Outlook email efficiency tips and tricks

Top 15 Email Efficiency Tips and Tricks For Outlook

More often than not I start my work day by opening Outlook. It’s the first icon on my task bar so I can quickly get started.

As I have discussed before in many of my blogs posts. Outlook is an amazing piece of software. Not only for sending and managing your emails. It has so many features to help manage your time and workload.

There are loads of powerful shortcuts, tips and tricks to maximize your productivity and enhance the efficient use of this critical piece of software.

Here is my top 15 email efficiency tips and tricks for Outlook to take control of your emails and your day.

1. Schedule delivery of an email.

Want to compose a message now but send it later? Outlook makes it easy. Write your email, then go to Options > Delay Delivery > Do not deliver before, then specify the time and date you want it to go out.

Perfect for crafting a few timely responses before you hop on a plane or go into an afternoon of meetings.

2. Set Check-In Reminders

The secret to avoiding end of project stress is to Schedule check-ins with reminders in your Outlook calendar, for your benchmarks along the way.

That may sound intuitive, but so many of us focus on the ‘goal’ rather than the ‘steps’ that will get us there.

Using scheduled check-ins with reminders ensures you’re checking off tasks before they’ve passed.

3. Use Post It Notes in Outlook

If you have a collage of many coloured post it notes around your screen to remind you of important dates, numbers etc., then this one’s for you.

As it turns out, Outlook has it’s own ‘sticky notes’ feature.

Press Ctrl+Shift+N from anywhere in the Outlook interface to create a new note, which can be dragged and positioned anywhere on screen.

By default, notes appear in pale yellow, but if you want to get creative with colour, you can assign them to categories, which causes them to switch colour.

Click on the Note icon at the bottom of the View pane to manage your notes.

From here you can copy, organise and print notes, and also search, via the field at the top-right of the window, for notes containing specific text.

4. Schedule ‘No Meeting’ time blocks

15% of an organisations collective time is spent in meetings. Bonkers! Many of us spend up to 4 hours a week preparing for ‘status update’ meetings.

Although meetings are an important part of how businesses and teams develop and make decisions. We should all be aware of how they can take us away from tasks that may be a greater priority for the business.

Instead of multitasking, or cram in your work between meetings, set aside time without interruptions. Add blocks of time in your calendar when you want to have time to focus on what you need to.

5. Organize your emails into folders

If you want to streamline your email use, this is the obvious first step. But it can also be the most daunting, as well, especially if you have an overflowing inbox.

Still, organizing your emails into a folder system that’s intuitive and easy to navigate makes the most sense.

No more hours spent searching for that old email among thousands of others. In addition, an easy to navigate folder system will motivate you to deal with each email as it arrives instead of perpetually putting it off until later.

6. Get emails that aren’t sent directly to you out of your inbox

You get cc’d into an email chain that continues for some time. THIS IS MY PET HATE. Your inbox gets weighed down by the mass of messages.

One of the best tips is to use a special ‘Inbox – CC’ folder to gather all the emails that aren’t sent directly to you. That way the inbox is focused on only the most important emails.

To set this up, go to Rules > Create Rule…. Then click the ‘Advanced Options’ button.

In the Rules Wizard, select ‘where my name is not in the To box’ and then in the next screen, ‘move it to the specified folder.’

7. Block emails from specific senders

While true anti-spam protection is best deployed by a trusted IT adviser, you can perform specific actions to block junk mail. Click Home > Junk email options.

Then in the new window that opens you can identify which senders (and even which countries) you want to block as spam.

8. Display emails as conversations

This feature helps to make those long email threads a little easier to digest by showing all connected messages in one conversation view.

It’s easy to activate — simply click View > Show as Conversations.

9. Take advantage of Outlook’s easy email templates.

If you find yourself composing the same kind of message over and over again, save one of the emails as a template so that you can quickly reference it in the future.

Go to File > Save As… > Outlook template, then click on Items > Choose Form… > User Templates when you’re ready to put that pre-saved form to use.

10. Create search folders for your most important emails

What are your most frequently accessed emails? Maybe they’re emails from your boss, or reports from team members.

Save yourself scrolling to find the email every time you need it by saving the search terms for quick access.

Right click on Search Folders in the left navigation menu, select ‘New Search Folder,‘ and then either use the wizards or manually customise the search to your specifications.

11. Save important emails, calendar events, and notes as files on your desktop

This not only helps to streamline your inbox but also allows you to access crucial messages and events even quicker.

Simply drag an email, calendar entry, or other note on to your desktop or into a folder, or click File > Save As if you’d like to save it in a specific file format. Then, when you’re ready to access it, double click and it will automatically open in Outlook.

12. Compare calendars to find free slots

Trying to find a free slot in your day isn’t easy. Outlook can help by showing calendars alongside each other. You can easily identify where you have a free slot.

Simply, place a tick next to all the calendars you want to see in the Calendar view, then choose a layout format from the ribbon menu at the top to change the view of all your displayed calendars.

You can scroll through the times and dates across all of your calendars as normal, and drag copies of appointments between them.

Click the arrows at the top of additional calendars to temporarily merge them with the main one, simplifying the view.

13. Embrace Outlook’s web-based future

Modern versions of the Outlook shift much of the email/calendar/contact infrastructure to a web-based view, where it’s accessible from any device.

Microsoft’s Send email app for smartphones even makes sending quick notes between co-workers simple. While inputting all of the communications into your Microsoft Outlook history for easy archiving and access.

14. Rely on natural phrases to create a calendar event

Instead of scrolling through the calendar to pick a specific date for an appointment or meeting.

Start to type phrases like ‘next Saturday’ or ‘two weeks from now’ into the date field and let Outlook do the rest.

15. Adjust desktop notifications so you’re only notified of the most critical messages

If a notification pops up every time a message lands in your inbox, chances are you’ll end up distracted.

But you also don’t want to miss important emails, so turn off desktop alerts in File > Options > Mail Options, then create a custom rule to only display alerts for messages sent to you by specific contacts.

There you have it. 15 quick and easy ways to use Outlook improve your productivity and remove those unwanted distractions.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions please let me know. I’m more than happy to help.

Phil

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