(Better) Organize You Email

Outlook2010_icon-1Starting a new job (or the first of the year) is a great time to research better ways to Organize your email. People that work in corporate America commonly know that receiving too many and sometimes very long emails goes along with the territory. So this post is about how to better organize your business email. Lifehackerspace has a great blog on how to do this effectively: it’s fast, easy to implement and works with the basic version on Microsoft Outlook. Given those three criteria, the system has 3 components: Categories, Follow-ups and Quick Steps.

CategoriesOutlook supports the use of categories that can be user defined. You can have multiple categories associated to a single email/task/calendar item.

Start by creating 3 categories: one for yourself, one for your boss (i.e. items to discuss in your next 1×1), and one for each of your direct staff (i.e. tasks assigned to people who work for you).

Follow-up: This feature allows you set up a task that can be associated to an email. You can pick Today, Tomorrow, This Week, Next Week, This Month, Next Month or custom dates. Avoid custom dates – too much typing.

Quick StepsThis is the key to everything. Quick Steps are like macros – they’ll run a bunch of simple commands at the press of a button.

For #2 and #3, imagine the following series of steps/actions for one your staff to act on. His name is Fred. In that scenario you’d want to:  1) Flag the message as something linked to Fred, 2) Create a follow up item and set the due date to be this week, 3) Move the original email of your inbox and into the 0 – current month folder, 4) Forward the message to Fred. Using  Quick Step, you can automate these 4 steps: that’s 4 things you can do with one click!

That’s it! You’re done. If you invest a few minutes thinking about the categories and rules that make most sense for your job – you will save yourself a lot of time!