How to stay organized with your emails in Outlook like a rockstar

I Have A Dream

  • weekly overview of all I have to do
  • group my tasks by topic or project so I can bundle up similar tasks
  • find my stuff in no time
  • inbox zero (yes, the HOLY GRAIL :-))

Preparations

To manage our mails in Outlook we have to do a few preparations:

Folders

  • Create 3 new folders named TO DO, READ ME, DONE
  • Add them to your Favorites (rightclick, Show in favorites)
  • Remove DELETED ITEMS from your favorites (rightclick, remove from favorites)

Views

  • arrange your three new folders by category (Tab VIEW → Arrange by → Category)
  • In your Calendar click on Tab VIEW → Daily Task List → Normal
  • Also remove “Show Completed Tasks”

Categories

Create a few categories named like

  • discuss with Jane Doe
  • discuss with Ms. Moneypenny
  • discuss with my team
  • phone
  • waits on others — on hold
  • Project Deathstar
  • Project Millenium falcon
  • newsletter

CATEGOERIES → ALL CATEGORIES → NEW

QuickSteps

ok, this part is the hardest, but I will guide you through!

Create a new QuickStep: Manage QuickSteps → New → Custom

name: DO TODAY

  1. action: Move to folder TO DO
  2. action: Mark as unread
  3. action: Flag message: Today

If you want to, you can choose an icon for that QuickStep and a shortcut as well.

Now, we will have to duplicate this QuickStep for

  • DO TOMORROW
  • DO THIS WEEK
  • DO NEXT WEEK

lets go!

  1. Manage QuickSteps
  2. duplicate
  3. rename COPY OF DO TODAY in DO TOMORROW
  4. dont forget to flag message for tommorow

repeat steps 1–4 for DO THIS WEEK and DO NEXT WEEK

We will need another QuickSteps for mails I only have to read and no action is required.

QuickSteps → New → Custom

Name it READ

  1. action: Move to folder: Read Me
  2. action: Mark as unread

no flag (!)

Our last QuickStep “COMPLETED” was prepared by Microsoft (thanks!) so we only have to customize it a little bit:

QuickSteps → Edit the one which is already named “Completed”

1. action: mark completed

2. action mark as read (!)

3. action move to folder: DONE

Search

Searching for emails can be horrible. Clicking through a massive amount of folders and subfolders isn’t really productive. So all we have to do is to take advantage of Outlooks great search capabilities

Click in searchbar → a new Tab SEARCH is visible (!)

Click on MORE and select the following properties:

  • From
  • Subject
  • Categories
  • Attachment contains
  • To

Bam! We pimped your search bar! You now may filter your stuff like data in Excel 🙂

How To Use This System

Email is meant for targeted information and its asynchronous communication, which means that we usually don’t have to stay in our mails the whole day. If we try, we end up in a very unproductive style of work where we cannot focus anymore.

Label Your Mails

  • Starting in the morning you will see a huge amount of new mails waiting for you to respond, take action, call back etc. We have to qualify those mails using two steps:
  1. step: categorize your mail. Your category is the answer on the question WHAT do I have to do?
  2. press on one QuickStep. Your QuickStep is the answer on the Question till WHEN do I have to complete this?
  • Repeat this with every new mail. After that, your inbox is empty. YEAH!

Stay focused

Repeat labeling your mails 2–4 times a day.

Turn off desktop notification

(FILE → Options → Mail) so you have peace in mind while deep-working.

Get Stuff Done

Option 1: Click on your folder To Do to get an overview which tasks you have to complete in Project Deathstar or which email you’d better answer on the phone

If you want to, to can customize your Quick Access Toolbar with Expand all Collapse All Groups so you may switch faster between overview and deep insight.

Option 2: Click on your Calendar to view your daily tasks to see what you should do today.

Whenever you completed a mail, just use the QuickStep COMPLETED to move it to the right folder and mark it as read and completed.

Clean Up The Mess

Old Folders

Perhaps you are proud owner of a lot of folders you don’t need anymore:

  • If there are mails including active tasks in your old folders, move those mails to inbox and label them as shown above.
  • Move the old stuff to a folder called OLD STUFF and then ove OLD STUFF into DONE.
  • Don’t move any new stuff to OLD STUFF, sonday you will delete / archive OLD STUFF.
  • Outlook search will find everything for regardless of your folder structure.

Old Emails in Inbox

To get rid of old mails which do not contain helpful information for you, we may use these tricks:

  • arrange mails by type, then collapse all groups so you can delete old Meeting Acceptance, Mailbox is full quota and Out-Of-Office- Notifications very fast
  • arrange mails by FROM or by SUBJECT to get a better overview
  • make use of Clean up Folder, which moves only redundant (!) items to Deleted Items

Questions? Suggestions? Just text me on twitter www.twitter.com/LuiseFreese 

Luise

Luise is an independent Microsoft 365 Consultant, Microsoft MVP for Office, Apps & Services, Sketchnotes Artist and Power Platform Advocate based in Germany. Do you need help with your project, want to exchange views or just connect? Feel free to follow me in twitter, LinkedIn or get in touch via contact form.

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