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.
I had lunch with a friend who is a lawyer a few days ago. He explained to me why he still thinks it is important to file emails into folders dedicated to different clients or cases. In this post, I’d like to share his opinion… and a few suggestions on making the filing of emails easier.
Why… and associated problems?
For legal reasons, my lawyer friend often replies to emails simply to acknowledge receipt e.g. He may reply to an email and simply add “Noted” at the top.
He then needs to retain a record of the email in his own records.
The standard way of doing this is printing and filing a copy away (I am frequently surprised by how many lawyers still maintain printed records of everything!).
The problem he was having was that his printed files were become way to big… and had a lot of duplicated information (when he printed out the email with Noted on it, it could run several pages depending on the size of the original email).
Here are two possible solutions that we discussed.
1) Print Replies without Printing out all of the original email
Instead of printing out the whole email, just print out the first page. You can do this in Outlook by clicking the Print button and then clicking Print Options to select the pages you want to Print.
2) Keep only electronic copies of all (or less important) emails
Instead of printing out emails, you can file the emails electronically inside Outlook. If you have been doing this already you may want to evaluate your Outlook email filing system with this 3 questions checklist.
If you haven’t been doing this so far, we recommend the following steps:
1. Create a folder structure inside Outlook that is similar to what you use for your paper folders. This will make your emails easier to find in the future because you already know where to look for them.
2. File received emails AND sent emails for the project/case/client into the folder. You want to see all related emails in one place… and not have to look for some emails in project folders, other emails in the Sent Items folder etc.
3. If you still want to retain printed emails, then only print out the emails with new information on them and use our earlier tip to only print out the relevant pages
If emails are important to your business you may also want to look at QuickFile for Outlook. QuickFile works adds a few buttons inside Outlook and is able to file up to 90% of your emails at the click of one button.
I hope you found this post useful in making your emails easier to file and find.
If you are like me, you probably read most of your emails in the reading pane (which displays your emails right there in your Inbox). The problem is that sometimes emails get marked unread just because I scrolled through them on my way to another email. I would prefer to keep that email highlighted so that I know that it still needs my attention.
Here are links to two posts that I think you will find useful if you have a similar problem.
Keep Outlook Emails as Unread until after you actually read them
This post will keep the email UNREAD unless you stop over the email for more than just a few seconds (you can set how long)
Customize how Outlook highlights Unread Emails
This post is optional but you can use to change how unread emails are displayed. You can change the color or font to make them really stand out.
If you have other ideas on how to use Unread emails to get things done, let us know by leaving a comment.
I have received many emails from concerned customers and readers asking me if we were safe when Category 5 Cyclone Winston hit Fiji. I have personally written to thank everyone who wrote but in case I missed someone, your kind thoughts mean a lot to us.
In this post I’ll share how the cyclone affected Fiji and what our team are doing to help.
For those who don’t know, even though the majority of our customers are based in USA, UK, Europe and other parts of the world, we are actually based in the beautiful islands of Fiji.
On 20th February, our islands were hit by the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall over Fiji on record. In fact, we found out later that it is the second strongest cyclone to have been recorded to had made landfall anywhere in the world.
Cyclone Winston has been classified as a Category 5 storm. Wind gusts of 306 km/h (190 mph) were recorded.
Our company is based in Suva, the capital city. While the cyclone was originally expected to go through Suva, we were spared when the storm changed course.
There was some rain and wind damage but it was small compared to what happened elsewhere in Fiji.
Cyclone Winston inflicted extensive damage on many islands and so far 44 people have been confirmed dead. It is estimated that approximately 40% of Fiji’s population has been significantly affected by the storm.
The response from people in Fiji and the International community has been amazing. Many Governments have provided money, supplies and people to assist those in need.
People who were not affected directly in the main centers have also mobilised themselves and done their best to reach people in affected areas with rations and supplies.
I went out with some friends the week after the cyclone to do the same. The following photo is an area that was previously green rain forest. The pictures in this post speak for themselves and show just how ferocious the winds must have been.
The team at Standss knows how lucky we were. Things could have been much worse for us personally and for our country if the major populated areas such as Suva and Nadi had been hit.
We have set aside a minimum $10,000 to donate to various charities in Fiji who are leading the relief efforts.
50% of this has already been handed over to Save the Children Fiji who have been chosen as one of the lead organizations to assist in getting children back into school as quickly as possible.
We know that will be a difficult task as many schools have been severely damaged. In addition to that many children have lost all their school supplies.
It is essential that children get back to school as soon as possible. The educational benefits are obvious but being back in school also has other benefits. Children get those hours to be in a safe environment… to be with their friends… to be children.
We wish Save the Children Fiji the very best with this important and difficult task.
I want to finish off with a final picture. During our trip to the affected areas we also took a few bags of lollipops to distribute to the kids (I know that it’s not good for them but a small treat after the trauma won’t do any harm).
The cyclone may have set us back but it won’t take away the Fijian smiles that our country is famous for.
As we now say in Fiji… We are Stronger Than Winston.
I’d like to finish by saying thank you to all our customers. We are only able to give back to our community because of your support.
Thank you for giving us the ability to help others in this time of need.
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.
How important is your Subject to getting your email opened and read? Research shows that 64% of people say that they open emails because of the subject line. In this post we look at 3 things you can do immediately to get your emails opened and responded to more often.
1. Use between 6 and 10 words in the Subject Line
A survey by Retention Science found that email subject lines kept at 6-10 words result in the best open rates.
A major contributing factor for this is that up to 65% of emails now get opened on mobile devices.
Since mobile devices are only able to show five or six words of the subject, it makes sense to be as brief and concise as possible.
2. Make the Subject relevant to the content of your email
Even the most effective subject line in the world merely gets your email opened. Your job is to then address the issues that the recipient is interested in.
Don’t use subject lines that get opens and then have content that is unrelated!
Don’t try and trick the reader into opening your email!
You’ll only end up training the reader to avoid your emails in the future.
3. Personalise the Subject Line (it doesn’t have to be with their name)
Personalized subject lines increase open rates by 22%.
Including personal and relevant information in the Subject Line can have a major impact on both open and response rates.
How should you personalise the Subject line?
Again use information relevant to the content.
If you are a real estate agent who has sold property to someone in (say) Christchurch, the Subject could be “Important update for Christchurch home owners”
If your business sells cars, and you sold someone a Toyota Camry, the Subject could be “Safety features in the new Toyota Camry”
You could also just use the person’s first name in the Subject.
You can these 3 tweaks on individual emails or your sales/marketing mailouts to prospects and customers.
Tip! If you are sending out sales/marketing emails using Outlook, then we recommend using Email Merge for Outlook.
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.
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