Quick Steps: Add shortcuts to the Outlook ribbon to file your emails
This week we continue our series on automating Outlook using it’s built in Quick-Steps feature. I will show you how to use Quick-Steps to add buttons to your Ribbon that will let you file emails to any folder at the click of a button.
For example, you may want to create Quick-Steps to folders for your currently active projects.
I have a few folders to which I often need to file emails to. For example, I have a Reading folder to which I read non-important emails that I want to keep for (leisure or research) reading later. I also have a folder called Keep for Now for emails that are important for the moment (e.g. an email about a golf tournament in the next few weeks).
I have created Quick-Steps for both so that I can move emails to both folder quickly.
Step-by Step: Creating the Quick-Step
Click Quick-Step on the Home tab of the Outlook ribbon.
Click New Quick Step – Move to Folder
Type in an easy to remember name for this Quick Step in the Name box
Tick the Move to folder checkbox
Select the folder to move to in the list
Untick Mark as read checkbox
Now that you Quick-Step Is saved, let’s use it
Step-by Step: Using the Quick-Step
Click on the email that you wish to apply the Quick Step to (in this case the email that I want to move)
Click Quick Step on the Ribbon and then click on the appropriate Quick Step from the list.
… and That’s it!
Quick-Steps are a great way to file emails if most of your emails go into a few folders only. However if you have many folders, you may want to try a more complete solution for filing your emails such as QuickFile for Outlook.
Is you Inbox full of emails that you don’t want to work on but you don’t want to delete either? Here’s a tip on how you can keep them in your Inbox and remove them at the same time. Confused? Read on.
My general strategy to Get Things Done is to only keep emails in my Inbox that I actually need to work on. However..
There are many emails in my Inbox that I know that I won’t be working on today… or even this week. I don’t want to delete them because I (maybe) will work on them someday.
Here’s a simple thing I do weekly that helps me have a clean Inbox to work from… and still keep those unurgent emails around.
I will show you two ways of doing things… a manual way and an automated way using eemnders for Outlook.
1) The Automated Way
Once a week I do a Weekly Review.
I look at the emails and decide what I will work on this week. Those emails get to stay in my Inbox. The others get moved out.
I use eeminders for Outlook to move emails out of the Inbox. I’ll show you the steps in a minute but basically…
eeminders installs inside Outlook lets me select emails to “defer” or “snooze” to a date and time of my choosing. The selected emails get moved out of your Inbox but then magically reappear on your chosen date and time.
You can use eeminders to snooze your non-urgent emails for a week using the following steps.
Go to your Inbox.
Select the emails that you want to move out (press the CTRL button to select multiple emails if you want).
Right-Click over one of the emails and then click eemind me – 1 Week.
The selected emails will get moved out of your Inbox into another folder called eeminders. A week later they come back into my Inbox.
Why I like this?
- I don’t have to think too hard and the process is FAST. It’s not like I am deleting the emails. It is easy to identify emails that I won’t be working on this week.
- The emails will come back into the Inbox so I WON’T FORGET THEM! Chances are that in next week’s weekly review, I am just going to defer them for another week but that’s OK. At least I won’t forget them.
- In case I run out of things or change my mind, I can always go to the eeminders folder and retrieve an emails that I need to work on.
2) Doing this Manually
(In case you skipped it, please read the Automated Way above first to understand the idea of the Weekly Review)
You could also do this manually by creating a folder and calling it something like Next Week. Then when you do your Weekly Review:
- Go to the Next Week folder and drag any emails that you plan to work on this week into your Inbox.
- Go to your Inbox folder and drag any emails that you do not plan to work on this week to the Next Week Folder.
My own experience (and the experience of many many Outlook users who we work with) is that the manual method requires too much will-power and discipline and after a while we stop doing it.
I have been using eeminders in this way for the last 3 months and my Inbox has been a joy 🙂 to work from.
