6 Tips for Using Outlook

Posted by Theresa Hietpas

Oct 20, 2015 2:00:00 PM

6 Tips for Outlook Email ManagementWindows Outlook

Surveys say U.S. workers spend as much as 6.3 hours checking email every day. About half of that on personal email, and half on business.  If you’re going to spend more than a third of your workday on email, it pays to streamline and manage it as efficiently as possible.

Tip #1 – Turn off email notifications. Treating email as an instant messaging system leads modern employees to check email as much as thirty times an hour. Our brains aren’t designed to multi-task. Even if you only get a fraction of those notifications, every interruption costs you time and focus, and tempts you to stop what you are doing and respond.  There is very little that can’t wait an hour or two while you do productive work. Make it a point to check email at regular intervals through the day, but not constantly, and prioritize your focus.

Tip #2 – Take advantage of your auto-responder.  If you’re going to be in meetings all day, or out of the office for a few days, use your auto-responder to let people know how long you will be unavailable, when you will respond, and who to contact if they need assistance sooner. Then you can focus on the task (or vacation!) at hand, without having to constantly check email.  And if you’re disciplined about Tip #1, you can also use it to let people know that you only check email in the late morning and mid-afternoon, and to call you if they have an urgent need.

Tip #3 – Clean up your Inbox.  A cluttered inbox becomes a black hole for information, and an ever-growing inbox with thousands of emails is a technology disaster waiting to happen. Trust in the power of your email search engine, and move things out of the inbox.  (Make sure that any folders you create are not under the “Inbox” as well.)

Tip #4  -- Use column sorting in Outlook to make deleting or archiving old emails fast and easy.

  • Sort by the ‘From’ column, using ‘Show in Groups’. Collapse all groups, and you can quickly identify and tag large blocks of emails for deletion.
  • Next sort by the “Subject” line to quickly identify important conversations and move them for safekeeping.
  • You can sort by attachment, to make sure you aren’t deleting documents you’d like to keep
  • Then try sorting by date with the oldest on top, to see if you can comfortably archive or delete some of the really old ones

Tip #5 – Consider using Outlook’s “Clean Up Conversation” feature to streamline your inbox even further.  Most of the time, you really only need the last email in a conversation – the one that has everybody’s replies in it.  Cleanup will quickly scan your mailbox (or a single folder) for emails that have been repeated in their entirety in subsequent replies, and based on your settings and restrictions, will move, archive or delete the extraneous ones.  It won’t delete anything with an attachment, and you can control how it behaves in a number of ways.  But even with fairly restrictive settings, it can reduce the size of your mailbox by as much as 25% in a few minutes.

Tip #6 – Use Filters & Rules -  Let Outlook automatically sort your emails, sending your newsletters to a reading folder, your boss’s email to an “urgent” file, alert you on the desktop if you get a voicemail, or color an email marked “Important” red.  There’s an almost infinite variety of possibilities for Outlook rules.  Any logic you’d use to sort your mail…Outlook can most likely do it, letting you come back to a neatly sorted and prioritized inbox.

You will be amazed how these simple steps can quickly put your email inbox back on track and how more focused you will be in your everyday tasks.

Want more tips & tricks?  Ask us about Outlook training, or any of the other Microsoft Office products. River Run's Application Services Team specializes in software training and user efficiency!


Topics: Email, Email management, Outlook

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