Here at Lucid Systems, we like to help our clients make the most of their software. You may have recently read our article about making the most of Microsoft 365. There are many features available to help your business work more effectively, as well as some tools that you could be using instead of paying for third-party apps and subscriptions.

We know how frustrating it can be to have a complicated email inbox. If you’re struggling to find an email from a colleague or customer, it can slow you down and prevent you from working effectively. Thankfully, there are a number of tools that you can use within Outlook that will help to organise your inbox and help you to work quickly and easily.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we know all of the hints and tricks that can help you to improve your efficiency with Microsoft’s suite of products.

Here are a few practical suggestions to help you organise your inbox using Outlook.

1.      Make the most of folders

If you’re organised, we’re sure that you already make use of the folders feature. It allows you to move emails into specific files, giving you the opportunity to group all emails from particular projects, clients or customers.

Image of an email inbox with the phrase "folders will help you to organise your Outlook inbox"

  • To create a new folder, simply right click the left-hand column of your Outlook, and select New Folder.
  • You can create an array of subfolders and drag and drop your emails into those folders making your inbox more organised than ever before.

2.      Rules can sort your emails into specific folders automatically

The rules feature is where your individual folders can become more useful. You can set your Outlook inbox to send all incoming emails from a specific email address to a specified folder.

Email rules will allow you to automatically filter emails into specific folders

That way, they don’t need to come into your inbox at all!

You can set your rules to allocate emails to specific folders based upon originating email addresses, sender names, and even keywords.

The rules function can be very effective when you take time on annual leave – you can automatically filter specific emails to individual folders, allowing you to prioritise your emails. For example, setting up folders such as “immediate”, “to do”, “to be followed up” or “someday” could allow you to filter emails in your absence, freeing up valuable time and reducing the number of emails you come back to.

  • To set up a specific rule, right click a message.
  • Select Rules.
  • Choose “always move messages from [name/email]”.
  • Select the preferred folder or select New to create a new folder.
  • Click OK.

3.      Reducing spam in Outlook

One of the easiest ways to reduce unwanted emails into your inbox is to make sure that you use an email protection software such as Barracuda anti-spam. This is designed to catch spam or malicious emails, preventing them from reaching your inbox entirely.

This is an essential part of any inbox maintenance because you need to protect yourself and your business from any potential threats.

4.      Make the most of a Focused inbox

Outlooked Focused inbox feature is an intuitive AI tool that allows you to split your inbox into two categories – the ‘focused’ section and the ‘other’ section. The AI functionality will learn which emails are important to you by monitoring your inbox usage and will naturally filter emailed into the ‘focused’ inbox. This is an effective way of being able to prioritise your emails automatically and filter out unnecessary emails such as automatically generated notifications or bulk emails and mailers.

  • To turn the Focused inbox on, select the view tab
  • Click on Show Focused Inbox. You can alternate between the “focused” and “other” inboxes
  • As emails arrive in your inbox, right click on the emails and select either “move to focused/other” or “always move to focused/other.” The more you use this feature, the quicker the AI software will be able to automatically do this for you.
  1. Are you using Outlooks task list?

The Outlook task list is perfect for setting yourself reminders to respond to emails before a time-limited deadline.

The task list function works effectively with the to-do list part of Outlook. It allows you to create a list of activities and email reminders without clogging up your inbox. For example, you may need to remind yourself to reply to an email by the end of the week – but if your inbox is continually receiving new emails, you could lose sight of the initial message and forget to reply.

The tasks list feature allows you to create pop up reminders to respond to specific messages.

  • Simply drag an email across to the task list icon on the left-hand screen of your Outlook inbox.
  • From here, you can add a deadline date and set a preferred time and date for your reminder. Your task will then pop up like a meeting reminder, to alert you to the task.

6.      One-click clean-up is perfect for post-holiday emails

One click cleanup in Outlook is a useful tool

Whether you’re returning from annual leave, or simply have too many emails piled up, you can significantly reduce the number of emails you have to deal with in just a few clicks with Outlook’s clean-up function. Rather than showing every single email, it allows you to automatically convert emails into a singular thread. This means that if an email has been responded to in your absence (perhaps you’ve just been copied in to an email), it will be removed from your inbox, freeing up your time.

  • In the Home tab of Outlook, click the ‘Clean up’ button.
  • You can choose between ‘clean up conversation’, ‘clean up folder’ or ‘clean up folder and subfolders’

7.      Become more efficient with quick parts and default responses

The final tip to help you work more effectively, is to create default responses. These are useful for people receiving common questions – such as those in customer service job roles.

Quick parts for default responses means that you do not need to repeatedly type the same information. Instead, you can insert a prepared response into your email replies, without having to find something to copy and paste.

  • Pop out a reply or new email. Place your cursor into the message area.
  • Within the Insert menu, there is a Quick Parts box in between Text Box and Word Art.
  • Select an existing Quick Part or one of the other options.

How to create a new Quick Part default message.

  • To add a new Quick Part response to your library, select and highlight your phrasing from the body of an email message.
  • Click the “Insert” tab.
  • Within the “Insert” menu, click “Quick Parts,” and select “Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.”

Not yet using Microsoft 365?

We hope that you find these tips useful. There are some handy hints that can help your staff to work far more productively.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can help you make the most of your Microsoft 365 subscription.

If you’re currently working on a different system (perhaps you’re making the most of Google Workspace) why not talk to us about the options available to your business through Microsoft? We can discuss the options and help to migrate your business operations with no downtime for your employees.

We work with small and medium-sized businesses across the East of England, specialising in affordable and proactive IT support services.

To find out how we can help your staff work more effectively, please phone us on 01473 355199

IT SUPPORT

Jamie Pope

Service Director

About The Author

Service Director Jamie Pope always knew he wanted to be involved in IT support services; after all, it was something that his father had always done.

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