Even in 2020, email reigns supreme.
Microsoft Outlook still holds the top spot as the business world’s favorite email client. And that’s not a surprise.
Many people are starting to work from home more permanently, and productivity tools like Office 365 are increasing in popularity, putting Outlook front-and-center of everyone’s daily routine. But despite its popularity, millions of users don’t know how to make the most of the email client.
But there are several hacks and shortcuts you can use to boost productivity: let’s cover our favorite six — right here, right now.
1. Use Favorites To Keep Important Information Visible
In the days of paper post, most people used three files to manage inbound correspondence: Active, Inbox, and Archive. It was the perfect way to keep important information at your fingertips instead of it getting lost in the pile. In the digital age, the same system is equally valid.
You just have to learn how to apply it in Outlook, which you can manage using your ‘Favorites’ folder.
Put Active Items In Favorites
‘Active’ items refer to your most important clients.
They may be major suppliers, your biggest customers, it doesn’t matter: you need to access their information in seconds, so don’t bury it away in the inbox. Create an ‘Active’ file by storing important client folders in ‘Favorites,’ which sits at the top of your Outlook Navigation Panel.
How do you do that? It’s easy.
- Right-click the folder
- Select ‘Show In Favorites’
…and when a client is no longer as important, right-click again and select ‘Remove From Favorites.’
Leave Less Important Items In Your Inbox
Your inbox should be a repository for correspondence you may need to reference from time-to-time, but that isn’t today’s concern. It’s easy to find information in an inbox because it’s filed A-Z.
But what if you know there’s an essential folder in the ‘W’ section that may not warrant ‘Active’ status but still needs to be higher in the pecking order? Well, there’s a workaround. You can add “_” or “1” before any folder name. And your inbox will automatically file the folder at the top of the list.
So if there’s valuable information in ‘Zing’, bring it to the top by renaming the folder ‘_Zing.’
Archive The Rest
Deleting files is a dangerous game in business, but so is an overflowing inbox.
If there’s a file you need to keep, but you don’t want it clogging your messages, stick it in an ‘Archive’ folder. Your ‘Archive’ is the perfect place for things like contracts, corporate records, or tax documents: details you may only refer to once a year but that you can’t afford to delete.
2. Auto-File Inbound Emails
You have a filing system, now make the most of it by auto-filing emails.
That may mean pushing key messages from a particular sender into ‘Favorites’ — or shunting less pressing items into ‘Archive’ to batch-read later. First, create a new folder by hitting Ctrl + Shift +E and put it where you need it.
From here, auto-filing is a three-step process:
- Right-click the email and select ‘Rules’
- Select ‘Always move messages from’
- Pick the folder in which to auto-file the email
3. Flag Messages For Maximum Visibility
Sometimes, a message will land that you don’t have time to read, but that you need to respond to soon. What do you do?
- Left-click the flag in the right-hand column to mark the message as important; or, to set more time-specific flags;
- Right-click the flag, and you can set how quickly you need to act (choosing today, tomorrow, this week, next week, or adding a custom date).
When you’re done, you can tick a flag to confirm you’ve followed up, so you’ll never be left wondering if you’ve acted or not.
4. Use Drag-and-drop To Create Contacts And Calendar Events
When an email lands from a new contact, or we have to create an appointment, it’s a task we often set to one side. Why? Because it’s a little fiddly, and we have more pressing items to attend.
That is — until you learn this trick.
You can use ‘drag-and-drop’ to avoid any typing and get new contacts and calendar events set up in seconds.
- New contacts: Drag an email and drop it on the ‘Contacts’ symbol in the navigation bar. Outlook will add the name and email address to a new contact, while the contact Notes will include a phone number and address if they’re part of the email signature.
- New calendar events: Drag an email and drop it on your ‘Calendar’ to create an appointment containing all the details from an email.
You can also play the system in reverse: drag a contact onto the email panel to create a new message; or, drag it into your calendar to create a new appointment.
5. View Both Your Calendar And Inbox At Once
Once you’re in ‘drag-and-drop’ mode, why not make life easy by looking at your email and calendar together?
You can right-click any button in the navigation panel and choose ‘Open In New Window,’ which will open your calendar… well, yes, in a new window. Either place your email and calendar side-by-side — or if you have two screens, drag the calendar onto your second monitor.
6. Shortcuts, Shortcuts, Shortcuts
No productivity article is complete without a roundup of shortcuts. Microsoft Outlook has its fair share, but here’s our pick of the bunch:
- Reply: Ctrl + R
- New email: Ctrl + Shift + M
- Open email: Ctrl + 1
- Open calendar: Ctrl + 2
- Open contacts: Ctrl + 3
- Open tasks: Ctrl + 4
…and there you have it.
Six productivity hacks to use in Microsoft Outlook in 2020. If you want to up your email game further, check out our “10 Tips On How To Create A Professional Email Signature in Office 365.” If you’re yet to use Microsoft Office 365 — give the Mid-coast Tech team a call for some free advice.
We’re always available on 207-223-7594.