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.
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.
If you find Outlook almost hanging up on you while you are writing emails, this tip will save you from a lot of frustration (and as a bonus increase your focus and productivity).
Does this sound familiar…?
You’re replying to an email and then Outlook starts doing something in the background. It basically locks up! You can’t do anything except wait for it to finish!
After a few moments, you get tired of waiting so you switch over to something that still works on your computer… something to do while you’re waiting… most probably the Internet… or Facebook.
10 minutes later you remember what you were actually working on! That’s 10 minutes wasted just because Outlook started doing something you never asked it to in the first place.
And it’s not just 10 minutes. It normally takes another 10 minutes to get refocussed again.
How many 10 minutes do you lose in your day?
I spend a significant part of my day working on emails and recently I have been having this problem several times a day.
I use Outlook 2013 with Office 365 and I discovered that the problem seems to coincide with when my Outlook is syncing emails with Office 365… particularly when I am working from home where my Internet connection is not as fast.
I found that I can greatly improve my productivity by making Outlook work offline when I plan to do actual work.
This is what you need to do:
- Go to Outlook
- Click Send/Receive on the Ribbon and then click Work Offline.
- Work on your emails
- Make Outlook go back online (by clicking on the Work Offline button again).
Warning: Please remember to make Outlook go online again. While Outlook is offline, no emails will be sent or received. Emails that you send will still be in the Outbox and new emails will be not be received in your Inbox (they will be waiting to be downloaded from your mail server when you go back online).
This simple tip has had a surprisingly positive effect on my productivity. Why?
- It stops Outlook from hanging up so I am able to get what I am working on completed without waiting for Outlook. I don’t get distracted to look at other things (Facebook!!).
- I also don’t get distracted by new emails popping in to the Inbox while I am working on something. (New emails are not downloaded while Outlook is working offline)
- As a bonus I enjoy work more without the frustrations of waiting.
Did this tip help you? Do you have your own tips for fixing Outlook performance issues? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.
Here’s a little tweak that I did to Outlook Search (in Outlook 2013) to make it work faster for me.
What is Outlook Search
Outlook displays a Search box at the top of your emails. Simply click in the search and type the words that you are looking for.
In Outlook 2013, you can also change where the Search is done (current folder, current mailbox, all mailboxes etc) directly from the same screen
How to make Outlook Search your Inbox faster
By default Outlook searches for emails in the current folder except if you’re in the Inbox. IF you are searching from the Inbox, Outlook searches for emails in all folders in your current mail box.
The problem with this is that Searching for emails from your Inbox can be slow because it is searching for emails in all folders instead of just the current folder.
You can change where to search each time but this seems to almost hang Outlook if the Search has already started.
Instead you can change Outlooks settings to search only the current folder when you are in the Inbox.
Click File > Options
Click the Search tab to display Search Options.
Select Current Folder and click OK
Now when I do a Search from the Inbox the results are almost instant. I can still Search all folders by selecting Current Mailbox or All Mailboxes from the list on the right of my Search box if I want to do a wider search.
Why this works for me
This works for me because I usually go to the folder I am interested in before I do my Search. When I am searching my Inbox, I know that I am looking for an email in my Inbox.
Share your own thoughts on Searching 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.
A great email signature can help your business by building your image and credibility as well as making it easier for people to contact you. In this short post I look at what things a good signature block can do for you, what you want to put in, and what you should leave out.
The most important thing to remember… Your signature block needs to be as small as possible particularly since so many emails are only a few lines long… but it still has to achieve several objectives.
The objectives of a good signature block
A good signature block should do most if not all of the following for you:
- Let people know who you are
- Let people know how they can contact you
- Show people who may not know you what you or your company does
- If possible, convince people who don’t know you that you are a credible person that they can safely work with
- If you use social media a lot, let them connect you via your preferred social media website.
What you should include:
- Your Name
- Your Title (Optional but very useful, particularly if you have an important or at least important sounding title)
- Your company name
- (Optional) Your company logo
- (Optional) Logo or text details of any awards or memberships that build your credibility. Keep this as short as possible. Don’t list too many things or it loses it’s impact.