Studies clearly show that people who do not multi-task can focus for longer periods of time and feel also less stressed. But emails makes it difficult to NOT multi-task, particularly if you get notified each time an email comes in. This post shows you 4 things you need to can do to be more productive with emails without multi-tasking.
Turn OFF email Notifications
Be default Outlook displays a little notification in the bottom right hand corner of your screen every time an email comes in. It may also play a sound or show a little envelope icon in the taskbar.
Unless your work requires real-time notification of emails, we recommend that you turn off ALL email notifications.
Click File and then Options.
Click on the mail tab.
Scroll down to the Mail Arrival section and make sure that all the boxes are un-ticked as shown below.
Have Email Processing Scheduled in Your Calendar
Try and have a fixed time where you go through your Inbox and delete out stuff that doesn’t need to be there, respond to important emails etc.
This is your main email time during the day. Don’t worry… you will still get to see emails again later in the day.
Turn off Outlook when doing non-email related work
Many users turn to emails looking for a distraction when they are at a point in their work that is difficult or requires a decision. They turn to their Inbox hoping to find an excuse to avoid what they really need to work on.
You’re less likely to do this if your Outlook is closed… and even if you do, the time Outlook takes to start up will remind you to go back to your work.
Reward yourself by going to your Inbox when you finish a reasonable chunk of work… or when you finish a particular piece of work
Even if email is a distraction, a lot of real work gets done using it.
I go back to my Inbox roughly around once every one or two hours. This give me my email-fix as well as giving me the opportunity to respond to anything important that may have come up while I was doing other work.
Try these 4 quick tips today. They won’t solve all your email problems but they will put you more in control. You should find you’re getting more work done, feeling less stressed and still getting your emails answered.
This 5 minute video shows you how to use Microsoft Outlook to keep your emails organized.
You will see how easy it is to do the 3 ESSENTIAL email filing tasks that all business people need to do.
In less than 5 Minutes you will learn how to:
- Find folders by typing a few characters from the folders name
- File 90% of received emails at the click of one button (no misfiled emails because of drag and drop)
- Send & File out-going emails in one step (instead of having to go back to the Sent Items folder to file your emails later)
Microsoft introduced the Clutter feature for Office 365. In this post, I share how Clutter was designed to declutter your Inbox… my own experience… and what you can use instead.
What is Clutter
Clutter was introduced for Office 365 users at the end of 2014. Microsoft says that Clutter was designed to help you focus on your most important messages in your Inbox.
It uses machine learning to identify lower priority messages and move them out if the Inbox to a new Clutter folder.
How to use Clutter (if you have Office 365)
By default, Clutter is turned off. You need to go to Outlook Web Access (OWA) to turn Clutter on (or off).
I find that Clutter does a pretty good job of identifying which emails are newsletter etc and moving them away to the Clutter folder. My Inbox has less emails and they are mainly the ones that I need to work on.
To be honest, I don’t read (or need to read) most of the emails in the Clutter folder.
However… the problem is that Clutter also gets it wrong!
I have found that it occasionally moves out emails that need my attention… and sometimes those emails need timely responses.
As an example, a few weeks ago I had to get my credit card reissued because it had been used fraudulently. The card in question has several important monthly online payments linked to it… payments that were essential for our business.
The payments for these (obviously) could not be processed because the card had changed. Unfortunately, some of the emails related to the card failing ended up in the Clutter folder.
It was only by coincidence that I looked in the Clutter folder for something else and discovered the payment warnings.
So…if you decide to use Clutter, I recommend checking the clutter folder once a day for any important emails.
Otherwise you can turn it off and try the following
Getting the Benefits of Clutter (without using Clutter)
I think the goal of Clutter is still worth achieving i.e. getting lower priority emails out of your Inbox and to a separate folder which you can read at a time of your choosing…
… and to be honest you probably will find that you don’t choose to read those emails very often. I know I don’t.
You can achieve this by creating a folder (called say Newsletters) and then using Rules to move the relevant emails to the folders automatically.
You can find instructions on using Outlook Rules to Declutter your Inbox here.
The problem with this as that it takes a lot of work to maintain rules.
