François Gamonnet is a control freak. And he wants you to be one, too. In fact, he’s made it his mission to make the world a cleaner, tidier place—one email inbox at a time. Because let’s face it, most of our inboxes are out of control. It’s not that we ever intended it to be that way. It’s just that things got busy and before we knew it… well, let’s just say it’s not a pretty sight.
If you spend a good chunk of every Monday morning just dealing with emails, this article will at the very least save you a few hours a week. And if you downright fear your inbox after a week’s vacation, you’ll be building a shrine to François on your desk by the time you’re done reading this.
How to Get a Better Handle on Your Outlook Inbox Today
The first thing François Gamonnet will tell you is to stop spending so much time with your emails.
As co-founder of Institut de Gestion du Temps (Time Management Institute) and Innovation Consultants, François knows what he’s talking about. He has helped hundreds of organizations better manage their time, priorities, projects and emails with his “Gamonnet Method” and many published articles. We think the tips of this long-time SherWeb customer apply to any organization and are worth sharing.
Step 1: Get your inbox in order
Problem: An overloaded inbox can lead to overlooked important emails. It also makes finding these emails at a later date much harder.
Solution: Create separate inbox folders according to:
- etc. (whatever works best for you)
- If you receive personal emails at work, create a separate “personal” or “friends” folder too. (Bonus time saver: greatly restrict the number of times you look at this folder each day.)
Step 2: Set some rules
Problem: Moving emails from your inbox to their appropriate folders is drudge work.
Solution: Set rules that will automatically move incoming emails from certain people or addresses, or that have certain words in the subject line, to specific folders. You can also set rules to have certain messages flagged when they come in so that you’ll be sure to see ASAP messages from your boss or that customer you’ve been trying to close, etc. What makes rules great is that you set them once and these emails are forever organized for you (although you should review your rules periodically).
Have one of those “friends” who sends you ridiculous emails all day? Definitely create a rule to put these emails in a “not him again” folder.
Step 3: Put attachments where they belong
Problem: Files sent as attachments can end up weighing down your Outlook inbox, but if you delete that email, you’ll lose the attachment.
Solution: Save any attachment you need now or may need in the future in your “My Documents” with subfolders that match the folders you’ve just created in your inbox.
Step 3: Keep active files top of mind
Problem: You have so much on your plate you’re worried that if you put emails in their designated folder, you might forget about them.
Solution: Add these emails to your Favorites folder. Remove them once you’ve taken care of them.
Step 4: Don’t be a pack rat
Problem: An overloaded Outlook will not run optimally, slowing you down and making searches tedious.
Solution: Purge on a regular basis:
- Delete useless emails after a certain amount of time.
- Put any folders you are no longer working on in an archive folder after a certain amount of time, such as after 3 or 6 months.
Step 5: Do some seasonal cleaning
Problem: You’re not as disciplined as you’d like to be about keeping your inbox neat and tidy.
Solution: Create a task that reminds you every few months to clean out your inbox and folders. Key: do not ignore this reminder.
These easy steps will turn your disaster-zone-of-an inbox into a neat and tidy place. Once you’ve tackled your inbox, you can repeat the same steps with your outbox.
There is a lot more you can do with Outlook, especially Outlook 2013, which comes with even more great time-saving features—one example being the forgotten attachment reminder. A quick YouTube search will turn up lots of helpful Outlook tutorials.
Outlook is a small but important part of today’s online business communications. For organizations that want to optimize efficiency, we strongly recommend running Hosted Exchange 2013 integrated with Outlook 2013 and Lync, for unified anytime, anywhere business email, collaboration, instant messaging and conferencing. This power trio will greatly improve productivity, while increasing agility and better aligning IT costs.
We love the forgotten attachment reminder in Outlook 2013. What feature stands out most for you in the latest Outlook?