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7 Simple Microsoft Outlook Time-Saving Tips
Microsoft Outlook is an indispensable tool for many business professionals. It offers an efficient way to manage emails, contacts, calendar events, and a to-do list. Despite its usefulness, it can be a bit time-consuming navigating through the features, which slows down productivity. More so, considering that an average professional spends about 6.5 hours of their workdays checking emails, it’s best that you learn how to use Outlook efficiently to save time and increase productivity.
1. Organize Emails into Folders
As a professional, your inbox is probably overflowing with countless emails from clients or colleagues. While deleting them is a quick-fix to reducing clutter in your inbox, you’re better off organizing your emails into folders, lest you delete important email threads. Moreover, sorting your emails into folders saves you hours spent looking for important emails that you received a while ago hidden among other emails. Also, an intuitively organized folder makes it easy to navigate your inbox and encourages you to respond to emails as they come instead of putting them off for later.
To create an email folder, right-click on the ‘Inbox’ option, and select ‘New Folder.’ You’ll then be prompted to name your folder for easy access. Once you have decided on the name, click ‘Enter’ to save the newly created folder. Now, when you receive a new email, all you have to do is move it to its correct folder, depending on how you’ve classified your folders. Remember that while you can create as many folders as you’d like, it can be counter-productive to have too many of them. As such, instead of creating numerous folders, try and merge them to create one large folder of related emails.
2. Use Email Templates
Have you found yourself responding to the same type of message often or even giving the same type of response to various emails? If yes, you’ll agree that it’s pretty daunting and time-consuming composing the same response. That’s why you need to use Outlook’s email templates to use them as your default response, meaning you don’t have to compose the same message. To create a template, type in your response to an email, then go to ‘File > Save As>Outlook Template.’ Each time you need to use the template, go to ‘Home> New Items> Choose From’ and select the template under user template folders.
3. Arrange Emails as Conversation Threads
It’s easier and more time-saving to read an email from a single sender in a sequential conversation. It helps you refer to the previous communication efficiently without navigating through features. Outlook allows you to do exactly that by arranging your email display to look like a messaging platform. Simply go to the ‘View’ tab and check the box ‘Show as Conversation’ under the ‘Messages’ group.
4. Set Mailbox Rules
Outlook’s mailbox rules are actions that are run automatically on incoming and outgoing messages. These rules allow you to automate repetitive tasks, thereby saving you time and helping you manage your emails. The best thing is that you have control over what triggers these rules and the actions a rule takes. For example, you can create a rule to move all your clients’ messages to a folder named ‘Urgent’ or to delete promotional/spam messages with the word ‘Offer/Discount’ as the subject.
To set mail rules, go to ‘Files > Manage Rules and Alerts > and select ‘New Rule.’ Alternatively, you can navigate to the ‘Home’ ribbon and select ‘Rules > Manage Rules and Alerts’. This will bring up the Rule Wizard, where you’ll be prompted to pick one template under ‘Stay Organized’, ‘Stay Up-to-date, or ‘Start from a Blank Rule’. Under each of these templates, you can set the conditions that will trigger the rule.
5. Use Clean-up Function
Imagine going on a vacation only to come back to an influx of emails from your clients. Even taking time off over the weekend is enough to fill your inbox with countless emails, especially if you work in an email-intensive company. Either way, you’re bound to spend long hours sorting through the emails as you reply to the most urgent ones. However, you don’t have to subject yourself to this difficult task thanks to Outlook’s clean-up function.
As the name suggests, the clean-up function allows you to easily delete all redundant messages from a conversation or a folder and its subfolders. This feature can be accessed by clicking the ‘Clean Up’ dropdown in the ‘Delete Group’ on the ‘Home’ tab. From there, you can choose to delete either a conversation, folder, or a subfolder.
Note that while the function “deletes” redundant messages, it’s sophisticated enough not to delete emails with attachments. So, rest assured you won’t lose any documents.
6. Use Shortcuts to Navigate
Like in MS Excel, shortcuts are the fastest ways to navigate in the Microsoft Outlook interface. They allow you to access functions without making errors, as is the case when using a keyboard or mouse to navigate. While there are several Outlook shortcuts, you only need to master a few basic ones that can be used on many occasions. These include Ctrl+Enter to send a message, Ctrl+Shift+C to create a new contact, and Ctrl+Shift+M to create a new email message.
7. Schedule Messages for Future Delivery
Simple automation functions such as scheduling your messages for delivery in the future allow you to commit to other important tasks. Consequently, you become more productive and can manage your work time. For instance, say you want to send an urgent email to a client or your suppliers tomorrow at 9.am so that it’s the first thing they see. This means you don’t start work until you’ve sent the email. However, by scheduling the email for future delivery, you simply write the email the night before and have it sent the next day at the appropriate time. This way, you’re free to get started with work right away once you get to your workplace the following morning.
Simply write the email you intend to send and click on ‘Options>Delay Delivery’. The dialog box will appear under the ‘Delivery Options’. Check the ‘Do not deliver before’ box. Turn on the feature and select the date and time you want the email delivered. Close the dialog box and send the email as you normally would.
Do More with Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft Outlook is a powerful tool for professionals seeking to streamline their office operations. However, it requires a certain skill set level to harness its potential and improve productivity. So, be sure to use the tips above to optimize your Outlook and save time. Also, feel free to contact us for all your Outlook and other IT needs.
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