You can reclaim a lot of your time and energy wasted on emails by automating repetitive tasks. Outlook has a built-in feature called Quick-Steps that makes it easy to create your own automations.
The easiest way to show you the power of QuickSteps is with an example.
Our company owns a property that is rented out. The property is managed by another company for us. When any repairs etc need to be carried out, they get the appropriate vendors to come in and do the work. Once the work is successfully completed they send us a copy of the vendor’s invoice so that we can pay the vendor directly. These emails are usually sent to me.
When I receive these emails, and assuming that everything is OK, I do the following:
1. Forward the email to my Accounts person and advise them to make the payment (Click Forward, type the person’s email address, type Please Pay and then click Send)
2. File a copy of the original email in a folder inside Outlook called Properties. (This can be done by dragging and dropping or using QuickFile for Outlook.
You can use QuickSteps to reduce all of the above to the CLICK OF ONE BUTTON.
Creating the QuickStep
On the Home tab of the Ribbon, click QuickSteps-New QuickStep -Forward To
Enter an appropriate name.
If I only wanted to forward the email (And not do the second filing step), I can simply enter the email address in the space provided and clicked Finish).
Click the Show Options hyperlink.
Enter an email address in the To field (or click the To button and choose an email address).
Enter any text that you want to be displayed in the email that will be forwarded.
The QuickStep now contains everything needed to Forward the email. Time to add the filing component.
Click Add Action
Choose Move to Folder and select the folder you want to move the email to.
Note on an Outlook Bug:
There is a bug in Outlook that sometimes prevents the QuickStep from being saved. Clicking Save does not give an error message but the screen does not close either. If this happens to you, the solution is to type the whole email address again (the email that was in the To field earlier).
Using the QuickStep
Using the QuickStep is easy.
Click QuickStep on the Ribbon and select the new QuickStep. Outlook will automatically carry out your programmed actions.
You can also right-click over the email in your Inbox and select QuickSteps from there.
Start automating today…
What do you do daily that you can use QuickSteps for? Let us know by leaving a comment in the blog below.
(While QuickSteps can assist with email filing as shown in the example above, if you have more than just a few folders, we recommend the QuickFile for Outlook addin.
Do you find yourself turning up at appointments late (or stressfully on time)? The problem may not be related to having too much to do but instead to how you schedule your appointments.
The secret to stress-free appointments is what happens before and after the appointment!
For me appointments are basically things I need to do at a specific time and day. These include work related meetings with others, work related things I need to get done on my own, as well as personal things such as taking my son to music or playing golf.
I used to find myself frequently “arriving” late to appointments until one of my new golfing friends told me that 4 PM golf means you should be ready to tee off (start playing) at 4, not arrive in the car park at 4.
Learning to be on time for golf has helped me discover some rules that have helped me use appointments in a more productive and less stressful way.
1: Is there enough time to finish off from any previous appointment (before this appointment)
Do you need to make notes or schedule follow-up actions after the previous appointment is over?
If you’ve been working on something on your own, have you allocated enough time to save your files in the correct folders etc?
Have you allocated enough time to do that before the start of the next appointment?
2: Have you given yourself enough time to prepare or to get to the meeting?
If the meeting is somewhere else, have you allocated enough time for travel (and taken into account the amount of traffic at that time of day)?
This is one I frequently got wrong when taking my son to guitar lessons. I underestimated the time to pick him from school, take him for a milk shake (might as well make the guitar lesson a weekly father-son event), and then end up at the lesson.
If it’s a sales meeting, have you given yourself enough time to get familiar with the client and the offer?
3: Have you given yourself enough time after the appointment?
This is the same as #1 but for this meeting instead of the previous appointment. It is liberating to finish a meeting knowing it’s finished (instead of knowing that you need to take time out later to make notes etc).
What does this mean for your Outlook Appointments?
Before you set an appointment in your Outlook Calendar, make sure that there is enough space between that appointment and the ones before and after.
If it’s an appointment with yourself then you can create a meeting slot that includes the before and after time.
If it’s an appointment with someone else, then you probably want to make the start of the meeting the actual meeting time. In that case make sure that there is enough free space before the meeting for you to travel, prepare etc.
Outlook also lets you set Reminders for appointments. By default this is set to 15 minutes but you can change this to whatever you want for individual appointments.
Change the reminder to give yourself enough before the meeting to get to the meeting on time and fully prepared.
