Students Staff
University of Essex

July 24, 2015

What does your Outlook say about you?

During your busiest times of the year it may be vital to gain control over your inbox.workplace-desk-laptop

Here are some of my favourite tried and tested ‘tricks’ I use to help me organise my emails, my calendar and my tasks using Microsoft Outlook.

Tip #1 Set up rules to automatically file away emails e.g. small-ads

A rule is an action that Microsoft Outlook runs automatically on incoming or outgoing messages, based on conditions that you have specified. I use rules to move any email sent to small-ads into a folder, so that they don’t clog up my inbox but I can still see if there are emails I haven’t yet read in my folder. Read Microsoft Outlook’s guide to using rules.

If you know that you are heading into a really busy period, it may also be an idea to unsubscribe from some email lists to help reduce your incoming emails.

Tip #2 Use colour-coding categories to sort your inboxcolour-categories

Rather than having 100s of emails in date order, or sender order in my inbox, I like to group them by categories. This means that uncategorised emails are automatically at the top of my inbox, awaiting a category. I use categories such as ‘personal’, ‘urgent’, ‘meeting information’. This makes navigating my inbox that little bit easier.

  1. In any view, on the Home tab, in the Tags group, click Categorize, and then click All Categories.
  2. Click New.
  3. In the Name box, type a name for the new colour category.
  4. Click the arrow next to Color, click the colour that you want.
  5. If you want to assign a shortcut key, in the Shortcut Key list, click a shortcut.
  6. Click OK on the Add New Category and Color Categories dialog boxes.

Then when in your inbox, open an email, or simply right click when highlighted, and assign your chosen Category. The final step, if you want to sort them by category to group them like I do review the Microsoft help tips for sorting email messages.

Tip #3 Learn some new shortcuts

I recently watched 10 top time-saving tech tips by David Pogue. Some of his tips I already knew, but others I didn’t and they really do help save time! My favourite was how to quickly scroll down on a webpage. Rather than using the scroll bar or your mouse, press the space bar. It jumps down! Try it now on this webpage.

The Guardian has six steps to keeping your email under control while an article on Ars technica restores inbox sanity in just five steps.flags

Tip #4  Use flags to add email tasks to your to do list and/or calendar

I try not to leave emails in my inbox to simply remind me to do something. Instead I make a note in my calendar or add it to my task list instead. Did you know you can even attach the email to the task and delete it from your inbox? Outlook Flags give you a visual reminder that an email has a deadline. A flagged item will appear in the To-Do Bar, the Daily Task List in your calendar, and in the Tasks view. I find this really useful when planning my day. From my calendar I can see which emails require a response today. Read Microsoft’s help article to see how to flag an item for follow up.

Tip #5 Make use of the ‘delay send’ optionsummer-deck-chairs

Did you know that you can delay the delivery of an individual email message? You can use rules to delay the delivery of messages by having them held in your outbox for a specified time after you click Send.

I find this useful when you see that someone is out of the office, particularly when they are on annual leave. I think there is no point in emailing someone when they aren’t there to read it! It is better to delay your email delivery for when they are back rather than filling their inbox unnecessarily. Read Microsoft’s help article to see how to delay or schedule sending email messages.

Want more?

Read IT Training’s help article to see further tips.

Find training courses for Microsoft Outlook

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2 responses to “What does your Outlook say about you?”

  1. […] you read our blog What does your Outlook say about you? Find out about Outlook ‘tricks’ to help organise your emails, calendar and […]

  2. Natasha Mooney says:

    Thanks for this, the tips on rules are particularly useful for separating out small ads!

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