How to Boost Your Productivity with Outlook: Tips and Tricks You May Not Know

 

Outlook is more than just an email client. It’s a powerful tool that can help you manage your time, tasks, and communication more efficiently. Here are some tips and tricks that can take your Outlook productivity to the next level. This blog post is made to be consumed in chunks. Please try one tip at a time; you can navigate directly to your intended section from the contents here:

One of the most powerful features of Outlook is the ability to create rules that automate your email management. Rules are sets of conditions and actions that apply to incoming or outgoing messages. You can use rules to sort, organize, delete, forward, reply, or flag emails based on various criteria, such as sender, subject, attachment, or content. Rules can help you save time, reduce clutter, and prioritize your communication. In this section, we will show you how to create a custom rule that filters out unwanted emails from your inbox.

 

Create a Custom Rule to Filter Out Unwanted Emails

Do you get a lot of emails that you don’t need or want to read? Maybe they are newsletters, promotions, or spam that clutter your inbox and distract you from the important messages. You can create a custom rule that automatically marks these emails as read and moves them to a specific folder. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: Newsletter Rule

  1. Go to the Home tab and click on Rules > Create Rule.
  2. In the Create Rule dialog box, click on Advanced Options.
  3. In the Rules Wizard, check the box that says “with specific words in the message body” and click on the blue link.
  4. In the Search Text dialog box, type “unsubscribe” and click on Add. This will look for any emails that have the word “unsubscribe” in the message body, which usually indicates that they are usually Newsletters.
  5. Click on OK and then Next.
  6. In the next step of the Rules Wizard, check the boxes that say “mark it as read” and “move it to the specified folder” and click on the blue links.
  7. In the Mark as Read dialog box, click on OK.
  8. In the Move to Folder dialog box, select the folder where you want to move these emails. You can create a new folder by clicking on New.
  9. Click on OK and then Next.
  10. In the next step of the Rules Wizard, you can add any exceptions to the rule if you want. For example, you can exclude emails from certain senders or with certain subjects from the rule. Click on Next.
  11. You can add sender exclusions for those you want to see. Such as Except from Sender and add senders such as Plex IT 😊
  12. In the last step of the Rules Wizard, give your rule a name and make sure the box that says “Run this rule now on messages already in Inbox” is checked. This will apply the rule to the existing emails in your inbox.
  13. Click on Finish and then OK.

Now you have a custom rule that will filter out unwanted emails and keep your inbox clean and organized.

 

Create a Custom Rule to Delay Sending Emails: For Those Oops Moments

Have you ever sent an email and then regretted it? Maybe you forgot to attach a file, made a typo, or realized you said something wrong. You can avoid these mistakes by creating a custom rule that delays sending your emails for a few minutes. This will give you a chance to review your emails and make any changes before they are sent. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: Delay Send Rule

  1. Go to the Home tab and click on Rules > Manage Rules & Alerts.
  2. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, click on New Rule.
  3. In the Start from a blank rule section, select “Apply rule on messages I send” and click on Next.
  4. In the next step of the Rules Wizard, you don’t need to select any conditions. Just click on Next.
  5. In the warning message that pops up, click on Yes.
  6. In the next step of the Rules Wizard, check the box that says “defer delivery by a number of minutes” and click on the blue link.
  7. In the Defer Delivery dialog box, enter the number of minutes you want to delay sending your emails. For example, you can enter 2 to delay sending your emails for 2 minutes.
  8. Click on OK and then Next.
  9. In the next step of the Rules Wizard, you can add any exceptions to the rule if you want. For example, you can exclude emails that are marked with high importance from the rule. Click on Next.
  10. In the last step of the Rules Wizard, give your rule a name and make sure the box that says “Turn on this rule” is checked.
  11. Click on Finish and then OK.

Now you have a custom rule that will delay sending your emails for a few minutes. You can find your delayed emails in the Outbox folder and edit or delete them before they are sent.