Final thoughts…Don’t Schedule too much into your day!
There is a lot of research that now shows that we can get much more done if we schedule regular breaks during our day as well. That was probably the idea behind morning tea and afternoon tea (or the equivalent coffee breaks in modern times).
So remember to take a break.
I hope this tip helps you to get more important things done with less stress.
Please leave a comment if you find this useful… or have your own tips to better appointments.
In our previous post we discussed Email Etiquette and Reply-Alls. In this article we wil show you an Outlook addon that is already used by thousands of users in companies of all sizes around the world to control this problem.
Reply Guard for Outlook is actually one of the components of our Send Guard for Outlook addin.
Reply Guard installs inside Outlook and displays a prompt similar to the following when you click Reply or Reply-All on any email with multiple recipients.
While initial version of the addin simply displayed a warning prompt, based on the advice of our customers, we changed the addin to display the prompt shown above.
This is preferable to a simple warning message because it immediately makes it obvious to the sender exactly who the email is being sent to.
Users can also change recipients directly from the screen without having to go back to the email.
Stopping Users from Replying All to your Emails
At the request from one of our largest corporate customers, we also added the ability for the sender to decide whether users can actually do a Reply-All on emails or not.
Reply Guard adds check boxes to the Outlook Ribbon that is displayed when you write a new email.
This feature is dependent on the version of Outlook that the recipient is using to read the email. It works particularly well for internal emails broadcasts.
Trying Reply Guard
Reply Guard was based on the needs of small and corporate customers.
Messages in the screen can be customized if required based on corporate/legal guidelines and policies. The software can also be deployed with customized settings across the network if required.
You can find more information on Reply Guard for Outlook on our website. We also have a fully functional 30 day version that you can try for yourself.
The Reply-to-All button in Outlook can be both dangerous and an enormous time-waster, particularly in larger organizations. In this post we look at when it is OK to Reply All and how you can configure Outlook so that you (and others) make the correct choice between Reply and Reply-to-All.
What is the problem with Reply-All?
- Productivity: It wastes time and important network bandwidth.
Have you ever been part of an email chain in where people start doing Reply-Alls and saying things like “Noted”, “Received” or “Thanks”?
Now imagine this in a big organization where hundreds of users are wasting valuable time looking at those emails.
Sometimes you want to email only the Sender of the email with your thoughts and extra information. Clicking Reply-All can accidentally put everyone in the loop and can lead to embarrassing and possibly expensive mistakes.
When should you use Reply All?
This article from the Huffington Post on Email Etiquette has some scenarios that provide guidance on deciding.
The answer to this is common sense.
Use Reply All only when all recipients NEED to be kept informed. Otherwise just Reply to the people who actually need to be emailed.
The other way to decide is to look at the original email to see if it meant to be a conversation or discussion. If the answer is YES, and you are adding something of value then a Reply-All is appropriate.
When should you NOT use Reply All?
- For a personal comment or conversation with one of the recipients, particularly if you are bad-mouthing one of the other recipients.
- When you want to acknowledge to the original sender that you have received the email with a short.
Is it possible to reduce Reply-Alls in your organization?
Out of the box, Outlook requires users to exercise restraint. Unfortunately this rarely happens. It is too easy to click Reply-All.
We created Reply-Guard for Outlook to assist with this. Reply Guard is a component of our Send Guard for Outlook product that is already used by thousands of companies around the world.
Reply Guard does more than just warn users. It immediately makes it obvious to users exactly who will be receiving the email.
What do you do when you get an email that you know can be better answered by someone else? Chances are you Forward the email. I recently found out about Redirects which are often more appropriate than Forwards. Here’s how to do a redirect and why it may be better than Forward.
When you forward an email to someone, and the person replies, the reply comes back to YOU and not the original sender, so then you’re stuck forwarding it again.
You can avoid being the messenger-in-between by doing a REDIRECT instead of a Forward.
To Redirect an Email in Outlook:
Open the email in its own Window (i.e. you can’t do this if you’re looking at the email in the Reading Pane)
Select the Message Tab and then click Actions (or More Move Actions depending in your version of Outlook).
Click Resend this Message.
The message You do not appear to be the original sender of this message. Are you sure you want to resend it? will be displayed. Click Yes.
Address the email to the person you want to send it to (and type any notes etc. that you want in the email).
