In this post I look at the two main ways of organizing emails… Folders and Tags. We will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each one so that you can decide which one works best for you.
We will also look at a couple of Outlook addins that you can use for each style of email management if you don’t want to do it all manually.
But before that…
What do we need from any email organization system?
Irrespective of the way we organize our emails, this is what we need.
1. We want to easily see which emails still need our attention.
2. We want to file away emails that we have finished with but need to refer to in the future. Ideally sent and received emails for a project/client etc should be in the same place so you can see them all together.
3. We want to quickly find and retrieve any one filed email or a group of filed emails.
4. We want to do all this without wasting our day shuffling emails around.
Organizing emails either in Folders or with Tags can meet 3 of the above requirements and you can use the addins that we mention below to do it to meet the last requirement.
Let’s look at each of the two methods now…
Method #1: Emails and Folders
The first way of filing that most people use in Outlook is Folders i.e. create folders inside Outlook and then file emails into these folders.
This method works well for most users because most of us are used to folders in the physical world. As a result, this paradigm is easy to understand.
Furthermore, Outlook was designed with folders in mind. It is easy to create folders quickly inside Outlook and then drag and drop emails into them.
Tip: If you have a system of paper folders in the physical world, we recommend that you create a similar folder structure inside Outlook. Having the same structure in both places makes is extremely easy to find emails when you need them.
The problem with folders is that is can be time consuming and error prone to move emails. It is easy to accidentally drop an email into the wrong folder… or to forget to file emails from the Sent Emails folder… and it can be cumbersome to locate folders once you have a lot of folders. Unless…
Automating Folder Filing in Outlook
QuickFile adds a few buttons inside Outlook for you. It recommends folders based on your previous actions. You will be able to file up to 90% of your emails to the correct folder at the click of one button.
It also prompts you (with a recommendation) when you send out emails so that sent emails are automatically filed in the correct folder.
There is a handy Search feature so that you can quickly locate any folder simply by typing a few characters from the folder name.
Users have reported to getting back up to 2 hours each week that was previously lost to email.
Method #2: Tagging Emails
Tagging basically involved tagging (or marking) an email with one or more keywords. The tagged emails can then be moved out of the Inbox to an archive folder.
You can think of tags as being similar to folders… without actually needing to create folders… or you can think of tags as keywords.
You may already have used tags to organize photos (or to organize emails inside Gmail where tags are called labels).
The great thing is that each email can have multiple tags (no more worrying about which folder the email goes into)… and you can easily see all emails with a particular tag when you need to.
Outlook’s built-in search can then be used to find the emails that you have tagged with specific keywords.
The problem with Tags however is that there is no built-in way to do it easily inside Outlook. It is difficult to tag emails and difficult to find them easily later… until now.
Automating Tagging in Outlook
Email Tags for Outlook is a powerful addin that works inside Outlook. It saves time and ensures that emails are tagged correctly by recommending tags (A list of tags is also automatically maintained).
It can automatically move your tagged emails out of your Inbox to an archive folder so that your Inbox only shows you what you still need to work on.
Email Tags can also tag outgoing emails so that they are automatically organized with your received emails.
Best of all it has a powerful search feature to locate your tagged emails later.
How to choose what works best for YOU!
It depends on that nature of your work!
If you are already used to Tags then tagging emails should work well for you, particularly when used with Email Tags for Outlook.
Other people may find Folders easier because it mirrors the concept of folders in the paper world that we have all grown used to.
In our experience Folders work particularly well for people who work with well-defined projects.
We already have thousands of Lawyers, Engineers, Architects etc. using QuickFile for Outlook to save hours of billable time each month that was previously lost managing Outlook email folders.
We hope this post helps you make the right choice to have a more organized and productive Outlook.
It’s easy to send out emails with mistakes even after proof reading them. The reason is that we tend to skim while proof reading and we see the words we think we have written…. instead of the actual words there. The solution… get Outlook to read the emails back to you (preferably with your headphones on).
Here’s what you need to do:
Create a new email.
- Right Click on a blank area of the Ribbon
- Click Customize Quick Access Tool Bar
- Choose Commands not in Ribbon in drop down
- Scroll and select Speak (the list is in alphabetical order)
- Click Add and then click OK
Outlook will add a new button to your Quick Access Tool Bar as shown below.