 

Use Quick Parts to Create and Insert Templates: For Those Repetitive Emails

Do you often write similar emails or use the same phrases or sentences in your messages? You can save time and effort by using Quick Parts to create and insert templates. Quick Parts are reusable pieces of content that you can store in a gallery and insert into your emails with a few clicks. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: QuickParts

  1. Open a new email and type the content that you want to save as a template. For example, you can type a greeting, a signature, or a standard reply.
  2. Select the content that you want to save and go to the Insert tab and click on Quick Parts > Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.
  3. In the Create New Building Block dialog box, give your template a name and a description. You can also choose a category and a save location for your template.
  4. Click on OK.

Now you have created a template and saved it as a Quick Part. To insert it into your email, go to the Insert tab and click on Quick Parts. You will see your template in the gallery. Just click on it and it will be inserted into your email. You can learn more about Quick Parts by exploring a previous post here.

 

Use Quick Steps to Automate Multiple Actions: Create Your Own Automations

Do you often perform the same actions on your emails, such as moving them to a folder, marking them as read, or forwarding them to someone? You can automate these actions by using Quick Steps. Quick Steps are shortcuts that let you perform multiple actions on your emails with one click or keyboard shortcut. Here’s a look at a basic Quick Steps function:

Outlook Tips: Quick Steps

  1. Go to the Home tab and click on the arrow in the Quick Steps
  2. In the Quick Steps dialog box, click on New > Custom.
  3. In the Edit Quick Step dialog box, give your Quick Step a name and choose an icon.
  4. In the Actions section, click on Add Action and choose the action that you want to perform on your email. For example, you can choose Move to Folder and select the folder where you want to move your email.
  5. You can add more actions by clicking on Add Action again and choosing another action. For example, you can choose Mark as Read to mark your email as read after moving it to a folder.
  6. In the Shortcut key section, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to your Quick Step. For example, you can choose Ctrl + Shift + 1 to activate your Quick Step with these keys.
  7. Click on Finish.

 

Use Quick Steps to Create To Do Tasks: Keep Track of Your Tasks

Now we all have extensive To Do’s and a lot of those tasks come from emails. You can easily add tasks to your To Do list directly from your emails using Quick Steps.

Outlook Tips: Quick Steps - To Do

  1. Click on the Quick Step icon in the Home tab and select Create New.
  2. Type a name for your Quick Step, such as Create Task and Move.
  3. In the Actions section, click on Choose an Action and select Create a Task. Then, enter the subject and due date for your task.
  4. Click on Add Action and choose another action, such as Move to Folder. Then, choose the folder where you want to move your email, such as Processed.
  5. In the Shortcut key section, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to your Quick Step, such as Ctrl + Shift + 3.
  6. Click on Finish.

Now you have created a Quick Step that will perform multiple actions on your email with one click or keyboard shortcut. To use it, select the email that you want to apply the Quick Step to and go to the Home tab and click on the Quick Step icon. Or, you can use the keyboard shortcut that you assigned to your Quick Step.

 

Learn Your Keyboard Shortcuts: Become a Keyboard Warrior

This is more of a practice makes perfect strategy, but accumulated knowledge of keyboard shortcuts can start saving major time. A few of our favorites are:

  1. Ctrl + R (reply to an email)
  2. Alt + R (reply all)
  3. Alt + W (forward an email)
  4. Ctrl + G (go to any date on your calendar)
  5. Ctrl + Shift + M (creating a new email)
  6. Ctrl + 1 (opening an email)
  7. Ctrl + 2 (opening calendar)
  8. Ctrl + 3 (accessing contacts list)
  9. Ctrl + 4 (opening tasks)

 

Delay Delivery of a Message: When You’re Working Late or Don’t Need an Instant Response

You can schedule an email message to be sent at a later date and time, instead of sending it immediately. This is useful when you want to plan ahead or avoid sending messages during certain hours. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: Delay Delivery

  1. In the message window, go to the Options tab and click on Delay Delivery in the More Options
  2. In the Delivery options section of the Properties dialog box, check the box for Do not deliver before and select the date and time you want the message to be sent.
  3. Click Close and then click Send. The message will be saved in your Outbox folder until the delivery time.
  4. If you want to change or cancel the delivery time, open the message from your Outbox folder and make the changes in the Properties dialog box.