What happens when the recipient receives the email and clicks Reply
When the recipient receives the email, it will show that it is from you but on behalf of the original sender.
Now when the he or she clicks Reply, the reply will go to the original sender instead of to you.
Some final thoughts:
If you still want to be included in the reply to the email then I recommend that you use Forward instead of Redirect but remember to CC the original sender of the email too.
However if you just want to pass on the email and then stay out of it, Redirect is the way to go.
Did you know about Redirects (I didn’t)? Do you think they are useful? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Have you ever pressed CTRL-F to find something (in Outlook) to discover that it does not work! For some reason CTRL-F does a Forward instead of a Find. Here’s a bit of history as to why this (strange) decision was made and alternative keyboard shortcuts to do a Find in Outlook.
CTRL-F is probably the best and most widely used Keyboard shortcut. Whether you’re using Excel, Word, Internet Explorer, Adobe Reader, Chrome… the list goes on… CTRL-F brings up the Find dialog. Except in Outlook…
Why… Oh Why???
According to The Old New Thing the reason for this strange behaviour is Bill Gates.
What keyboard shortcuts can you use to Find in Outlook?
Unfortunately there is no way to change how Outlook handles CTRL-F. The two alternatives you can use are F4 or CTRL-SHIFT-F. By the way these shortcuts only seem to work when you have an actual email open (and not from a folder).
Thank you to reader Bruno for the following addition to this tip.
The easiest thing to do is press Ctrl+E, which brings you directly to the Search (= simple Find) function at the top of the Outlook window – and without needing to have an email open.
Hope you found the bit of history interesting. Feel free to rant by leaving a comment below.
Here’s a tip that may help to get your important (but not fun work done) and still leave you time to do your enjoyable work. The secret is based on structuring this work as if you were back in high school.
We all have things that we were created to do…. work that we enjoy doing.
It’s probably what we studied in college and what we started our careers doing. But..
Over the years, the roles have changed. Our responsibilities have included things that we don’t enjoy as much.
Our businesses need us to do other things too!
If you’re a lawyer… or an engineer… or a software developer… or in any creative field, you may find that over the years you have had to do more and more admin and sales work… in fact over time it may feel like you are spending more time doing that kind of work than what you actually signed up for.
Do you find yourself doing all kinds of unproductive things just to avoid making that important sales call, or looking at the accounts?
The type of things I do including checking emails, checking Facebook or going for a cup of coffee… any excuse will do!
This leads to TWO NEGATIVE results.
- The work that is important for the business does not get done and
- I find I don’t really enjoy the work that I normally would enjoy because (at the back of my mind) I feel guilty for not doing the work that needed to be done.
The solution turned out to be something very simple.
Schedule your (non-fun) work as if you were back in high school
Back when we were in school, we had different classes or periods. Maths was at 10 AM, English at 11 AM and so on. We spent time on all our important subjects because it was scheduled and done at a particular time.
I have found that I am much more productive if I use the same idea for the work that my business needs me to do (but I may not enjoy as much).
I have scheduled various 30 minute blocks of time into my week for Sales Emails, Team Mentoring, and Marketing Analysis. Some of these activities may get more than one period per week.
On the allocated time, I set aside what I am doing and focus on the “Subject” for 30 minutes. Sometimes the works gets done before the end of “class”.
Other times I keep going because I am in the flow and the work seems easy to do.
And if I am not in the flow, I work till the end of the “period” and then leave the subject for the next allocated time on my calendar.
This simple trick has helped me become much more productive. The work that is important to our business is now getting done.
A nice side effect has been that I find myself enjoying my work day much more as I no longer feel guilty for ignoring important work.
I hope that this tip helps you too. If you have other productivity tips, please share it with other readers by leaving a comment below.
The Cricket World Cup 2015 is about to start in a few days (14th February), so for all you Cricket Lovers who would not want to miss a single match, or at least not your favorite teams matches, here’s how you can download the times for all the games into your Outlook Calendar.
1. Make sure that your computer is setup to the correct time zone. This step is important to ensure that the game time gets shown at the correct time depending on where in the world you are. Go to the Windows Control Panel and open Date and Time.
(Your screen may be slightly different depending on the version of Outlook… it may have a separate tab for Time Zone).
Make sure that the correct Time Zone is displayed i.e. the time zone of where YOU are. (I am in Fiji so the screen shot above says Fiji). Click on Change time zone if you need to.
