Microsoft Outlook is still the leading email tool of businesses today. And because it integrates so much –email, calendar, tasks, address book – it’s often the place where employees can spend significant parts of their work day. Recent studies have reported that email consumes 28 percent of employee time on the job. Easily a productivity killer, email can be the place where employees get trapped and bogged down each day. But if you know how to effectively use Microsoft Outlook, it can be a powerful productivity tool; it’s just a matter of understanding its full capabilities. It’s time we rethink the way businesses use Outlook.
Email notifications are often one of the most distracting parts of an employee’s day-to-day work. Instead of focusing on the project at hand, email notifications shift the priorities and delay the completion of assignments. Turn off your notifications and allow yourself the opportunity to focus on the work that needs to be done, rather than the emails that need to be answered. But if the idea of completely turning off all notifications sends you into a panic, then shift your email settings to allow high priority notifications to still come through. That way you know what’s urgent and what can wait.
Work from outside your inbox
When opening Outlook, the default setting is your inbox. But the goal is to not operate from your inbox, so make the time to adjust your settings. Either change the default to your calendar or your tasks page, whichever will allow you to focus on the work that needs to be addressed today. You can change the setting by going to file, option, advanced and then browse the start and exit tab.
Quick Steps is a customizable Outlook feature that allows you to quickly complete repetitive tasks. Quick Steps is great for the tasks you perform most often: forwarding specific emails, inviting specific groups to meetings or regularly emailing large groups or teams. Outlook already has a set of Quick Steps designed for you, but the real power in the tool is customizing the steps for yourself. That way when you need to send that next large group email, it’s only one click away.
The key to productivity in Outlook comes down to how well you can manage your inbox. Create sub-folders broken into specific content topics or customers that you can redirect emails to as they come in. This is also beneficial when it comes to searching for old emails, providing you with an easier way to find the answer you need.
Find emails from individual senders
There are times you need to find content from a previous email. You know who it’s from, but you can’t put your finger on the email itself. Outlook allows you to quickly search emails from an individual sender. Find an email the sender has previously sent, right click on the email itself, select find related, and then select messages from sender.
To make sure emails sent exclusively to you don’t get overlooked, set a rule that highlights important messages as they come into your inbox. In Outlook select view settings, select conditional formatting, pick the add button and type in “me” as the new rule. Then you can select the condition of your new rule and customize it to a specific color or font to easily identify the emails as they come through.