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Advanced Tips For Organizing Emails: Use These Proven Techniques in 2023

Today, I am going to show you effective tips for organizing emails in Outlook.

  • The average full time worker in America receives about 120 emails per day and spends around 28 percent of their working day reading and answering emails. That’s a lot of time. It’s no wonder we’re getting stressed out, going through this never ending wave of emails and still having to get our actual work done.
  • It’s time to cover some tips and techniques to help you get control of your inbox. If you research this topic, you’re going to find different strategies on how to deal with email. For example, there is inbox zero. It’s a strategy where the goal is to always keep your inbox 100 percent empty.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, there are people out there who have thousands of emails in their inbox and are perfectly happy. They use flagging tools and search tools to find what they need.
  • Now, these extremes don’t work for me. They both give me anxiety. I have tried both versions. If I spend my day making sure my inbox is 100 percent clean, I don’t get much actual work done because I get distracted. If I happen to miss a day or two, I end up going to the other extreme, where I let everything pile up and lose track because each email for me is like a test that needs to be completed.
  • When I have to scroll through a flooded inbox with tons of text waiting for me, I get stressed out. I don’t want to enter that box anymore. What works for me and what I recommend if you want to improve your productivity and reduce your anxiety is to use a system that applies ideas from both strategies.
  • I will also show you some great features in Microsoft Outlook that can help you significantly reduce the time you spend on an email.

Develop an email routine

  • Despite popular belief, our brains aren’t good at multitasking. In fact, research has shown that multitasking reduces productivity. So stop constantly checking your inbox, because when you’re in the middle of getting something done, it takes some time to get back on track.
  • After checking your inbox, these minutes add up over time and it really gets frustrating to constantly have to restart a task several times.
  • I know it may not be possible for everyone, but it is for most jobs. Is it required for an immediate response to an email? Recommend dedicating, for example, ten minutes every hour to your email. Just concentrate on the most important ones. When you’re done, close down your inbox and focus your attention on your other tasks.
  • Also, make sure you turn off Windows notifications so you don’t constantly get pop ups.

To turn off notifications:

  • Select the Start  button, and then select Settings. Go to System > Notifications & actions.
  • This will take you to the notifications and actions page. When you scroll down, you will see the different apps for which notifications are turned on. Definitely turn off Outlook, but also check out the other apps to see if you really need to get pop ups for any of them.
tips for organizing emails
  • If you can’t close Outlook during your free email time because you need to get your other tasks done, switch to offline mode. To switch to offline, go to Send / Receive at the top and click on “Work Offline” in the status bar.
  • You can also see that you’re currently offline.
  • When it’s time to check emails again, just click “Work Offline” again and your inbox will update number to create a folder system that works for you.