How to use the button to get Outlook to read the email aloud to you
- Create a new email
- Type some text
- Select the text that you want read out to you.
- Click the button that you added to the ribbon earlier.
Outlook will now read your email out to you.
My favourite error that this helped me catch… I had written “I look forward to jeering from you”… instead of “I look forward to hearing from you”… the j and h keys are right next to each other on the keyboard!
Hope this tip helps you avoid similar errors.
You greatly increase the chances that your sales email will be deleted (without being read) if you send it in time for the morning purge. In this post we explain what the morning purge is… and what you can do to avoid it.
What is the morning purge?
Recent statistics show that the first thing that people do when they wake up is check their smart phones (after the alarm on the same smart phone wakes them up). Some jump straight to Facebook but many people that you are writing to take the first few minutes to prioritize their emails.
Does this sound familiar?
You wake up. You look at the big list of emails that has landed in your Inbox while you were sleeping.
You’re not awake enough to start working on the big stuff yet but you can get organized for when you get into the office.
So you skim through your emails and delete out the stuff that is not too important. You want a more manageable workload when you get into the office.
You DELETE! You PURGE! … and you’re not alone.
Millions of people do the exact same thing every morning.
Is your email really important enough to survive the morning purge?
If you’re responding to something that someone specifically asked for then your email is probably going to survive but…
If you’re sending out more cold-calling like sales and marketing emails while people are sleeping (or after they have left work) then chances are they’re being deleted without being read.
What you need to do to get your sales and marketing emails past the morning purge?
If sales and marketing is part of your job description then you NEED to get those cold-call-like emails opened and read.
The secret to surviving the morning purge is simple.
Make sure that your email gets delivered to your customers and prospects AFTER the morning purge.
This means that the best time to send your emails are after they have left home and some time while they are in the office.
But be careful… because there is another purge session that emails go through immediately after lunch… so don’t send your emails during lunch time either.
Want to know more tips like this?
Are you happy with the response rates to your sales and marketing emails? You can greatly improve the number of responses if you stop giving your readers too many choices.
What are response rates?
The response rate you get is the percentage of people who actually respond to your emails. Obviously the higher your response rate, the more people are actually reading your emails and doing what you want.
What is a Call to Action?
It must be very clear to recipients what they need to do after they read your email.
Why are you sending out your email? What do you want recipients to do? Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to email you? Do you want them to click on a link? Do you want them to reply?
If possible, only ask readers to do one thing… or at least have the one main thing you want them to do extremely obvious.
Why a SINGLE call to action is better?
Research shows that when people have to choose between several options (that may all be better than doing nothing), they very often still do nothing.
We all fool ourselves by deferring action… saying that we will make a decision once we have more time. The problem however is that your unresponded email soon sinks down the Inbox and may never get responded to.
Try and have ONE VERY CLEAR CALL TO ACTION in your emails.
What are some other things you can do to improve response rates
1. Send each person a separate personally addressed email instead of stuffing many email addresses in the To, CC or BCC fields. Research shows that personally addressed emails are more like to get past SPAM folders and into Inboxes.
You can use an addin like Email Merge for Outlook to automate this instead of typing each email manually.
This makes your email look less like SPAM and more like an email from a real person.
2. Add a P.S. after your signature.
Restate the benefits of what you are selling and the call to action. Readers often scroll to the end of the email instead of reading the whole thing.
What are some other things that you do to increase response rates? Please share your ideas with other readers by leaving a comment below.
Are people either not responding or taking too long to respond to your emails? Here’s a quick tip that could greatly reduce the response times and increase the response rate to your emails.
The secret… unless absolutely necessary, make each email about one topic/project /subject only.
I am not saying that each email should only have one question, but at least make each email about a separate topic.
This will get you faster and more complete responses… and also simplify email filing and management.
Why does this work?
Whether we admit it or not, most people use their email lists as To-Do lists…. And it feels great to be able to knock things off that list.
If you send someone an email that they are able to respond to quickly (because it deals with one thing only), they will respond to it quickly because it makes them feel good to have the email out of their Inboxes.
Many productivity techniques preach the Two Minute rule which says you should respond immediately to an email if it will take less than 2 minutes. Make it easy for them to respond immediately!
This can be even more true if you send several emails about different things (that are all quick and easy to answer). They now get the joy of crossing several things off their email to-do list.
If you put several topics in the same email, you may find that…
You receive no response!