The automated way: Use the Newsletters feature that is built into QuickFile for Outlook.
Both the Pro and Ultimate versions of QuickFile have a feature that aims to do what Clutter does but leave control in your hands.
If you’re one of the thousands of user of QuickFile for Outlook, this is all your need to do.
Right Click over the email and click Newsletter.
The email will automatically be moved to the Newsletters folder (created by QuickFile inside your Inbox). All future emails for the same newsletter will automatically be moved there.
Now your Inbox will stay clear of these emails but your important emails will still make it through.
Note: QuickFile for Outlook works can be used with any type of email account in Outlook including POP3 and Office 365.
If you’re not a user yet, you can download a trial copy of QuickFile for Outlook from here.
The theme for this month has been email filing and clean inboxes. This week we look at the three common mistakes that result in lost emails and cluttered Inboxes.
Over the last 15 years we have helped thousands of Outlook users get their emails organized and their Inboxes clean.
In this time we have learnt that the main reasons that Outlook users fail to keep their emails organized can be traced to these 3 common mistakes.
1. Filing emails before they have been actioned (or why you shouldn’t use Rules)
Most emails that we get are either for our information or action. Many users in an effort to get organized move emails out of the Inbox to dedicated folders for clients or projects… before the required action is completed.
The problem with this is because of the volume of emails that we all receive on a daily basis, the emails are quickly forgotten and the actions never taken.
What can you do?
Only move an email out of the Inbox if It does not require any action from you (in which case you either delete it or move it out to an archive/client/project folder).
a. You have completed the required action on it (E.g. replied to the email with the information requested)
b. It requires action from you and you have added the action to some kind of action list e.g. your Calendar or Task List.
Tip: This is why we don’t recommend using Rules for filing emails. Rules move emails out of the Inbox before you’ve had a chance to read them.
Instead we recommend using QuickFile for Outlook (for folder based email filing) or Email Tags for Outlook (for tag based filing) which can file most of your emails out of your Inbox at the click of one button… after you have finished reading them.
2. Leaving emails that do not require action in the Inbox
Leaving too many emails in your Inbox can also be a problem, particularly if you use your Inbox to show you what you still need to work on. Too many emails will cause actual work emails to get drowned out… and quickly move off the list.
Ironically, the problem isn’t the emails that you know you have to work on.
The BIG problem is the emails that you think you may work on… when you get the time. These include things people have sent to you for your information, newsletters on things you used to be interested in etc.
Instead of moving them out of the Inbox, we tend to leave them there… for when (???) we have a bit of free time.
What can you do?
I would recommend one of the following:
a. Either flag all emails that actually need your actual action so that they stand out…
b. Or Move out emails that do not need your actual action into another folder called Maybe.
I personally prefer the option of moving emails out of the Inbox because I am less likely to be distracted by maybe tasks. This really helps me to stay focussed on what I need to work on.
Now when I have some free time, I go to my Maybe folder.
Confession: I very rarely go to the MayBe folder. It has thousands of emails in it… and my life is probably much better for not having read them.
3. Forgetting to file Sent Emails
Why do we even bother filing emails (as opposed to simply deleting them once we have read them and taken the appropriate action).
The main reason is that we may need to refer to them later for information. We also need to retain them for legal reasons in case there is some dispute about what was written at some point in time in the future.
… and we normally don’t need just the one email. We need all related emails… incoming and outgoing.
Irrespective of how you organize your emails, it is very useful to file related incoming and outgoing emails together. That way you can see the entire conversation in one place when you need to.
What can you do?
a. Setup a daily or weekly time at which you will file emails out of your Sent Items folder or…
Bonus Tip: Make sure that you file your emails in the way that works best for you
The ultimate purpose of any email filing system is to make it easy for you to find the emails again when you need them.
There are two main ways of filing emails… using folders and tags.
Which method works best for you will depend on several factors, including how your printed files (if you still use them) are organized.
