Seven Tips to Use Microsoft Outlook More Productively

One of the most popular enterprise email applications, Microsoft Outlook is fairly easy to use if you’re just sending and receiving emails. But Outlook contains many features designed to enhance your productivity, many of which are not readily apparent. Understanding how to use Outlook can greatly simplify common daily tasks, improve your communications, and even help you impress a colleague or two.

Using Email Templates

Do you find yourself sending almost the exact same email every day or week? Rather than recompiling it each time, you can use Outlook’s email template feature. To do so, open up a new email and compose the message you want. Then select File, then Save As. You’ll be taken to a dialog box from which you’ll select Outlook Template under the Save as type list. Type a name for your template in the File name box before clicking Save.

You’ll find your template stores in c:\users\username\appdata\roaming\microsoft\templates by default. However, you can switch the file destination in the Save As dialog box.

Scheduling Email Delivery

Often, it’s a good idea to delay sending an email after it’s drafted. You may not want to develop a reputation for sending after-hours emails, or you may not want to inundate your co-workers with multiple messages, for example. To avoid the risk of forgetting to email messages in your Drafts folder at the right time, utilize Microsoft’s email scheduling feature. Simply compose your email, then select Options. Choose the Delay Delivery option, then select Do not deliver before. You’ll be able to pick the time and date your email will be sent out from here.

Using Conversation View

It’s tedious to pore through emails to isolate those related to a specific subject, and you run the risk of omitting key messages. However, Outlook lets you automatically group messages in a single view. To do so, click View, then choose Show as Conversations. When you and your colleagues are conversing via email using Reply All, by clicking the latest email with the same subject line as the original message, you’ll be able to see both the original message and all responses using this view.

Staying Organized with Sticky Notes

While Outlook’s calendaring application provides plenty of options to keep your schedule organized, sometimes you want a reminder of a task or date that doesn’t merit an email to yourself or a calendar event. Enter Sticky Notes: pop-ups you can drag and position anywhere you want on your screen. The next time an email or call reminds you of something you can’t afford to forget, press CTRL + Shift + N in Outlook to generate a Sticky Note, then type in your info.

Filtering Out Low Priority Messages

New email notifications can be distracting. You want to make sure your boss, a key vendor, or other very or relatively important person isn’t trying to get a hold of you. But you get dozens, if not hundreds, of new emails each day, and toggling between work and Outlook can derail your ability to get work done.

To avoid this, configure Outlook to prioritize messages from specific senders by creating a custom rule. From your Inbox, right-click on an email from a priority sender, and in the resulting dialog box, click Rules. From here, click Create Rule. In the Create Rule dialog box, you’ll see options for Outlook to take certain actions when you receive subsequent messages from them. For example, you can direct Outlook to play a certain notification sound or move the email to a specific folder, among other options.

If you want to prioritize emails from multiple senders, you don’t have to do this one at a time. Instead, you can select Manage Rules & Alerts from File, then select New Rules from the Email Rules tab. You can create a new rule by selecting the Start from a blank rule section, then choosing to Apply rule on messages I receive. From here, you’ll be able to direct Outlook to take your preferred actions based on the emails you receive.

Categorizing Emails

Outlook also allows you to create categories to organize your emails. Simply select an email message you want to categorize and right-click on it. You’ll see a Categorize menu from which you should select New category. Then type the name of your category, and if you’d like, choose a color to be associated with that category, which can be done when you click the category icon. Once you click Enter, you’ll have a new category.

To use the Category feature effectively, you’ll want to create a rule that automatically categorizes specific emails based on the criteria you establish. From Manage Rules & Alerts (from File), select New Rules from the Email Rules tab and create a new rule. In the Create Rule dialog box, click on Advanced Options. From the Rules Wizard dialog box, you’ll see, select the conditions that will trigger Outlook to add an email to a category automatically. Then, check the assign it to the category box, and select Finish to create the rule.

Archiving Emails

Another great way to keep your Outlook Inbox organized? Archive your emails. An Inbox full of emails that keep piling up makes it harder and harder to easily find the emails you need. And truthfully, you don’t need to keep most emails handy week after week to do your job well. To get started, click File, then select Cleanup Tools, then Archive. Select Archive this folder and all subfolders from the resulting Archive dialog box, then choose your Inbox or another folder with emails you want to archive.

Next, pick the date from which you want to start archiving emails. You’ll also see an Archive file: field with a folder in which your archives will be stored. If you want to change where they’ll automatically be stored, select Browse to the right of the field and choose a new or create a new folder for your archives.

Once you click OK in the Archive dialog box, the emails before the date you selected will be removed from your Inbox or another folder. You will be able to see a list of them in the left sidebar under the Archives heading. But they’ll no longer be cluttering your Inbox.

Using Microsoft Tools Effectively

These are just a few of the ways you can use Microsoft Outlook more effectively. Most professionals only use a few common Outlook features and rarely use, or learn to use, the rest. The same goes for most of the tools commonly used daily, regardless of platform. Employees are usually scrambling to get the work done and use technology in the only way they know-how, regardless of whether it’s the most effective approach.

If you’re looking for support to use your IT resources more effectively, contact us at Velocity IT. Working with businesses in Dallas for several years, we’ve provided organizations of all sizes with IT support and guidance, along with a range of managed IT services. We’re ready to help you improve your organization’s productivity using your existing resources or help you identify the new ones that will take your business to the next level. Contact us today for a consultation.

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