After receiving yet another campus-wide meeting invitation for an event in an ongoing series that I am never going to attend, I decided I was done manually processing these invitations. By manually processing, I mean, clicking “decline.” Every. Single. Time.
Unfortunately, there is not a way (yet?) to tell Outlook to automatically decline meeting invitations from specific people or with specific words in the subject line, so we have to cobble together a few things to 1) delete the meeting invitation as soon as it arrives, 2) hide the unaccepted/undeclined meeting invitation from Outlook calendar, and 3) for those who synch their Outlook calendar with their Google Calendar, keep these tentative meetings from synching to Google Calendar.
Important caveat: If the person who sent the meeting invitation included a reminder notification, you will still see the notification pop-up for the tentative meeting. One solution? Every Monday morning, pop into your calendar, right-click on each tentative meeting and select “Decline” or “Delete.” If you’ve hidden all of the tentative meetings from view (see below), on the View tab, click the Reset View button. After declining or deleting them all, if you want to hide all new tentative meetings from view again you’ll have to create a new filter.
Doesn’t it feel like it should be way easier than this? Since it’s not, let’s get to it.
Delete the meeting invitation on arrival: Desktop Outlook
To autodelete specific meeting invitations, we need to set up an Outlook rule. We can set up a rule without having the meeting invitation, but since you’re more likely to be motivated to do something about unwanted meeting invitations when they arrive, we’ll build the rule from here.
Right-click on the meeting invitation. From the menu, mouse over Rules, then select Create Rule.
In the rule pop-up, Outlook takes some guesses as to what rule we want to create. In this case, Outlook guessed wrong. Click the Advanced Options button to get to the options we want.
I’m going to create a rule that will apply to meeting invitations from a specific person. In the Rules Wizard pop-up, check the box next to the name of the person, then scroll down and check the box next to “which is a meeting invitation or update.” Remember, I don’t want to delete every message from them, just their meeting invitations. Click Next.
Now we’ll tell Outlook to take the meeting invitations from that person and delete them. Check the box next to “delete it.” Click Next.
In the next pop-up window, choose any exceptions you’d like to make, if any, then click Next. On the last screen, give your rule a name. Check the box next to “Run this rule now…” Make sure the next box is checked: “Turn on this rule.” Click the Finish button.
If you’d like to delete or make any changes to your rule, on the Outlook Home ribbon, click on Rules and then Manage Rules & Alerts. Double-click on the rule you’d like to change, and you’ll see the now-familiar Rules Wizard. Make whatever changes you’d like. Clicking the Finish button will save them.
Delete the meeting invitation on arrival: Web Outlook (Office 365)
If you use both Outlook for the web and desktop outlook, rules created in one version will automatically work in the other. These instructions are for those who may only use Outlook for the web.
Right-click on the meeting invitation, mouse over “Advanced actions,” select “Create rule.”
In the pop-up, click the “More options” link.
Change the name of the rule to something like “For meeting invitations from M.” Click “Add another condition.” From the menu, in the “Message includes” section, select “Type.” Now, to the right of “Type,” you are asked to “Select an option.” Click in that box, and select “Invitation.” Under “Add an action,” select “Delete.” Check the box next to “Run rule now.” Click the “Save” button.
Hide the unaccepted/undeclined meeting invitation from calendar: Desktop Outlook
Even though the meeting invitations that meet the criteria we outlined in our rule are automatically deleted, Outlook calendar still adds them to our calendar as a “Tentative” meeting.
In my mind, it’s not tentative at all. Really, I am not going to attend this meeting. In an ideal world, Outlook would let me delete these calendar additions when I created the rule. I’d even be happy if Outlook let me create a new rule that would do it. But, alas, it is not to be. At least not as of this writing, so we will do the next best thing. We’re going to hide all “tentative” meetings from view. If you leave “tentative” meetings in your Outlook calendar because you use them somehow, do not follow these instructions. Also, be aware that this meeting time will still be blocked off on your calendar. Anyone who is looking for a time to meet with you, your hidden “tentative” meeting times will show as unavailable.
To hide tentative meetings from your Outlook calendar, go to the View ribbon, click on View Settings. In the pop-up, click the Filter button, then on the Advanced tab click on the Field button.
Next, click the Field button, select “All Appointment fields,” then “Meeting Status.” (Whew!)
One last step. Change “Condition” to “not equal to,” and change “Value” to “Not yet responded.” Click OK, and say OK to whatever additional pop-ups Outlook throws at you.
That is it! Your desktop Outlook calendar will show you everything on your calendar except those meeting invitations that you have not responded to.
Again, hiding your tentative meetings from view will not stop the reminder notifications. One option discussed above is to remove the view filter at the beginning of your work week, click and delete each tentative appointment on your calendar, and then apply the filter again. At least that way you’re only dealing with tentative messages once a week instead of dealing with them every time they arrive.
Hide the unaccepted/undeclined meeting invitation from calendar: Web Outlook (Office 365)
Unfortunately, it cannot be done. Not only can you not hide tentative meetings in your web Outlook calendar, the hidden tentative meetings we created in desktop Outlook only apply to desktop Outlook. They do not carry over to web Outlook. More info here. I’m sorry!
Google calendar users: Keep tentative meetings from synching
While I use Outlook calendar for work, I use Google calendar for my personal use. To minimize confusion, I sync these two calendars using the aptly named Outlook Google Calendar Sync. (On their website, do not click any giant start buttons on the screen. Those are ads. Instead, under “Alpha, click the blue Setup.Exe button.
By default, all of those tentative meetings we’ve hidden in Outlook calendar will sync to Google Calendar. Since I’m (still!) not going to those meetings, they don’t need to be on my Google Calendar, either.
In the Outlook Google Calendar Sync settings, on the Outlook tab, check the box next to “Only sync invites I’ve responded to.” Done! All of those hidden tentative meetings will now no long show on my Google Calendar. (To the good people at Microsoft who work on the Outlook teams, please give us a checkbox like this. Thanks!)