An empty inbox is always a rare moment and accomplishment in life.
I mean, honestly, how many of you always make it a point to open all your emails such that you have ZERO unread messages in your inbox?!
It’s a rare occurrence, indeed. But guess what, it doesn’t have to be! Because Outlook 365 has some overlooked features that can help you organize your emails and help you start focusing on the important tasks.
1. Move Complex and Non-Critical Emails to a To-Do Folder
The first thing you would want to do is to organize your email, and get it out of your inbox view. I mean, out of sight, out of mind right?
Well, Office 365 allows you to do just that!
By creating a folder, you are already embarking on your first step in organizing your inbox. What you name your folders and how you sort your emails all depends on each individual – after all, it is what works best for YOU!
However, if you are clueless and need a certain direction or guideline to head towards, then I would recommend creating 3 new folders – a main “To Do” folder, and a “Follow Up” and “Someday” subfolder.
To create these folders, simply:
Right-click your “Inbox” folder, and select “New Folder”
Title the first folder “To Do”
Click the arrow next to the Inbox folder to view your new To-Do folder
Right-click the To-Do folder, select new folder, and name this folder “Someday”
Repeat to create a “Follow Up” subfolder under the To-Do folder
Now if you did that correctly, you would be staring face-to-face with 3 new folders for your incoming emails. So now, when your emails arrive, you can diligently move them to the appropriate folder:
Inbox – the “I can handle this in less than 3 minutes” or “It’s urgent!” folder
To Do – the “It will take me more than 3 minutes to reply” folder
Follow Up – the “I am waiting for Jack and Jill to reply me on this” folder
Someday – the “Ehh… I don’t need to reply to this, so I’ll read it someday if I’m free” folder
So I may have lied, out of sight does not mean out of mind! Simply moving them to different folders is not enough! Instead, after sorting through your email, remember to schedule time on your calendar every day to review and handle the items in your to-do folder!
2. Use Outlook’s Task List Instead of Clogging your Inbox
I get it, some emails do not require an immediate response.
However, what if they need to be handled before the time you have scheduled to review those items in your to-do folder?
Well then, these items can still be moved to your to-do folder so that they are not clogging up your inbox. But you’ll want to make sure that you have a reminder to take care of them before their stipulated deadline!
Create a reminder by adding these emails to Outlook’s task list:
Drag the email and drop it on Outlook’s task list icon
Add a due date and set a date and time to receive a reminder
Save the task
Moreover, to see a quick view of your task list organized by due date, you can now hover your cursor over the task list icon. In addition, clicking on the task list icon will open up your to-do list to allow you to review the respective tasks.
And once the task is complete, mark it as such to remove the task from your to-do list.
Outlook’s task list is also useful if you’re in the habit of copying yourself on emails as a reminder to follow up, or if you’re emailing someone who is prone to ignoring your requests. Instead of keeping reminders as emails in your inbox, just move them to your to-do folder and add them to your task list.
3. Clean your Inbox in One Click
So you took time off work last week to visit the Bahamas. That’s great! Or rather, that’s great until you open your email again after returning to work, and a hurricane of emails bombard your inbox.
Let’s face it, if you work in an email-heavy company, you may have received hundreds of emails while you were out of the office for just a few days! And now, you’re faced with the difficult task of sorting through each one of them, one by one.
But have no fear, for Outlook Clean-Up is here!
With Outlook’s clean-up function, you can now drastically reduce the number of emails you have to deal with in just a few clicks. It basically removes all email replies that are duplicated in a later thread, allowing you to read a single thread instead of dozens of individual emails. Smart right?
To clean up your inbox quickly:
While viewing your inbox, click the “Clean Up” button, and select “Clean Up Folder.”
Click the “Clean Up Folder” button in the popup to confirm the action.
Outlook will automatically remove all duplicate emails, leaving you with significantly fewer emails to sort through.
However, the burning question is: What if it deletes something important like a reply that contained an attachment that was removed in a later thread?
Well, let me just put it out there and say that this tool is more sophisticated than you think it is! So don’t worry! It will not delete any emails with attachments or text that aren’t exactly duplicated in later threads. Besides, you can always review the deleted items in the trash folder if you need it that badly anyway.
