Take Control of Your Outlook Inbox

OutlookE-mail on its own can be overwhelming, and trying to wrangle your inbox using Microsoft Outlook can be even more overwhelming. Even though Outlook can sometimes be intimidating, there are a lot of features that can actually simplify the way you work with your e-mail. Here are a few tips!

Start with a Plan

The #1 key to taking control of your inbox is to start your day with a plan in hand. We all know that the moment we open our inbox the potential is there for our day to be hijacked if we’re not careful. Review tasks you still need to complete before you dive into email. Then, re-prioritize as needed.

Changing Outlook’s Start Screen

When you open Outlook you can choose which aspect of Outlook should launch first. Consider changing Outlook to open your tasks page or a specific inbox folder to have a better view of what you need to accomplish.

  1. Click File.
  2. Click Options.
  3. Click Advanced.
  4. In the Outlook start and exit section, click Browse.
  5. Select the folder you would like to open when starting Outlook.

Commit to the 4 Ds

  1. Delete It.
  2. Delegate It – Can this be assigned as a task or forwarded?
  3. Do It – Will it take only a few minutes to process? If so, do it now.
  4. Delay It – Calendar the item or put on your task list so you will remember it later.

Remove Distractions

You may want to consider turning off desktop alerts for every single e-mail you receive, and instead set up rules to only notify you if certain people send you messages.

Turning Off Desktop Alerts

  1. Click File.
  2. Click Options.
  3. Click Mail.
  4. Deselect Display a Desktop Alert.

Creating Alerts for Specific People

  1. Mail AlertsClick File.
  2. Click Manage Rules and Alerts.
  3. Click New Rule.
  4. Select “Display mail from someone in the New Item Alert Window”.
  5. Under the Step 2 section, click the link people or public group.
  6. Specify the individual(s).
  7. Click the link to “specific message”.
  8. Enter your custom message for the alert.
  9. Click Next (enter additional criteria if needed).
  10. Click Finish.

Utilize Quick Steps

Quick StepsQuick Steps apply multiple actions at the same time to e-mail. This helps you quickly manage your mailbox. If you frequently move messages to a specific folder, you can do this in one click. Or, if you forward messages to a manager or peers, a one-click Quick Step can simplify the task. Quick Steps can even reply to a message and then file the original message away in other folders.

  1. Click the Home Tab and locate the Quick Steps section.
  2. Select the bottom drop down arrow and click Manage Quick Steps.
  3. Click Create New and choose the action(s) you desire. You will be prompted to enter a name for the quick step. (The order for entering a name for the rule and choosing actions will vary depending on the action you choose.) The Options button allows you to add multiple actions.
  4. Click Finish.

Quick Steps can be edited and deleted from the Manage Quick Steps dialog box.


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Published by

Zach Peterson

Zach is a Senior IT Training & Communications Consultant with OIT. Zach began his SMU career at the IT Help Desk in 2012 and joined the Training & Communications Team in 2015. He is a 2011 graduate from the University of North Texas and obtained a Master of Liberal Studies degree from SMU in 2018. He enjoys reading and collecting vintage and antique radio sets. He grew up in Valley View, Texas near Denton.