Part 2: Let’s get Outlook Savvy!

In my last post, I admitted I had a problem with email organization.  After invoking my blog co-writer’s help last week to point out ways in which I could take control of my email addiction, I have begun on the path to an empty inbox.  This week, I have asked her to focus more on the technical tools that could help someone with an email addiction—and to include other organizational tools of Outlook that can help keep someone on task.  So without further ado, here is Part 2 of “Tips for Taking Control of Your Email Addiction!—Let’s get Outlook Savvy!”


In the last post, I reviewed ways in which email was both beneficial and taxing.  I recommended ways to organize your inbox so that one could live a healthier email lifestyle.  This time, I would like to go over the technical resources mentioned in Outlook 2010 for Dummies that are available to people who want to not only organize their inbox, but organize their day-to-day activity as well.  Here are nine more steps to an organized, stress-free work day.

Step 1: Use the Task feature.  When you open an email, if you can take care of it in less than two minutes, then do so.  This includes the option of forwarding an email or a task to delegate the item to someone else.  Delete it after it’s done or if you don’t need it anymore.  If the email lists something that you need to take care of later, then convert emails to tasks that will show in the side outlook panel.  You can do this by simply dragging an email into the task area.  Then move your email into a correct folder, or delete it.  This will reduce the email in your inbox, but remind you of action items that you need to take care of.

Step 2: Create Search Folders.  Search folders do not actually move email, they are instead designed to help you search for emails that may cross folder categories.  They are home to a single designation so that you may easily find what you need.  You may want to create search folders for unread mail, mail flagged for follow-up, important mail, mail from a specific person/group, etc.

Step 3: Use Rules.  Rules are a great way to organize your inbox.  Setting up a rule allows Outlook to act on its own and move messages into folders that you may need, but don’t need to read as they come in.  These come in handy with daily status update emails, material review, reports, new job applicants, etc.  This may also come in handy if you are trying to divide one email account into numerous purposes (e.g. if your job revolves around different groups of contacts which are completely unrelated).


Step 4: Filter your Junk Email.  Whether you want to use Outlook’s spam feature, or invest in one of the numerous other antispam software, it really helps when you get the junk mail out of your inbox.  Even if the spam filter can catch half of the junk email that comes your way, that can be an incredibly large amount of email you don’t have to look through and delete.  Put this filter into use sooner rather than later.

Step 5:  Time to Archive.  Though it is smart practice to save most emails sent and received, Outlook tends to slow down when too many messages are stored.  A way to get around this is to archive often.  Archiving is a feature that is built into Outlook to help you store items that you don’t often need, but may need to refer to in the future.  All of the emails can be saved to a folder or network instead of in Outlook’s folders.  Set up an auto archive that archives emails from six months ago or later.

Step 6:  Use Conversation View.  Though not everyone will love this technique, it is an incredibly handy tool to clean up your inbox.  If you set your inbox to show conversations, Outlook will group together all emails that have the same subject.  This allows someone to look at the latest entry in a conversation thread and see the other emails that were sent before it.  This grouping can clean up your inbox greatly, as one conversation group will take up one line, but could have numerous emails in it.

Step 7:  Create and Use Quick Steps.  Beyond the six existing quick steps, you can create more from the templates in Outlook.  Quick Steps can be set up to show buttons of actions you often take while in your mail.  Examples of this could be: move to a specific folder, new email to…, to manager, etc.  They are intended to give you quick access to specific actions/tasks that you often use on a day-to-day basis.

Step 8:  Organize Contacts by Specific Categories.  No I don’t mean “Work” and “Personal.”  I mean organize your contacts by specific conferences you may have attended and the people you met there, or staff under specific clients.  The more specific you get, the easier it is to find someone…especially when you can’t remember one’s name, but you can remember where you met him/her.

Step 9:  Flag your Contacts.  Most people are aware of the mail flagging feature to remind you to follow-up or review an email later, not everyone is aware that you can actually flag contacts as well.  If you right-click a contact that you want to flag, you can choose an option called “Follow Up” and then select the date that you plan to meet/speak with them.  This is an extremely valuable tool and can save you time when creating reminders for yourself.

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.