October 22, 2021

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How To: Maximize Microsoft Outlook Features To Minimize Email Time

3 min read

emailEmail is out of hand. Admit it, you get more email than you actually read or you spend far too much of your day filtering through them to get to the ones that are actually important. Most people in the business world use Microsoft Outlook but very few take advantages of very simple features that can significantly reduce your time reading through all the communications.

You may be the type of individual that enjoys all 1,000 new messages sitting in your inbox in one massive list. If that works for you and you don’t miss and respond promptly to messages and never miss any then this post won’t help you. If you have 1,000 unread messages and you are buried then I can help you re-claim your chaos.

Use Folders

Just like a folder for files, create sub-folders in your Inbox to move messages into. Organize the folders based on who sends you an email, departments, categories, etc… The more detailed the better but you can get out of control and make more work for you if you do not have some sort of method. For grouped, yet separated, folders like your team members, nest those into one larger folder.

Use Categories

9-8-2015 8-54-54 AMCategories are an under utilized feature I rarely see people use effectively. We are visual beings, when you have hundreds or thousands of emails to sort through you can’t read them all to find the ones you need. Categorizing your emails will speed up your searches and organization through color codes. In your Inboxes there is a Categories column that you can sort on to make finding an older email on a specific subject far easier if you do not recall the sender or the exact subject line.

 

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OneNote - www.onenote.com
OneNote Single Click Save

In most larger organizations chances are you have access to Microsoft OneNote which is a fantastic note taking and collaboration tool. Emails sitting in your Outlook mailboxes should not be considered ‘safe’ and should not be looked at like a permanent storage solution. More security focused companies will purge your emails that are 90 days, 120 days or 1 year old automatically. There will be emails you receive that you must save as an archive or as a reference to do your job. The best way to do this is learn to use and embrace OneNote and the Outlook integration it has. Check with your company IT department before you install anything. 🙂

Drive All The Suggestions Above With Rules

9-4-2015 1-37-38 PMEverything mentioned above can be done manually to each message but that defeats the purpose of making your email time more efficient. That’s where Outlook Rules comes into play. The Rules are the engine that can drive everything your emails do. Through Rules you can automatically move your new emails into the proper folders, add them to a category, automatically respond with a template response, pop up a custom message box when important emails come in, play custom sounds, and many, many more.

Rules are very robust yet very simple to configure. You set the rule to how the email comes in. You can choose based on who sends it in, text in the email, how the message came in then you choose what to do with it.

Now when you look at your new emails, instead of scanning through one massive inbox you can simple look at your folder list and see what new unread emails are in what folders. You may have 100 new unread but breaking them down you can leave the 15 report notices for later while focusing on the new ones from your boss.

Outlook is a very powerful and robust email client that is underutilized by the masses (the non-OCD folks) that when properly configured can make your daily email lives far easier to manage.

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