2. Click on the link below and save the .ics file to your desktop
Download Cricket World Cup 2015 Schedule
3. Import the downloaded file into your Outlook by using the following steps. If you are using Microsoft Outlook 2010, click File – Open – Import. For all other versions of Outlook, click File – Import & Export.
4. Select Import an iCalendar (ics) or vCalendar file (vcs) from the list and click Next.
5. Use the screen that comes up to select the ics file that was downloaded in Step 1.
(You may get the following extra steps depending on the version of Outlook you are using)
Click either Open as New or Import. (I simply imported it to my main Outlook Calendar as it then synched with my Iphone too)
The times for all the games will now be in your Outlook.
Enjoy the games and may the best team win.
The web is full examples of what the dangers to organization due to emails sent to the wrong email address (including one that may have led to a $1B settlement). What are the risks to your organization from these kinds of mistakes, and what you can do to manage those risks? We answer these questions and also look at a solution that several large companies are now implementing.
How do these mistakes occur?
These mistakes typically occur when a user accidentally sends an email to the wrong person. The normal reason for this would be that there may be two people with the same or similar names.
Unfortunately Outlooks Auto Complete list (which generally helps by displaying a list of matching names and email addresses as you begin to type) makes these kinds of mistakes even easier to make.
(Strategy) What can you do to reduce the risks from these kinds of mistakes?
It is probably impossible to eliminate mistakes of this kind altogether. Therefore your organization’s strategy should be based on:
- Configuring Outlook to reduce the chances that users will make these mistakes
- Be able to show (in the event of litigation etc.) that your organization took reasonable action to prevent mistakes of these kinds
What can you do:
The actual actions you can take include:
- Asking users to be more careful and pay more attentions before emails are sent out.
- Turning off Microsoft Outlook’s Auto-Complete feature.
While both of the above are theoretically good solutions, they may not work as well in the real world for most organization because:
- Irrespective of how careful people are, mistakes are inevitable (it’s part of being human).
- Auto-Complete is actually a very useful feature and it is painful and counter-productive to use Outlook without this turned on.
Is there a better solution?
Yes! Send Confirm is an Outlook addin that integrates inside Outlook and automatically prompts for confirmation before emails are sent out.
The domain is highlighted in red as the greatest damage can be caused if confidential information is sent to the wrong organization.
Send Confirm has been designed with the needs of both small and large companies in mind.
- The warning prompt can be customized based on corporate/legal guidelines and policies
- Special filters can be setup to control when the prompt gets displayed (external emails only, all emails etc)
- All settings can be set and deployed centrally
We’ve actually Send Confirm available to users for several years as part of Send Guard for Outlook. However at the request of several larger organizations, we have now packaged Send Confirm as a separate component to make it more cost-effective for wider deployment in organization.
Please contact us at email@example.com for more information on how Send Confirm can be used to protect your organisation.
Do you know where your emails are saved on your computer?
They may not be where you think they are. Here’s how you can find out where your emails are so that you can be sure that they are part of your backup plan.
Last week at the golf club, I spoke to a frustrated fellow golfer who had just lost all his emails…
The harddisk on his old computer had crashed… and when he used his backups top restore his data to his new computer, he was in for a shock.
His Outlook emails were not there… despite having a well-thought out and implemented plan for backing up his computer.
Because Outlook does not actually ask you to save emails in a particular location, it is easy to forget about them.
Where does Outlook save emails?
If your emails are hosted with Office 365 or MS Exchange then a copy of your current emails will be on your server. Hopefully your network administrator is backing them up.
However, if you are using a POP3 mail account (which many people still are) or if you are archiving emails outside of Exchange, you need to know where your emails are being saved.
All your emails are generally saved in one big data file (PST file… which is short for Personal Storage Table). Unfortunately Outlook does not always create this file in a folder that you would remember to backup.
Some users may also have multiple PST files with additional files for Archives etc.
To find out exactly where all your data files are in Outlook 2010/2013:
- Click File.
- On the Info Tab, click Account Settings and then Account Settings again.
- Click Data Files to display a list of all your currently connected data files as shown below.
Makes sure that you are backing up all the Outlook data files shown above.
Additional Tip: If you’re not using Exchange, you may want to put your main Outlook PST files in your Documents folder. Assuming that you’re backing up your Documents folder regularly, you should be safe.