Use these 10 Outlook efficiency tips to manage your inbox and maximize your productivity with Microsoft Outlook.
Table of Contents
1. Inbox Zero Approach
To Save time with outlook I don’t personally follow the Inbox Zero approach in its purest definition, but I manage my email very close to this concept. The goal is to process all the Mail in my inbox by reviewing it only once and making an immediate decision to handle each message.
It’s not about having zero messages in my inbox, even though that does happen occasionally. It’s about processing mail the most efficient way possible and having close to zero stress over what’s in my inbox. Best views for outlook may be inbox Zero.
Two years ago, when I worked full time as an IT Director, I received around 300 messages per day. I had to become efficient to stay on top of my Outlook inbox and employed something like Inbox Zero even before I knew what it was. So, if you would like to email stress-free consider the Inbox Zero approach.
2. The 4D Method
To use outlook faster, I employ the 4D method –
Treat every email message as a task and apply one of these four decisions to it immediately when you read it and move on to the next. Don’t look back.
Deleting a message is the easiest. If you have a message that does not require your action and don’t need to keep it for reference, then delete it. That may be hard for you if you think you’ll need the message in the future, but once you employ this technique, you’ll soon realize that it will save you a bunch of time and your fear of missing an email will disappear.
After you have deleted messages from your inbox, you are left with ones that will require action. If you can do that action in a couple of minutes or less, then do them now. It allows you to complete the task quickly and delete the message when you’re done.
Many messages don’t require your direct action and can be delegated to someone else. Forward those messages to the right person with any additional information they need and get it out of your inbox. Delegated directives may need to be turned into tasks for follow-up as well, and I’ll cover that in a later tip.
Messages you can’t delete, do within a couple of minutes, or delegate to someone else will need to be deferred to your organized system of email management, and the rest of the tips in this post will show you some helpful ways to handle them. Be aware that not every message will fall nicely into one of these 4D’s, and you’ll have to make tough decisions on occasion.
The critical thing to remember is that you don’t want to ignore a decision and leave the message in your inbox. That’s what creates stress and makes you less efficient. It’s better to commit to a decision even if it may be wrong. Still, I guarantee you’ll make more minor mistakes employing this 4D method than you would generally experience handling Mail in a messy inbox.
3. Create Folders
Next outlook organization tips to handle your deferred Mail, you need to create a folder structure under your inbox. You can do this by right-clicking on your inbox folder and choosing New Folder. These folders allow you to move Mail from your inbox, leaving only the Mail you have not processed and applied the 4D method to yet. Create a folder structure that is meaningful based on the categories of Mail you need to keep. It’s generally best to have no more folders than what fits on the screen. Faithful Inbox Zero followers will create an Action folder at the top of this list and move action items that you cannot complete immediately into this folder.
I prefer to leave those action items in my inbox instead. Since they’re ordered by date, I can easily separate new Mail from older ones, and I don’t have to go to another folder to review any action items. So my inbox becomes a task list as well. As you can see from my folder structure, I have created personal and business folders, and I even have some with subfolders. That’s beneficial for moving messages around quickly and staying organized.
4. Create Rules
With outlook management, you can create rules to process incoming Mail automatically.
If you want to apply a rule to a specific message, click on the news first and then go to Rules from the Home tab.
Here it comes up with an option to always move messages from that contact. If you click on that, you can choose the folder you want to move those messages to automatically. Hit OK, and it creates a rule and moves those messages.
You can come back to the rules and manage the rules that are already there. Here you can see the Amazon Associate rule that I created and the description of the details of how it’s processing the Mail.
You can also add new rules here with many different options for moving or flag messages and applying rules to specific notes in your inbox. It’s a method to make you more efficient.
5. Quick Steps
If you prefer more control over your messages, another option is Quick Steps. Quick Steps is also available from the Home tab and allows you to trigger multiple steps of email management with a single click from the menu.
When you create a new Quick Step, it gives you choices to move messages to
- another folder,
- to flag and move them,
- send a new email,
- forward an email,
- create a recent meeting from that message,
- or do a custom quick step.
