Tips for Saving Time & Taking Control of Your Inbox

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Accordingly to a recent study, workers spend approximately 50 minutes a day sorting through, responding to and creating e-mail messages.

If you are buried in e-mail messages and are overwhelmed by the amount of information you manage daily, check out these helpful time saving tips.

Note: Most of the tips below work on Microsoft Outlook 2000!

Let Rules Control Your Inbox

Use your Rules Wizard to establish rules that automatically file, delete, highlight, forward, or prioritize incoming and outgoing messages. You can arrange for undesirable e-mail to be sent automatically to a "junk" folder or to be alerted with a sound when you receive an urgent e-mail. Once you set the rules the way you want them, you can apply those rules to instantly clean up information that already exists. Access the Rules Wizard from your Tools menu on Outlook.

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Customize Your E-Mail Your Way

Outlook offers several options for viewing your e-mail, so you can prioritize the most important messages. Organize your Inbox by who sent a message, the subject of a message, or when it arrived. Or choose from a variety of other views that highlight unread messages or those you've received within the last seven days. You can find all of these options by opening the View menu, pointing to Current View, and clicking the views you want.

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Preview Your E-Mail Messages

You can use Preview Pane or AutoPreview options in Outlook to preview a portion of each e-mail message and determine if you need to read it in its entirety. With AutoPreview, you can view the first three lines of each message in the main Outlook window before opening the message. In the Preview Pane, you can read the content of a message, open attachments, follow a hyperlink, and respond to meeting requests in a separate window at the bottom of the screen—all without opening the specific message. To activate one these options, open the View menu and click AutoPreview or Preview Pane.

Locate and Organize E-Mail

The Find and Organize tools help you conduct fast, easy searches for specific e-mail messages, appointments, and tasks, and they walk you through the steps required to organize your Inbox efficiently. You can create folders, rules, formatting, and views that do everything from identifying junk e-mail to applying a specified color to e-mail messages sent by a particular person. You can locate the Find and Organize tools by opening the Tools menu.

Create Your Own Personal Filing System

Just like using a filing cabinet in your office, you can create custom folders and store your e-mail as you read it. This makes it easier to locate particular e-mail messages and save them for future reference. To see these folders, make sure the Folder List is visible. If it isn't, open the View menu and click Folder List. To create new folders and subfolders, click New Folder on the File menu.

Use Outlook to Convert a Message into an Appointment and More

Does the following situation sound familiar to you? You have a lengthy e-mail exchange with your co-worker and then you realize that a face-to-face meeting is necessary after all. Rather than creating a new meeting request and then copying and pasting text from the e-mail message, use the AutoCreate feature to create a meeting request from information in the e-mail thread. You can also use this feature to transform a contact into a task or a note into an appointment. Just drag your e-mail message from your inbox into your calendar and create your meeting.

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Some helpful tips on managing your time!

As the volume of your e-mail continues to increase, you may also want to consider using these strategies for managing your ever-expanding Inbox.

  • Schedule uninterrupted time to process e-mail.
  • Once you open a piece of e-mail, never close it without immediately taking some kind of action.
  • Try to spend no more than two minutes processing an e-mail message. For example, forward it on to others to handle, delete it, or schedule a meeting to resolve the issue raised in the mail. You'll be amazed how much e-mail you can handle in less than two minutes.
  • If you know it will take longer than two minutes to process a particular e-mail message and you cannot delegate it or take some other appropriate action, defer it to your task list. To do so, drag the message onto your Tasks folder. Then identify the next action in the Subject line, assign a due date, and file it in an appropriate category.

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