You might not jump for joy when you think about email, but spending time in your inbox is a necessity in your workday. Many companies make use of Outlook for email, and that’s a wonderful thing, because it’s got some pretty nifty tricks up its sleeve.
Here are five productivity hacks in Outlook that you’ll want to get familiar with to save yourself some time (and even enhance your focus).
1. View your inbox and calendar at the same time
If you have a dual monitor set-up, you can view your calendar on one screen and your inbox on the other. If you’re working remotely on a laptop, you could shrink your window panes so that your inbox takes up half of your screen and your calendar takes up the other half.
Simply right-click on the window type on the navigation pane at the bottom of the screen (e.g., the calendar icon shown in the bottom pane) and select “Open in New Window.” Alternatively, you can go to File -> New -> Main Window.
Drag that window over to your second monitor, and now you can easily craft your email on the options for your next meeting while conveniently viewing your calendar.
2. Use multiple time zones to schedule meetings quicker
Outlook has a number of small features that pack a big punch when it comes to saving you time and mental mathematics. Rather than trying to calculate what time it is in the UK when you’re scheduling your next meeting with a supplier, let Outlook pull up two time zones at once for your schedule.
Here’s the sequence of steps you’ll need to add a second timezone to your Outlook:
- Under the “File” ribbon, click “Options”
- Click on “Calendar”
- Find “Time Zones”
- Label your current time zone something short, like LA or NY
- Then click on “Show a second time zone”
- Select the time zone you often need and label it as well
Now, when you view your calendar in day or week mode, you’ll be able to see the two time zones, side-by-side along the left-hand side of the screen. On a Mac, you’ll go to the Outlook menu and select “Preferences” instead of File -> Options.
3. Keep active project folders within arm’s reach
Maybe you’re an Outlook Ninja already and have archived your emails from projects that are no longer on-the-go. Or, maybe you’re like everyone else and have dozens of project folders (or client folders) to organize your inbox.
How many times do you have to scroll through that list of folders to find the project you’re currently working on? Likely, a lot. Save yourself that hassle, and add your current projects to Favorites by right-clicking on the folder and selecting “Show in Favorites.” Favorites are shown at the top of the Outlook navigation pane, keeping them within easy reach.
4. Have Outlook file emails for you
Let’s take the step above a little bit further, shall we? You can make use of Rules within Outlook to have certain emails automatically filed into the appropriate folder.
For example, if you have a client named Jane Customer, then you could have Outlook file every email from her into a folder for her project work called Jane’s 2021 Project.
After the next email you receive from her, right-click on it and select “Rules.” Then select “Always moves messages from” and finally, you’ll click on Jane’s 2021 Project folder. Now you don’t even have to drag and drop emails. On a Mac, when you select the message, you’ll then go to the Tools menu, select “Rules,” and then click on the + to create a new one.
5. Turn off (most) notifications
You’ve heard it a million times before: to be more productive and keep your train of thought, you need to eliminate distractions. Easier said than done if you’re working in an office environment where anyone can just pop by for a quick question.
Even if you’re working remotely now, you’ve likely got interruptions you didn’t have before, like children (fur babies and human ones) demanding your attention.
The key is to eliminate as much of the distractions as possible. Sometimes you can turn off all notifications, from all apps, including Outlook. But sometimes, you can’t. Outlook is smart, and has a great in-between option, again using the Rules function. Find an email from a person you need to respond quickly to; it could be:
- Your boss
- Your kids
- Your most important (impatient) client
Right-click on that email, select “Rules” and “Create Rule…” Now you’ll see a list of options in a dialog box, where you can choose how you wish to be alerted with an email is received from this person. You could have it display the visual notification or an audible alert.