Let’s go ahead and move to a folder, and we’re going to choose the folder for Amazon, and we’ll also check this box to mark it as read. Hit Finish and OK, and it’s now created an entry up here to move messages to the amazon folder. Now I can click on an email, and with one click, it marks that as read and moves it into the Amazon folder.
You can use Quick Steps to automatically forward messages that you plan to delegate, and it makes it easy to move messages when you defer them. They work well with the 4D methods.
6. Disable Notifications
There is nothing worse than getting constant pop-ups each time you receive an email. To avoid these distractions, you can disable notifications for Outlook. They usually come up in the notification centre.
Suppose you go to the top and click on Manage Notifications that brings up the notifications and actions centre. Scroll down through this list until you find Microsoft Outlook and turn that off. That will eliminate all of those pop-ups when you receive emails.
It’s also a good idea to scroll up here until you see Mail and turn it off as well since that may trigger some notifications as well. Get rid of those distractions, and you can focus better on your microsoft outlook tasks productivity.
7. Block Junk Email
We all receive spam at one point or another, but with Outlook, you can block junk emails by right-clicking on the offending message and adding it to the secured email list.
Come down to Junk and choose Block Sender.
There’s also an option here to block the sender’s entire domain, and that will get rid of everything based on that domain address.
You can also come down to the junk list and go to Junk Email Options. This is where you can mark people as safe senders. You can set up a secure recipient address so that anything that goes to that email address will be accepted.
You can look at your block senders list and add or delete people to that, and you can disable international emails. Here you have the level of junk email protection you want to enable and, in this case,
I have no automatic filtering, but Mail from block senders is still moved to the junk email folders. You can set low or high if you want the most apparent Junk to be detected automatically, and you can restrict it only to accept email for people in your safelists.
If you don’t want those emails to go to your junk email folder, then you can permanently delete them. These methods will help you get rid of a lot of spam mail that distracts you from getting your work done.
8. Create a To-Do
If you have a message that requires action and can’t be completed immediately, you may want to turn it into a To-Do task.
- This can be done quickly by
- selecting a message,
- clicking on it, and
- dragging it down to the to-do list.
That turns that message into a task that you can set up all kinds of criteria for. You can set the start date, when it’s due, change the status, different priority levels, mark completions, even put in reminders, and you can assign these tasks to other people in your organization.
When it’s all done, Save and Close it, and now you have a task listed in your to-do list. Open that task up, and you can mark it complete, and it removes it from your to-do list.
I’ll also mention that you can right-click and drag and drop it onto the to-do list, and it gives you multiple options here. One of which is to move it here instead of copying it. That will clear it out of your inbox by turning your email messages into tasks.
It takes it away from your inbox and puts it into a form that easily lets you manage it as a step-by-step task. This will significantly reduce your anxiety over what’s in your inbox.
9. Schedule It
Rather than turning an email into a task with a due date, you could schedule it as a calendar appointment. Please do the same thing by dragging and dropping it down here to the calendar entry instead of the to-do list.
That opens up a new calendar entry and copies the body of the message into this calendar entry.
Here you can
- invite attendees,
- set reminders,
- put a start time and date, and
- add it to your calendar.
There are a few differences between a to-do list task and a calendar entry, so you have to decide which one makes the most sense but, in both cases, it takes it out of your inbox and gets rid of the anxiety. Then you can schedule it and deal with it later.
10. Choose Focus Time
A final tip to maximize your productivity is to choose focus time to process your Outlook mail. Just take a few minutes to go through your messages and apply the 4D method to each by immersing yourself in your emails in short bursts throughout the day.
You’ll be much more efficient, and the stress over what’s in your inbox will be gone when you focus on other tasks. After applying these principles to my outlook management, I knew I was working the most efficient way possible.
Even my Microsoft Office Analytics stats showed I was responding quickly to other people than they were to me, and I was processing more Mail on any given day than most people in my company.
Now apply these tips and tricks to maximize your productivity using Outlook.
Shamim’s commitment to helping people goes beyond his writing. He understands the frustrations and roadblocks that technology can present, and his goal is to remove those obstacles and foster a sense of empowerment in his readers.