 

Set Up Your Quick Access Toolbar: Get Instant Access to Your Productivity Tools

Some of these tools can save us huge amounts of time but making them easier to access can save even more. The Quick Access Toolbar is a customizable toolbar that lets you access your favorite commands with one click. You can add any command that you use frequently to the Quick Access Toolbar and save time and clicks. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: Quick Access Toolbar

  1. Go to the File tab and click on Options.
  2. In the Outlook Options dialog box, click on Quick Access Toolbar. (Or Right Click on Whitespace on the ribbon and select show Quick Access Toolbar)
  3. In the Choose commands from section, select the category that contains the command you want to add. For example, you can select All Commands to see all available commands in Outlook.
  4. In the list of commands, find the command you want to add and click on it. For example, you can find the Delay Delivery command and click on it.
  5. Click on the Add button to add the command to the Quick Access Toolbar.
  6. You can also right click on your command in the Ribbon and select add to Quick Access Toolbar
  7. You can repeat these steps to add more commands to the Quick Access Toolbar.
  8. Click on OK.

Now you have set up your Quick Access Toolbar with your favorite commands. You can find the Quick Access Toolbar above or below the ribbon, depending on your preference. You can also customize the position and order of the commands on the Quick Access Toolbar by clicking on the arrow next to it and choosing More Commands.

 

Create Custom Search Folders: Folders That Update with the Info You Need.

Do you often search for the same emails or criteria in your Outlook? You can save time and hassle by creating custom search folders that will show you the emails that match your search criteria. Custom search folders are virtual folders that update automatically and display the emails that meet the criteria that you specify. An example of this is emails from your CEO sent in the last week. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: Custom Search Folders

  1. Go to the Folder
  2. Click on New Search Folder.
  3. In the New Search Folder dialog box, choose either a predefined search folder or create your own custom search folder.
  4. To create a custom search folder, scroll down to the Custom section and click on Create a custom Search Folder.
  5. Click on Choose.
  6. In the Custom Search Folder dialog box, give your search folder a name and click on Criteria.
  7. In the Search Folder Criteria dialog box, specify the criteria for filtering your emails (e.g., From, To, Subject, Categories, or Date).
  8. Click OK in the Search Folder Criteria dialog box.
  9. Click OK again in the Custom Search Folder dialog box.
  10. Click OK once more to finalize.

Now you have created a custom search folder that will show you the emails that match your criteria. You can find your custom search folder in the Search Folders section of the Navigation Pane. You can also modify or delete your custom search folder by right-clicking on it and choosing Properties or Delete.

 

Use the Cleanup Tool to Delete Redundant Emails: When Threads Get Out of Control

Do you have a lot of emails that are redundant or unnecessary? Maybe they are older versions of conversations that have been updated or replies that only say “thank you” or “ok”. You can use the Cleanup Tool to delete these emails and free up space in your mailbox. The Cleanup Tool will analyze your emails and delete the ones that are duplicates or subsets of other emails. Here’s how:

Outlook Tips: Outlook Cleanup

  1. Select the folder you want to clean up (e.g., your Inbox or a subfolder).
  2. Go to the Home
  3. Click on Clean Up and then select Clean Up Folder.
  4. In the warning message that appears, click on Clean Up Folder.

The Cleanup Tool will delete redundant emails and move them to the Deleted Items folder, where you can review and restore them if needed. Now, you have used the Cleanup Tool to delete redundant emails and keep your mailbox tidy and organized.

In this post, you’ve discovered how to master Outlook like a pro! You’ve learned to hide newsletters, delay your emails for those accidental mistakes, create template and create your own automations. Plus, you’ve become a whiz keyboard shortcuts, delaying your emails, organising your emails into custom searches and cleaning up unwanted emails, making those redundant emails disappear and freeing up valuable space in your mailbox. Outlook isn’t just powerful and versatile; it’s your ultimate sidekick for communication, collaboration, and managing your personal and professional life. With these tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can now use Outlook more effectively and efficiently. Happy emailing!