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Best Practices

Outlook – Don’t File, Search.

How would you like to spend less time housekeeping your emails, less time finding a particular email and be better able to see exactly what you need to deal with?

If you’ve answered “yes” then read on.

We see it all the time and yes, we used to do it ourselves. You have a multitude of subfolders in your inbox and you conscientiously sort incoming emails into these folders. This has the following problems though:

  1. It takes time
  2. Sometimes something can be filed in one of several ways and you have to choose only one
  3. Changing how you have things setup becomes a major upheaval
  4. Scrolling down a huge list or navigating a deep tree of subfolders is a pain
  5. Probably more…..

How? The key phrase to remember is Don’t File, Search.

Quite simply, when you file messages you do so based upon criteria that you check manually and then move the message. If you use that same criteria to search for messages, you’ll realise the same list of messages. So, don’t bother filing. Just search as you need to. Now, if you know you’ll need to work on a specific subset of messages regularly, for example say from a particular person, and don’t want to type in the search criteria each time then create a search folder. It’ll appear just like a subfolder you’ve filed into but it’s automatic and any message can appear in several search folders at the same time. So, an email about your vehicle insurance can be in a folder containing all emails related to the vehicle and also a folder containing all emails from your insurance broker.

In order to keep the inbox tidy I prefer to have a single subfolder called “Processed” email and I move anything into it that I’ve dealt with, or at least that doesn’t need to be sitting in the inbox looking at me, using a Quick Step.

Most emails that need action you should either flag for follow up when you have time or create tasks from them with appropriate start and due dates.

There are a variety of Inbox management systems, one of which may suit you. I’m not proposing any particular one, just suggesting you search instead of file at the very least. It’ll take minutes to set it up and get the hang of it but will save you hours during the course of a month.

Here are some links on the procedures you’ll need to become familiar with. They relate to Outlook 2016 so please search for the same information for earlier versions of Outlook if you need it.