Ultimate Productivity for Microsoft Outlook: 7 Top Tips

July 15th, 2014 - Category - How To

At times, it can be tough to keep track of and organise your email, especially when you’ve got a million and one other things to think about. Sometimes your emails can stand in the way of actually getting your work done. You can make your life much easier and free up some extra time by implementing a few simple  changes to your email management. Good email management leads to less need for IT support when things inevitably slow down or stop working!

1. Save time on repetitive passages by setting up signatures

If you work in a job where you regularly have to trot out the same generic responses, perhaps in customer enquiries, you can save a lot of time by setting up signatures that contain all of your regularly used passages of text. The key is making them not look like part of your signature – then just tagging your usual signature onto the end. When you receive one of these emails that requires a generic reply, just hit reply and select your pre-set signature to reply in seconds. This could save you a lot of time over the long term.

using signature to save time

You can also do this by setting up quick parts in Outlook to achieve the same goal.

2. Send a delayed email to be delivered later

This is a useful tip which will come in handy if you’re prone to forgetfulness. Sometimes people wish to receive emails at a certain time, such as an update of daily or weekly activities, or a reminder about something. You might forget to send this at the appropriate time, but if you remember ahead of time then you can write and send the email, but delay the delivery until a time you specify. You’ll find this option in the pop-out window when sending an email in Outlook. Go to Options, and then “delay delivery” in the top menu.

delay delivery of email

3. Use groups to categorise your emails

If you receive a lot of emails, it can sometimes be difficult to track down a particular email, or to keep an organised inbox. There is an option in Outlook that allows you to group emails by conversation. This will group all emails together that are part of the same chain. This can keep your inbox looking much tidier, especially when you’re cc’ed into long email conversations where everyone replies to everyone.

download productivity swipe file

4. Create folders for things you commonly look for

There’s a handy search bar in Outlook which can be helpful when looking for specific emails. However, there’s a better way if you find yourself repeatedly searching for the same things. You can create a “search folder” by clicking on “new search folder” from within the folder tab in Outlook. This can help you to find emails from specific people, or emails containing a specific keyword or phrase. This folder will appear amongst your others on the left hand side.

outlook search folders

Another great way to quickly find emails is to use the “filter email” option, which can be found on the far right side of the toolbar on the “home” page in Outlook. You can filter emails by date, category, whether they have attachments, or whether they’re marked as flagged or important.

5. Set up rules to automatically organise your emails as they come in

With this very handy option, you can set up rules for Outlook to do things with emails as they arrive, such as move emails from a specific person or domain and containing a certain keyword, to a specific folder. You can even choose to have different sounds played depending on the email’s sender or content, or do something different when you are not the main recipient of the email, but are cc’d into it.

6. Archiving and deleting old emails:

If you’re using an Exchange server, all of your emails will be stored on this server rather than on your machine. Did you know that even when you delete emails, they are still stored on the Exchange server? Deleting them just removes them from your inbox. To truly delete them, you need to press Shift + delete, or go into your deleted items and delete them again.

●     More storage space – If you exceed your allocated storage space, some emails might not make it through to your account or computer. If your company’s Exchange server gets full up, emails could stop getting through to everyone in the company! Permanently delete emails that you don’t need any more, paying particular attention to those with large attachments.

●     Less clutter – Archiving your old emails means you can still access them if the need arises. Even so, the chances of you needing to do this after 6 months or so are very slim. Placing them in a dedicated folder and compacting them will mean your account becomes tidier, and important messages are easier to find.

●     Decreased strain on your system – When using Outlook, having thousands of messages in your inbox will undoubtedly mean the software takes much longer to load. That can be a real pain if you’re already using old machines.

7. The best tip of all: Smart Email Processing

If you receive a high volume of emails every day, one of the best productivity boosting things you can do is to only process emails at 3 set times during the day.

For example, you can process your emails when you first arrive in the office, immediately after lunch, and then immediately before you leave the office at the end of the day.

Doing this can dramatically increase your productivity. The objective is to reply to or action everything in your inbox at these three times during the day, deleting or filing away the emails afterwards. Everything that doesn’t require an action or a reply is also deleted or filed away in its relevant folder. This way, you are always at inbox zero 3 times a day, and you are not constantly on your emails, replying and actioning them as they come in.

Dealing with email as it comes in means you are always having your flow interrupted and having to pick things up where you left off. The alert that flashes up on your screen can be quite distracting, and can instantly pull you away from what you are doing. Turn off any on screen notifications and sounds. How many emails do you truly get that couldn’t wait 4 hours (maximum) for a reply? Perhaps you feel like you must reply immediately when your boss emails you. In this case, you can set up a rule so you receive a notification when they do, but for everything else you must manually check your inbox. You could also do this for any email flagged as important, or containing a particular word in the subject line or even the body text, such as “urgent”.

Swipe File Download: 25 things you can implement today to boost productivity!

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