By Jay Welty
We all get busy in our day. It’s easy to miss or underutilize the things that can help make our lives easier and more organized. We generally don’t even think about how many emails we get in just one day, and we certainly never seem to have the time to explore Outlook’s features and see how we could benefit from using them. But the truth is, there are many Outlook features that could improve the quality of your day-to-day work life — and you probably don’t even know about most of them.
1. Outlook Rules
While many people actually do know about this feature, it’s one of the most underutilized. Rules let you automate what happens to an email based on specific requirements.
Whether it’s who the email is from, a word or phrase in the subject line, who the email is sent to, or another requirement (see the first picture below for an idea of how many conditions there are), you can set up a rule to decide what will automatically happen to that email. For high-priority emails, you can have the rule play a unique sound when a specific email comes into your inbox or display as a new window. For lower-priority emails, you can have the rule move the email to a specific folder. You can even set emails to archive after a certain number of days. (See the second picture below for a list of actions you can take with an email.)
Adam Friese, Network Specialist at Wipfli client Fox Converting, says, “Rules are definitely underappreciated. They have helped me quite a bit with prioritizing my work as an admin — especially when it comes to cutting down noise. Some of the software we use generates notification emails. While these messages do contain important info, my help desk notifications and other more important messages might get lost in the mix if I didn't have a way to automatically organize everything coming in.”
If you do set up rules to send specific emails to folders, make sure to check these folders at least on a weekly basis to see what was sent there, delete emails or even unsubscribe if you find you’re never reading them.
You can find “Rules” on the “Home” tab of Outlook in the “Move” category.
2. Quick Steps
Quick Steps is a little bit like rules, but with even more automation involved. And unlike its rules cousin, it’s far more obscure and underutilized.
Quick Steps let you do things like forward an email to your manager, reply to and delete certain repetitive emails, mark selected emails as complete and move them to a folder, and more — all with one click of a button. You can set up these actions pretty easily, and whenever you come across an email that you have a specific Quick Steps action for, you can click the type of Quick Steps, and the action you set up will automatically happen.
This could certainly make your email life easier! (Not to mention your inbox more organized.) It can also help prevent mistakes. I have two clients whose names both start with “Fox.” When dragging emails to my folders in Outlook, I have more than once accidentally dragged one Fox client’s email into the other Fox client’s folder. Quick Steps would prevent that from happening.
You can find “Quick Steps” as a category on the “Home” tab of Outlook.
3. Folder Clean Up
Folder clean up is very useful, as it helps you get rid of redundant messages. In the desktop version of Outlook, we get a separate email instance for every time someone replies to an email, which clogs up our inboxes. You can clean up these long email chains via folder clean up, leaving you with just the most recent instance of that email. (It archives the older chains, too, as an added bonus.)
To use folder clean up, just right click on a folder and select “Clean Up Folder.”
4. Multiple Windows
Have you ever wanted to cross check your calendar when replying to an email? The multiple windows feature in the desktop version of Outlook may blow your mind. Just right click one of the lower left icons (inbox, calendar, contacts, etc.), select “Open in New Window,” and it will do just that — pop it out into a new window! No more going back and forth all day from your inbox to your calendar.
5. Delay Delivery
This is a pretty useful feature, especially for certain roles in your business. Delay delivery allows you to schedule an email to go out at a later time. You can precraft certain emails to go out while you’re out of the office or on vacation. If you’re sending a news-related email, marketing-related email or some other mass email, you can schedule it to go out at a time and day when readership is typically higher.
I personally use it to schedule welcome letters for clients after they join Wipfli. I don’t always have time to sit down and write the email at the moment a client signs on with us, but if I can find the time a couple days ahead, “delay delivery” gives me peace of mind knowing that the email already exists and will welcome the client when appropriate. You can even add attachments to the email.
To use “Delay Delivery,” just click “New Email” on the “Home” tab, then go to the “Options” tab in that new email. You’ll find “Delay Delivery” in the “More Options” tab of the ribbon.
Leveraging Outlook’s Capabilities
What else aren’t you utilizing in Outlook? It may be worth taking a break during the day to poke around Outlook and see what features you could be taking advantage of to make your life easier. Outlook is a very robust tool; small businesses even use it as a CRM for client management. What it comes down to is, you can use Outlook for what you need it for. It has so many capabilities you might not even be aware of. But through a little bit of research, you can find a diamond of a feature you wish you’d been using all this time!
Want to learn more about Microsoft Outlook’s capabilities or its other applications that could support your business? Contact the technology consultants at Wipfli.