I recommend that you read our earlier post Outlook Email Filing: Folders or Tags to ensure that you are using the best filing system for you… the one that makes your emails easier to find in the least time.
This post continues with the theme of Getting and Staying in Control over Your Email and your Inbox. I am going to show you a simple way you can setup your Inbox to show you only what you need to work on this week… with today’s action emails at the top.
This system does NOT require anything extra. All you need is Outlook to get started.
While a lot of productivity gurus advise that we should NOT use our Inboxes as a To Do list, most of us still do. Why?
Because it still is the place where most of our To-Dos arrive. It’s easier to leave them there than to transfer them somewhere else. However …
The Problem with working from your Inbox is…
The emails do not arrive in the order in which you need to work on them.
Having them all in the Inbox at the same time can be overwhelming because you’re presented with too much information … you see everything that you need to work on… without any way of knowing what you need to work on first.
You can solve the problem using ONE folder and 2 New Habits
Assumption: I am assuming that your Inbox only has emails that you still need to work on. Emails that you have finished with have either been deleted or filed out of the Inbox (last week’s post compares advantages of filing emails by folders or tags in Outlook).
Here’s what you can do to have your Inbox show you what you need to work on this week, with the emails that you need to work on today at the very top.
Setting up the One Folder System
- Create a folder under the Inbox called Later
- Drag and drop the emails that you don’t need to work on this week into this folder.
- Flag (using the follow up flag in Outlook) the emails that you want to work on today.
- Sort your Inbox by the flag/follow-up column so that flagged items will now appear at the top.
Why do I keep all emails for the week (instead of the day) in the Inbox?
Because I can get a quick overview of what I need to work on in the near future by simply glancing at the Inbox…plus it makes the system easier to use if I only need to look at unurgent emails once a week.
Habit #1: Daily Review
You will need to do the following each time you get new emails in your Inbox.
Either delete or file emails that no longer need your attention. Once you complete this your Inbox will only have emails that still need your attention.
Move emails that you will not be working on this week into the Later folder.
Flag any emails that you will be working on today (and unflag any emails that you have changed your mind about).
Habit #2: Weekly Review
At the start of every week, go to your Later folder and move any emails that you plan to work on this week back into your Inbox.
That’s you new Clean Inbox but…
Probably the biggest problem with this system is the need to manually move emails back into your Inbox.
It is easy to forget about the emails that have been moved to the Later folder and as a result miss out on opportunities (and annoy customers) because of tasks being left undone.
You can solve this problem with a simple bit of automation that eliminates Habit #2
eeminders for Outlook addin installs inside Microsoft Outlook and adds a button to the Outlook ribbon for you. Now when you process the emails in your Inbox, you can tell it when you plan to work on an email.
The email will be moved out of the Inbox to the eeminders folder…. and then automatically (magically) returned to the Inbox at the date and time of your choosing.
Don’t worry. Your emails are safely inside your Outlook. You can go to the eeminders folder at any time if you need to “reschedule” an email.
(If you are also looking for a folder based solution for email filing, then we recommend QuickFile Pro for Outlook which has eeminders intergrated in it. Make sure you select the Pro version)
This simple system (ONE FOLDER and 2 HABITS) will unclutter your Inbox and help you get the right things done by removing (currently) unimportant emails that may distract you.
Instead of hundreds of emails, your Inbox will now show you only what you need to work on this week, with the most important emails at the top.
This system does NOT require anything extra. All you need is Outlook.
The only downside is that it requires some discipline in moving emails back to the Inbox again on a weekly basis.
As a result we have also recommended eeminders for Outlook, an addin that can automatically move emails our of your Inbox and then back again on the dates that you plan to work on them.
Eeminders is very reasonably priced and most users will find that it pays for itself within a month at the most.
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.
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.
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.
- What NOT to do after an accidental Reply-All (Hint: Recall does NOT work)
- Quick Steps: Add shortcuts to the Outlook ribbon to file your emails
- Outlook Quick Steps: Forward emails to the RIGHT person at the click of a button in Outlook
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