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)
In this article we look at why many professionals who use Outlook prefer to have two copies of Sent Emails (one in a client/project folder and one in the Sent Items folder). We also show you how to configure QuickFile so that it will Send & Copy File the email for you in one step.
Most power users of emails create Project or Client folders inside Outlook and then move their emails inside them. They do this for both received emails and sent emails so that they can see all related emails in one place. But many users treat Inbox and Sent emails slightly differently.
How to file Inbox Emails (Move them!!!)
The Inbox acts as a To do List for most people. It makes sense to leave emails in there while they still need your attention.
Once you have finished with an email, you can either delete it or move it to the relevant project/client folder.
That way your Inbox only shows you what you need to work on
How to file Sent Emails (Move or Copy)
There are two schools of thought on what to do with Sent Emails. You could move the original email out of the Sent Items folder to the Project or Client folder but…
We have found that many users prefer to file a copy to the Project/Client folder and leave a copy in the Sent Items too.
- Users frequently need to refer to emails that they sent recently (to clarify things on phone calls etc). They find it easier to quickly look at the Sent Items folder instead of going to a client folder.
- Many users fill in their timesheets for billing purposes at the end of the day. They refer to the Sent Items folder to remind themselves of what they worked on (and what they need to bill for)
How to make QuickFile to Send & Copy
The Send&File feature is probably the #1 Reason that our users choose QuickFile.
QuickFile for Outlook prompts you with a prompt similar to the following when you click Send on an email.
QuickFile recommends folders using its own recommendation engine or you can use the Search box to quickly select another folder.
You can also choose to either file the original email or a copy of the email as shown above.
Click Send & File and the email is filed automatically when it is sent.
(You don’t have to go to the Sent Items folder at the end of day to file your emails because they’re done already. No more incomplete client folders!)
How to configure QuickFile to Send & Copy by default
You can use QuickFile’s setting screen so that it selects “Copy of Email” by default.
Go to your Inbox
Click the Standss Outlook Addins tabs on the Outlook ribbon.
Click More in the QuickFile group and then click Settings.
Select “File a copy of email to folder” for the Send & File dropdown.
Now whenever QuickFile displays the Send & File screen, copy will be select by default. This means that in most cases (because QuickFile normally recommends the correct folder too), you only have to click Send & File.
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.
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.
QuickFile for Outlook was recently reviewed for TechnoLaweyer’s SmallLaw publication by New Jersey lawyer Edward Zohn.
His gave it an A+ rating and summarised that:
QuickFile easily fulfils its promise. Even if you have a modest Outlook folder structure, you will immediately start saving time.
It’s all very painless. There’s no need for Outlook’s tedious dialogs, no need to monitor the “Sent Items” folder, and no need to memorize your folder tree.
The review is basically a CASE STUDY on using email management in a legal firm or any professional firm.
Written by practicing lawyers who manage small successful firms and legal technology and practice management experts who jave achieved rock star status, SmallLaw provides practical advice on management, marketing and technology oissues in small law fiorms, as well as comprehensive legal product reviews with accompanying TechnoScore ratings. technolawyer/smalllaw
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.
I have written on several occasions that I don’t use the Outlook Rules much but I have now managed to find an excellent use of this feature which has helped me stay focused and improve my productivity.
Do you subscribe to any email newsletters, mailing lists or groups?
I often find myself going to check my email and 30 minutes later all I have done is read through “interesting” articles instead of doing any real work.
Microsoft’s built-in Rules feature provides a solution.
Let’s start off with a bit of background about Outlook Rules for “Outlook Newbies”
What are Rules in Outlook?
According to Outlook 2013 Help…
“A rule is an action that Microsoft Office Outlook takes automatically on an arriving or sent message that meets the conditions that you specify in the rule”
For example… you can set a Rule to automatically move emails from a particular email address out of the Inbox to another folder.
Normally I don’t use Rules much because…
My Inbox is my To-Do list.
I don’t want anything automatically moved out of it. Even Outlook automatically moving items after they are read is NOT acceptable because I sometimes leave stuff in there to deal with later.
I want to move emails out myself after I have finished with them – I need to stay in control of my Inbox.
I use QuickFile for Outlook to simplify email filing out of my Inbox (and Sent Items).
But in this situation it makes sense…
I want the newsletter emails moved out of my Inbox and into a folder dedicated to newsletters.
These emails are not part of my daily to-do-list and I prefer to go through them when I take a break from real work.
How to create a Rule?
BEFORE creating the Rule, create a folder inside Outlook where you want the newsletter emails to be moved to. Then…
- Go to your Inbox
- If you are using Outlook 2013/2010. Click on File and select the Info tab and then click on Manage Rules & Alerts.
- For all other versions of Outlook, click Tools and then click Rules & Alerts.
- Click on New Rule… to display the Rules Wizard as shown below:
- “Move Messages from someone to a folder” will already be highlighted. (This example assumes that the newsletters come from the same email address – otherwise you can use one of the other predefined Rule Templates)
- Click “people or distribution list” to display the Rule Address screen.
- Choose a name from the list or type in the name in the From field and then click OK.
- Click the hyperlink word “specified” to bring up the Choose Folder dialog. Select the desired folder from the list and then click OK.
Now that the Rule is created, any emails coming from the list will automatically be moved to the chosen folder.
You can also apply it to any emails that are already in the folder by going back to the Rules and Alerts screen and clicking the “Run Rules Now” button.
Use Rules in this way to move emails that you know are NOT part of your REAL WORK.
This keeps your Inbox clean and focused on things that need your attention.
I recommend that you don’t use Rules to shift work related emails.
Keep them coming to your Inbox and use a tool like QuickFile for Outlook to manage their filing.
If you use the Outlook Calendar or Tasks List to get your work done, here’s a quick tip on how to convert emails to appointments or tasks.
Why might you need this? Like me, you probably get a lot of requests to get things done via email. You also probably send many emails that you want to follow up on. I personally do not use my Tasks List or Calendar for this (I use eeminders for Outlook addin which lets me use my Inbox as my To Do list. However if you use your Tasks List or Calendar, this is what you can do.
Options 1: (FREE) Create a Task or Appointment from Emails
To create a Task or Calendar item from an email…
1. Make sure that your folders are displayed in Outlook.
2. Right-click on the email (and keep the right button pressed) and then drag-and-drop the email into your Calendar or Tasks folder. Three options will be displayed (Copy with Attachment, Copy with Text and Move with Attachment).
3. I normally select Move or Copy with Attachment. This allows me to open the resulting task (or calendar item) which has the email attached to it. I can then double-click on the attached email and Reply or Forward it as needed.
Option 2: File and create the appointment/task automatically when you click Send
If you send out a lot of emails that you need to follow up on, I would recommend QuickFile for Outlook. It automatically prompts you every time you send an email out. The email will be filed to the correct folder after it is sent and your follow-up task or calendar item will be created for you.
Option 3: Get your reminders at the top of your Inbox on the correct day and time
I have personally found that I forget to look at my Calendar and Task List and as a result many actions get left undone. I have started using eeminders which shows me what I need to work on at the top of my Inbox. You can watch a demo video or download a trial version of eeminders for Outlook from here.
I hope you find this tips useful.
Do you know of other ways to schedule your work and complete them on time?
Share it with us by leaving a comment below.
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