Most of us have been using Outlook at work and home for years. Still, many of us do not utilize its rich array of features. With a few changes to your work flow, the program can greatly simplify your life, keep you organized, and even get you to the elusive empty inbox. Here are a few Outlook organization tips to improve your email experience.
Folders can be created in Outlook which helps keep emails organized. You can name a folder anything you want. This is perfect for weekly reports, specific clients, logins… anything you’ll need to access again should be organized into a folder and not kept in your inbox. Setting up an intuitive folders structure will aid your organization immediately. The trick is to keep it simple and consistent. If you separate first by client and then by campaign for each client, keep it consistent and don’t overthink it. (Categories will also help with this. More on that below). There is no perfect folder structure just the one that works for you. A word of caution, however, is to not make too many. If you find the yourself trying to determine which folder an email should be placed in, it may be time to rename your folders. The good thing about folders is that they work equally well in the Desktop and Web versions of Outlook.
Making good use of rules will dramatically increase your organization. Rules can be used to automatically sort emails into folder and that’s just scraping the surface. Having a good folder structure will make rule creation easier. Are you often copied on department-wide, nice-to-know emails, like ones about new info on the drive or even when the company-wide picnic is going to be? These can clutter up your inbox fast. You can minimize their impact with savvy use of rules. Rules tell the program what to do with those same types of emails, be they emails that share a subject line, a sender, or some other configuration of attributes. You can create a rule to file incoming emails automatically. If you want to learn more about rules in Outlook, such as creation and examples, we have an article which goes into greater detail.
In addition to folders, be sure to make use of the category feature when organizing your emails. This comes in handy when you have an email you want to be able to reference again in various scenarios. For example, let’s say you’ve got a budget for each client. But, periodically, your supervisor asks you to compile a report of the budgets you’re managing overall. If you’ve stored each budget in your Folder for each client, finding these can get tedious. But if you’ve also tagged them with the category “Budget,” searching for them will be a breeze. The thing that makes the category feature particularly versatile is that each email can be tagged with more than one category. To get started, simply right click on an email, select categorize, and then select an existing category or create a new one. For instance, if you get an email regarding a new hire starting next Monday, you may want to give it the category “New Hire” as well as “Due Soon”.
Using email templates can save you lots of time. The initial creation of them will take some time but you’ll be glad you did. If you feel you’re typing the same thing over and over again, templates can help with that. If you send certain standard emails (a report you send out each week, for example), you can create a template and simply fill it in with updated details like the date range or client. To create a template, type your draft (or find an existing version of the standard email in your Sent folder). Click File > Save As, name your template, then select Outlook Template as the format. When you’re ready to use it, simply go to “New Email > More Items > Choose Form” then find your template and click Open. You may need to choose the “User Templates in File System” drop down option for them to appear. Then all you need to do is customize the email and it’s ready to be sent in a fraction of the time it would take to write it from scratch.
Outlook is versatile and chock full of features that can make your work and home life easier. If you make use of these Outlook organization tips, you’ll be spending less time sifting through emails, and more time being productive. All it takes is a little extra time up front but it’ll save you lots of time in the future.