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.
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.
If you are using Outlook 2010 and have suddenly found that it only opens in Safe Mode then your computer probably installed Microsoft’s latest patch. Here’s what you need to do to fix it.
The (faulty) December 2015 Patch (KB 3114409) which is causing the problem was actually released to stop a problem where Outlook 2010 was starting in Safe Mode for some users. Instead it did the opposite… it is FORCING Outlook 2010 into Safe Mode.
The faulty patch has been taken down from Microsoft’s website but if you are experiencing the problem, it means that the update has already been downloaded and installed on to your computer.
How to uninstall the update
- Go to the KB3114409 page on Microsoft’s website.
- DO NOT INSTALL THE UPDATE.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page to the section titled More Information which has a subsection on How to uninstall this update.
I recently upgraded to Outlook 2016 and to my annoyance discovered that Microsoft had reset where Outlook searches from my own customized settings.
I find that Outlook Search (since Outlook 2010) is very useful to quickly find emails but I don’t like the default setting that Microsoft has set which is…
When you do a Search, Outlook will search only in the folder you are in… unless you are in the Inbox. If you do a Search from the Inbox then Outlook will search the entire Mailbox and display the results there.
This doesn’t work for me because when I do a Search from my Inbox, I am generally looking for an email that I know is actually in the Inbox. I don’t want the results cluttered with items in other folders.
Changing Default Search Settings
Here’s what you can do to make Outlook search in the Inbox like any other folder i.e. just search in that folder.
Select the Search tab and then click Current Folder as shown below. I have left all other options as they are but you may wish to tweak other settings too.
Now when you do a Search from the Inbox (or any other folder), the results will be from that folder only.
What if you want to occasionally search other folders too (without changing the settings)?
Type your Search text in the Search box like you normally would. Then click the little arrow on the right of the Search box and choose where you want the wider Search to take place.
I hope you found this tip useful. Please share your own ways of tweaking Outlook Search in the comments below.
In this post we show you How to send out Personalized, Individually Addressed Invites and Holiday Emails to your friends, family and business contacts… PLUS we give you free Holiday themed Outlook templates to send better looking emails out today.
Most companies send out invitations or newsletters during the year end to update their clients/members of the achievement for the year, plans for the New Year, and special offers for the holiday seasons etc. You may also want to send out invitations to cocktail parties etc.
While the free templates can be used directly from Outlook, the steps below will show you how to use the Email Merge Pro for Outlook addin with these templates.
Why send it out this way?
Using Email Merge, you only need to write your email once. The software will then (from inside Outlook) send a separate copy to each person… with each email personally addressed with only their name in the To field (and even their name in the body of the actual email if you want)
This is better than stuffing everyone’s name in the To, CC or BCC fields of one email because:
- Your emails look more professional and personal. Recipients feel like that you have given them special attention.
- You email is more likely to get past spam filters and not end up in the Clutter or Junk Mail folders.
- Personalized emails can have up to 3x the conversion rates (if you want the reader to take some action like clicking on a link etc).
Seeing is believing so check out the short video on this page on using EmailMerge Pro.
Let’s get started…
Downloading the Christmas Templates
If you haven’t done so yet, download and install Email Merge Pro for Outlook.
Once you have Email Merge installed…
Click here to download the Outlook Holiday Templates. Save the file to your desktop or other convenient location on your computer (This will be a zip file. You do NOT need to unzip it).
Start Outlook and go to your Inbox.
Click the little arrow under Email Merge on the ribbon and then click Template Manager (to display Email Merge’s built-in template manager)
Click the Import button and select the zip file that was downloaded in one of the earlier steps.
Click OK. The templates will be imported into your Email Merge for Outlook template list with the names Happy Holidays and Holiday Invite.
Click Close to close the Template Manager
Sending Personalized Emails from Outlook using the Templates
Click the Email Merge button on the Outlook Ribbon.
Select the appropriate template (Happy Holidays or Holiday Invite) from the list on the first step of the Wizard.
Click Next and follow the rest of the steps in the Wizard.
Happy Holidays from the team at Standss
Merry Christmas to all our readers from the Standss Team.
I hope you find the above information helpful in staying in touch with friends, families and clients this year.
Till next time… have a better Outlook
It’s still not too late to send out your Holiday emails and invites.
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.
Is it possible to do an email merge with a personalized email address in the To field and one or more RELATED email addresses in the CC or BCC fields. In this post we look at why and how you can achieve this with Microsoft Outlook?
This is very useful when you need to send a copy of the same email to two or more people in the same company.
- You may want to send reminders for a particular event to attendees but all CC their assistants.
- You may send copies of statements to your clients and CC a copy to their accounts manager.
- If you are running a newsletter for a school, you want to send an email to one parent and CC the other parent on it too.
In all these examples the To and CC field are related to each other i.e. there could be a different CC email address for each person you are emailing.
Before I show you how to do this in Outlook, you may be wondering…
Why not just send each person a separate copy of the same email?
The main reasons for this is that you want all recipients to be aware that the others have also received the email. They can now also do Reply-to-All on the email your sent to start a conversation if they need to.
Setup Your List
The first thing you need to do is to setup a list which contains the email address you want to use in the To field and also the email address(es) for the CC field.
For this example, I am assuming that your list is in Microsoft Excel similar to the one that I have shown below:
- The To field (in this case the Customer Name) can only contain ONE email address.
- The CC field can contain multiple email addresses separated by comas or semi-colons as shown for Jane Doe above.
Merge and Send the Emails
Now it’s time to send out the emails. While there is no built-in way in Outlook to do this, you can easily do this if you are using the Outlook add-in Email Merge Pro for Outlook.
Click the Email Merge Wizard button. The Wizard will guide you to creating your email and to choosing the Excel file as your data source.
When you come to the following screen, click the Select field’s hyperlink.
Click CC/BCC and then select the field that your CC email address is in.
Click OK to return to the Wizard.
Follow the rests of the steps of the Wizard to send out the email.
Email Merge will create a separate email for each person, with the correct file attached to each one.
Our customers have used Email Merge to increase sales and to provide better support to their customers. Please share your own ideas in the comments below.
You can use this with our earlier article on setup your spreadsheet to email merge a different attachment to each person in Outlook.
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