How to Manage Your Email Inbox Like a Pro: Expand Your Outlook

Last week we covered How To Organize Your Outlook Email Inbox. Now in this final installation of our 4-part series, we'll learn how to stop using Outlook. That's right. Just stop using. your email! 

The Office 365 Suite offers a variety of powerful tools that will help you organize your personal and professional life. The key to using email efficiently is to use it for quick communication, not scheduling or extensive collaboration. 


Prioritize Your Time

In Parts 1 and 2, we learned that time is money. Don't waste your time and money on constantly checking email. Here are a few reminders and tips specifically for Outlook.

Rule Group Conversations

Chances are those chain emails that include everyone in the office don't always have pertinent information in every message. While everyone's opinion matters, it might not matter *right now.* Outlook doesn't have a technical "mute" feature like Gmail offers, but you can manually create an Inbox Rule as a workaround. 


To create a rule for a particular thread, follow these steps:

  1. Select the "..." option at the top of the email menu.
  2. Select "Create Rule" in drop-down menu.
  3. Outlook will automatically populate the "IF" fields with the variables that are unique to this chain.
  4. In the "Do all of the following" field, select "Mark as > Read" from the drop-down menus.
  5. Select "OK" to save

Any subsequent correspondence in that chain will not trigger the message to be unread. 

Schedule Email Time

In How to Balance Accessibility and Productivity, we learned that scheduling your day into task blocks is the key to organization. (Remember Americans spend an average of 4 hours per day checking email, which is nuts!) No matter which email client you're using, it's more effective to allot a certain amount of time each day to check email. 

For instance, schedule that you'll manage your email from 8:00am-8:30am before starting work, 1:00-1:30pm after lunch, and then 5:30-6:00pm at the end of the day. This way, you can focus on the actual work you need to get done during the other portions of the day.


Turn Off Notifications

If you're truly dedicated to compartmentalizing, you should turn off your email notifications. You won't be tempted or distracted when you're working on other tasks. If you work in an environment that demands quick responses, at least switch your notification setting to only alert for important messages.

Desktop: Go to your Office 365 Settings > Notifications and uncheck the reminders. Then "Save."

Mobile iOS: Go to Settings > Notifications > Mail > OWA > Select the slider next to "Allow Notification" to the off position.

Mobile Android: Go to Settings > My Device > Sounds and Notifications > Application Notifications > OWA > Block all notifications from this application. 


Unplug and Disconnect

Here's another reminder to avoid checking your work-related email at home. Once you're off the clock, use your personal time to relax and engage with loved ones. Studies show that if you can't separate work from home-life, you'll suffer from serious health issues including insomnia, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and stomach problems. You can't perform at your best if you're not feeling your best!


Automate Everything

After you've dedicated short blocks of time to email management, the next step is to stop using email for scheduling, file sharing and collaboration. The Office 365 Suite  can do all that for you.


Schedule Like a Boss

If you have a large team and need to schedule a meeting, sending emails back and forth discussing who is available is not efficient. Technology has streamlined the process of coordinating schedules. 

Behold Calendar in Office 365. The scheduling app includes many different views including day, work week, week and month. You can create detailed task blocks in 30 minute intervals. You can center email blocks, meetings, deadlines, etc. into Calendar. If you need reminders, you can even setup alerts and notifications. For an extra level of organization, you can create custom categories for meetings or task related to certain projects or clients. 

After you create your schedule, you can share your calendar with anyone. Send an email invitation and your employees can see which times you're available and adjust accordingly. You can create multiple calendars with custom permissions. In just a few clicks, large groups can coordinate schedules with less email clutter.


Convert to the Cloud

Cloud computing has revolutionized the concept of data storage and almost made storing files locally obsolete. If you need to send large amounts of presentations, photos or videos to your staff, don't use email. 

Experience SkyDrive. You're allotted a whopping 1TB of cloud storage with your Office 365 subscription. Upload and organize your files into folders and then share them with your staff. Team members can download, edit, upload and organize data based on customized permissions. Multiple people can manage the virtual drive without any need for email.

Manage Groups Efficiently

If you have dozens of projects to keep track of and several remote workers to manage, sending emails, calendars and docs back and forth isn't practical. You'll spend more time sorting than actually getting work done. If you want the combined benefits of messaging, scheduling, editing and file sharing all in one convenient place, then optimize collaboration with the Groups feature.

Start by going to the People app to create a Group. You can add a name, description, permissions and then add your contacts to the group. Members of groups can share an inbox with a unique email address. Office 365 automatically creates a dedicated Calendar, SharePoint Library and Team site, OneNote Notebook and planner for the Group. Use the central repositories to brainstorm, write down notes, send files and manage projects.

With the Microsoft Groups app, members can even collaborate on-the-go.

Office 365 provides an extensive, fully-integrated productivity platform with unlimited possibilities. While it takes a little more effort than Gmail, the suite is much more powerful. Just remember to prioritize and optimize and you'll start to realize you have more free time than you thought!


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