4. Use Rules to Automatically Sort Emails and Stop Receiving Irrelevant Emails
Day after day, emails arrive in your inbox that are just a distraction. And unfortunately, not all emails in the workplace come with an unsubscribe link. These emails keep you from focusing on your important work. So what do you do? Have Outlook automatically file an email!
Outlook’s rules function allows you to command certain emails to skip the inbox altogether and go straight to the trash—or to another folder for review.
Furthermore, it can also be used to automatically sort incoming emails to the appropriate folder. For example, you can always send emails from your boss with a certain subject line to the “To-Do” folder, and emails from a newsletter you regularly read to the “Someday” folder.
Right-click the email, hover over “Rules,” and select “Create Rule.”
Choose the criteria for the rule:
“From [Sender]” will execute the rule any time you receive an email from a specific email address or contact.
“Subject contains” will execute the rule any time a specified subject line is used.
Select what happens when the rule runs. To sort emails out of your inbox and into the appropriate folder, check “Move the item to folder,” and select the folder where you want the emails to be sent. You can choose the “Deleted Items” folder if you never want to see them, or you can create a separate archive folder if you may need to review the emails in the future.
Click “OK” to apply the rule.
And want to prevent getting future emails on a specific thread?
Well then, instead of creating a rule, you can just use Outlook’s ignore function. Right-click the email, select “Ignore,” and confirm the action. Ignore automatically sends future replies to that thread to your “Deleted Items” folder so you don’t receive them in your inbox.
5. Create Quick Parts for Default Responses to Common Questions
How often have you sent the exact same email to dozens (or more) people with nothing changed except the recipient’s name and email address?
Email templates make this task a snap.
So if you spend a lot of time typing the same answers to questions you get repeatedly, create Quick Parts to insert that text into email replies in just a few clicks!
Gone are the days you have to keep typing the same thing over and over again or have to keep finding an old response to copy and paste.
When you’ve finished typing a response that you expect to need to send again, follow the steps below to save the text as a Quick Part:
Highlight the text you want to save in the email, and click the “Insert” tab.
Within the “Insert” menu, click “Quick Parts,” and select “Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.”
Give your new Quick Part a descriptive name, and click “OK.”
With this Quick Part saved, you can now add that text to any email with just a couple clicks.
With your cursor in the body section of the email, click the “Insert” tab.
Click “Quick Parts,” and then select the Quick Part you want to insert.
The prewritten text will now automatically appear in the body of your email, and you can edit and customize it as needed for your new response.
6. Use Quick Steps to Take Instant Action on New Email
And if you’ve had success with the previous Outlook tips and are interested in getting into more advanced email management, it’s time to take a look at Quick Steps.
Quick Steps allow you to automatically perform long strings of actions based on a trigger.
Basically, it is a feature that allows you to automate several tasks into a single step (or click) such as Moving emails to a specific folder, deleting, copying, forwarding, etc.
For example, say at the end of the month you receive a series of invoices from vendors or contractors. Your normal process is to review the invoices, forward the invoices to your accountant, and create a reminder to follow up with the accountant a week later to make sure the invoices were paid.
Quick Steps can hence take care of the last 2 steps for you with fewer clicks than if you performed the tasks manually:
Click the “Create New” button in the Quick Steps section of the Home ribbon.
Give the new Quick Step a descriptive name, and select the first action: “Forward.”
Type your accountant’s email address into the “To” field.
Click the “Add Action” button to select the second action: “Create a task with attachment.”
Click “Finish” to create the Quick Step.
After you review an invoice, you can now execute the Quick Step to forward the email and create a reminder task. Select an email containing an invoice, and click the appropriate Quick Step in the Home ribbon.
The email forward and task windows will open automatically. Click Send to forward the email, and set a due date and reminder for the task before saving, if you’d like.
7. Automate Outlook 365 and Your Other Favorite Apps
One last thing is that did you know that if you use the Office 365 Business or Office 365 Enterprise editions, you can connect Outlook to over 750 other apps and streamline even more email workflows?!
For example, you can send new emails you get from a specific sender to Slack or create a new Trello card for new emails sent to a specific Outlook folder.
Want to get Outlook 365 for all your employees now?
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