for further details, I can easily add the [w] to my mail.

    However, if I request more details in a phonecall or other conversation, I’ll just put a note in my stuff-folder – which I will then move to my Waiting For list. Or, using Fingertips, I will put it on my Waiting For list immediately.

    I will never move the first input mail from somebody else to my own Waiting for mail folder. I use that folder only for copies of emails that I have sent myself. That means that I can easily delete these items during my Weekly Review. They are just copies anyway. The original is still in my archive.

    I hope this helps, Taco

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