Use action-based folder system

  • Let’s talk about filing and archiving emails. In the past, I created an elaborate multilevel folder structure for different subjects to archive emails that I wanted to keep. It worked fine in the beginning, but I kept adding topics and the list just got longer and longer.
  • I spent time deciding which folder I should move and emailing the leader. When I was looking for something, I wasn’t sure anymore where I put it and I ended up wasting time searching for it, which kind of defeats the purpose.
  • Now I use a more action-based folder structure and try to keep it simple with only a few folders. I will show you how you can set that up in a bit.
  • The other important rule is to avoid re-reading emails. That’s another reason why I don’t like an overflowing inbox, because if you keep everything in your inbox, you will end up re-reading emails multiple times.
  • Here’s what I do to avoid that: The first time I read an email, I decided what to do with it. If it’s something I can get done right away, I do it. For example, if accounting needs a receipt, I forgot to submit it. I sent it right away.
  • Basically, anything I can do in a couple of minutes, I will do to get it done. When I’m done and answered the email, I decide if it’s something I may need to refer back to at some point in the future. Or maybe it’s something I need to keep for legal or tax reasons. If so, I will archive the email by just clicking on archive at the top.
  • This will move the email out of my inbox to the archive folder. Later, if I need to go back, I can use search to find it.
  • If it’s something I definitely don’t need anymore, I just delete it. Instead of archiving, I click on Delete. This will move the email from my inbox to the deleted items.
  • I regularly empty the deleted items folder so it doesn’t take up unnecessary storage space. That’s what I do with an email that I know is quick to complete and storage and then either archive or delete it.
  • Obviously, the same applies for emails where no action is required. I decide if I want to archive the message or move it to the trash right away.
  • Now, what can you do when you come across a message that you can’t answer right away? Maybe it requires creating a report, checking with someone else or anything that takes up more than a couple of minutes. This is where my action folder comes in. If after reading the email, I realize that I need to spend more time on it, I move it to a folder I created.
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  • To create a folder, Right click on your mailbox and select “New Folder.” Give it a name and hit enter.
  • This also works on existing folders if you want to create a subfolder. In my case, I have a folder called Action Required.
  • You can also drag and drop to get your folders in the order you want so when I come across an email, I can neither delete it nor answer it right away.
  • I use quick steps to move the message to the action folder to set up a quick step. Just right click on the message, select “Quick Steps,” then “New Quick Step,” and then move to the folder.
  • Give it a name and their actions. Select the folder you want the message to go to in the dropdown. Click on Finish. You created the quickstep with the email highlighted.
  • Just click on the quick step on the home tab. This will move it out of the inbox.
  • You can also add a shortcut to your quickstep. Go to Quick Step, manage Quick Step, then edit. Choose a shortcut, key combination, and save then use the shortcut to allocate your message, but that’s not where it ends because otherwise you just created another folder you need to keep track of.
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  • You can delegate the tasks to someone else. You can just forward the email to the person to make sure it gets done.
  • You can flag it using Outlook’s follow up feature.
  • If you can’t delegate the task because only you can do it, you should create a to-do list for it. What I do is schedule time in my calendar to get it done, because if I don’t schedule, it’s not going to happen.
  • To schedule time, create an appointment directly from the message by just dragging the message to the calendar icon. This will open the appointment window. You can use the scheduling assistant to schedule a slot to work on the email. This way, my task has a good chance of getting done.
  • I’m going to add a final tweak to this. Let’s change the default start up folder in Outlook to the action folder. Every time Outlook opens, the first thing you’re going to see are things that you need to get done. This is great for me because I get easily distracted by other emails and I might forget to check my actual folder.
  • To do the default folder, go to file options under advance, you will see Outlook start and exit. Over here you can select the folder Outlook uses as the start folder. Just click on the “Browse” and Select “Action folder.”

De-clutter your inbox

  • Obviously, the easiest way to have a clean inbox is to have fewer messages to work through so unsubscribe from anything you don’t want to receive. If you can’t get someone to stop bombarding you with email, block the sender and send them to the junk folder.
  • Turn off email notifications from outside apps and social media; basically, do everything you can to reduce the wave of incoming emails.
  • I also highly recommend using rules in Outlook. For example, I’m subscribed to several newsletters that I’m interested in but I don’t want these messages to pile up in my inbox. In this case, you can create a separate folder for these messages and use the rule to automatically move them to this folder as soon as they arrive. That’s very simple. Click on one of the newsletter emails that you received, then select rules from the home tab and create a rule.
  • Now we need to identify some triggers for the rule. This can either be the specific sender or certain keywords in the subject line.
  • In my case, I’m going to go with the sender, then select the folder I want to move it to and that’s it.
  • You can have really creative and complex withdrawals. Just click on Advanced Options to see what I mean. In my case, I just need a simple rule so I will click on Ok.
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  • One last tip, this works especially well in a corporate environment where people send out a lot of emails with recipients and CCs to keep them informed. Now, usually such emails don’t require action, so you could use a rule to move them to a separate folder so you can read them later or not.
  • Another way is to color code them so with that opening, you already know that these messages aren’t addressed to you directly.
  • To set up such conditional formatting in Outlook, go to the view tab, select view settings and then conditional formatting. Click on Add to set up a new rule. Assign a name and click on the font button. You can change the font, style, size, and color.
  • We need to add a condition. You can also get really complex but all I want is to apply to messages where I’m copied on, so I will check the box for where I am and from the dropdown, select on the line with other people. That’s it. Click ok.
  • I will send an email to myself in the CC and now when the message arrives, I see right away that I’m only copied in this email so there you have it.
  • To summarize, develop an email routine and stop constantly checking your inbox. Create a folder system that works for you and apply a single touch rule to avoid rereading emails and cluttering your inbox by applying rules and turning off email notifications. I hope these tips for organizing emails in Outlook will be helpful in getting control of your inbox and improving your productivity.

For more information, visit the Microsoft website.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Which strategy from today’s post are you going to try first? Or maybe you have a question about something that I covered.

Either way, I’d like to hear from you so go ahead and leave a comment below.

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