- A tag line that makes it easy to understand what you and your company do (Optional only if your company name is immediately recognizable)
- Your Phone Number
- Your web site address
What you do not need to include
Personally I feel that it is a waste of space to include the following:
- Your email address (they already know that sine they received the email from you)
- You fax number (unless you are in an industry/country that still makes use of fax)
- Your postal or physical address (they can always ask for this if they need it)
What do you think?
I hope that you find this article useful.
Do you have your own tips for better email signatures? Please share your ideas with other readers by leaving a comment on this post.
Many email marketers who use Microsoft Outlook rarely focus on the one thing that that almost always results in increased responses: contact list segmentation. In this post I am going to show you how you can use Outlook categories to segment your contacts.
What is segmentation and why does it work?
Segmentation basically means dividing your email list into smaller groups (or segments). Each contact can be part of one or more segments.
So why does segmentation work? It allows you to give your contacts more personalized attention.
You are now able to send out more specific emails targeted to people who are interested in that particular topic. This always results in higher open rates, click rates and response rates.
It also means less annoyed customers received emails on topics that they are not interested in.
How to you segment your list?
We will use Categories (a feature built into Outlook) to segment our contacts.
1. Make a list of the Segments (Categories) that you will use
What are the key elements to distinguish your customers? It could be product, company size, region… whatever makes sense to your business.
Make a list of these segments. For example, we have a range of products at Standss that are reasonably different. We could therefore segment our list based on products.
- Email Merge PRO for Outlook
- Quick File for Outlook
- Send Guard for Outlook
- Email Tags for Outlook
- eeminders for Outlook
- Email Notes for Outlook
I also like to keep a separate segment of our Volume License Customers since they have further requirements for deployment, control and support.
Volume License Customers
2. Add the Categories to Outlook’s Master List (of Categories)
Go to your Contacts folder in Outlook.
Right-click over a contact and click Categorize and then click All Categories.
Click New and enter the Name of your category. You can also choose a color if you want but I generally select None. Click OK.
Hint: You will see that I have named my category ml_EmailMerge instead of just EmailMerge. I use the ml_ in front of all my segment names to indicate that they are my mailing list categories. The master category list appears in all parts of Outlook (emails, appointments, tasks etc). By putting the ml_ in front of my mailing list categories, I can get them to appear together in the list when they are displayed alphabetically.
3. Assign your contacts to the relevant segments.
Go to your Contacts folder in Outlook.
Right-click over a contact and click Categorize.
You can click the category from the list or you can click All Categories and then select multiple categories for a contact if you want.
Repeat for all relevant contacts.
Viewing Your Various Segments
Once you have your contacts segmented, you will need Outlook to show you the contacts by segment so that you can use them easily.
Go to your Contacts Folders.
Click on the View Tab and Click on Categories (which will be in the Arrangement group)
Your contacts will now be displayed grouped by Categories. Contacts will be displayed more than once if they are in more than one category.
You can simply type the name of the Category in the Outlook Search box and only matching contacts will be shown
How to use your Categories/Segments in Sales and Marketing Emails
The next time you need to send out an email that is relevant only to a particular segment, display the list of contacts in the segment as explain above.
Then create your email and send it out only to the people in that segment.
I guarantee that you will get much better responses rates… and you will also get less emails from annoyed contacts asking to be removed from your list (since you will only be contacting people who are genuinely interested in your email).
Fine-Tuning Outlook emails to segments (Better Responses in Less Time)
If you want to get even better response rates, you should send out personally addressed emails to your contacts.
This means that each email should only have one contact’s name in the To field. You may even want to personalise the email with the contact’s name and other details.
This can be time-consuming to do if you try and do it by hand.
We recommend Email Merge Pro for Outlook. Email Merge Pro installs inside Outlook and uses a step-by-step Wizard to quickly create and send out personalized emails to selected contacts.
Best of all, the emails will still be sent out from Outlook instead of looking like emails from a mailing service. This is extremely important, particularly if you are dealing with larger customers.
Email Merge Pro has full support for Categories so that you can easily send out emails to segments when you need to.
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.