If you put several different topics on one email, the recipient may be able to answer some quickly but others may take more time. In the time-starved world we live in today, this could mean that he will not respond at all until he has more time.
Unless your email is very important to him, it could soon get buried under newer emails that have arrived in his Inbox.
At least if you had separated emails into several topics, you would have received a response to some things that were easy or important enough to respond to quickly.
You receive incomplete response
On the other hand, if you have several questions in one email, you may get answers to a few of the easy ones but not the difficult ones. Why?
The recipient responds to your email and then moves it out of his Inbox (one more thing crossed off that email list).
An added benefit of single topic emails… email management is much easier… and safer
Most Outlook users file emails into client or project based folders. Keeping each email about a separate project means that they are easy to file into folders (because the email only deals with one projects). You don’t have to waste time figuring out where an email needs to go (or making copies to file into more than one folder).
(If you do use client or project based folders for email filing, we recommend Quick File for Outlook)
You project folders will also be safer in case you need to share project information with others. This way you know that you emails do not contain unrelated information that could be accidentally shared with the wrong person.
I hope that you found this tip useful. Let us know if you agree or disagree by leaving a comment below.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how Send Confirm can be used to protect your organisation.
Happy New Year to all our readers and their family and friends.
Hope you all had a great holiday de-stressing (hopefully not distressing) yourself and gearing up for the year ahead.
I understand it will be awhile till we all get back to actual work so we will keep the first post relatively simple.
I will just provide a quick overview of the year 2014 and the important events that took place in case you missed it… and also provide some links to the favourite post of our readers.
Mid-last year we launched a major upgrade to one of our bestselling email management tool Quick File for Outlook. The response to QuickFile for Outlook version 5 was so positive and over-whelming… I guess the credit for this goes to all the users who contributed with their awesome ideas and recommendations and pushed us to release another major upgrade after 5 years since version 4 was released.
Not just that… overtime we realized that different people used QuickFile differently based on how they work in Outlook and what they do…
On one end we had users who like to simply use QuickFile to file and organize their inbox and sent items while on the other end of the spectrum we had high end users who required much more than just filing.
To cater for all the different user groups, we created 3 different versions of QuickFile:
- QuickFile Standard
- QuickFile Pro
- QuickFile Ultimate
To view the difference between the versions and choose which one best suits your end… visit the Quickfile Comparsion page.
New to QuickFile: If email overload is a problem for you… if you think that you’re not getting the right work done because of the amount of emails in your Inbox… you MUST try this. You can download a fully functional 30 day trial and see for yourself.
Existing QuickFile users: If you missed out on the upgrade, you can view the upgrade options and upgrade to the QuickFile version 5 that works best for you now.
Now let’s have a look at the top 3 Outlook tips blog post for 2014. This posts have been selected based on the NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO READ THE POST!!!
TOP POST#1: Reasons why you should avoid using BCC for emails + Alternative Solution
Outlook users BCC emails for two main reasons… sending sales/marketing emails or sending someone a copy of the email without letting the other recipients know. We strongly recommend that you DON’T use the BCC field for either purpose. Why?
Find out the 3 main reasons plus what you can do instead of using the BCC field…
TOP POST#2: How to NOT Email Yourself when using Reply-to-All in Outlook
This post was a result of an interesting question that one of the readers asked
“Outlook includes my email address in the To field when I do a Reply-All. Clearly I do not want to email myself but Outlook lacks the intelligence to not add my email address to the email. Do you have a solution?…”
The reply to this was YES!!!
Find out what the solution was…
TOP POST#3: Saving (Exporting) Outlook emails with your other files
Here’s a quick tip on how you can save one or more emails outside of Outlook. This is very useful if you want to save your emails on your hard disk in Client folders along with Word files etc.
There are two formats by default which you can save the emails in Outside of Outlook, these are Outlook Message format and Text only, but in this post we also showed you how to save the emails in PDF format…
Well that pretty much raps up 2014 for us… time sure flew and without even realising we are now in year 2015.
The Standss team is ready for the year ahead and as always… we have big plans for this year as well and we will be notifying you of this once ready…
The whole Standss Team would like to once again which everyone a Happy New Year and great success for the year ahead… Thank you for being part of the Standss family and we wish to continue serving you the way we have and offering you solutions that saves you time and makes you productive.
Till next time… have a better Outlook.
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