7 ways to organize your email
With meetings and the general chaos of a normal work day, your email Inbox can
quickly get cluttered. An unorganized mailbox can make it difficult to find the
email you need and know where to get started. This messy situation can be
remedied. Microsoft Outlook offers great tools that help you organize your
messages in meaningful, easy-to-control ways. Whether you're using Outlook 2010,
Outlook 2007 or still using Outlook 2003, you'll be able to stay on top of your
Not using Outlook at all? Perhaps you're using Outlook Express, or you?re using
Windows Live Mail or Windows Live Hotmail. These programs offer some features
similar to those described here for Outlook, but they don?t offer the same
breadth of tools for email management. Use the Microsoft Outlook Connector to
add your Hotmail account to Outlook, and then you can use these tips to organize
your Hotmail also. Or read about the Hotmail features that can help you organize
information in your Hotmail system. For instance, you can combine mail from your
other email accounts, like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, so that you can receive, read,
and respond to all your email in one place.
You can use one or more of the tools covered in this article to help shrink your
Inbox and make it easier to find the information you need.
1. Sort messages quickly
Outlook 2010 has a great new feature for organizing messages by date and
arranging them by Conversation. Using this feature, messages that share the same
subject appear as Conversations that can be viewed expanded or collapsed by
clicking the icon to the left of the Subject line. The messages within each
Conversation are sorted with the newest message on top. When a new message is
received, the entire Conversation moves to the top of your message list, making
tracking email threads a snap.
To turn on Conversations, on the View tab, in the Conversations group, select
the Show as Conversations check box. You can reduce the size of a conversation
with Clean Up, which deletes duplicate messages in the conversation. On the Home
tab, in the Delete group, click Clean Up, and then click Clean Up Conversation.
In all versions of Outlook, you can find messages in mailbox folders more
quickly by changing how they're sorted in your email folders. For example, you
can arrange your email by date, sender, file size, or level of importance.
2. Group similar messages in folders
By creating new mail folders you can group messages related to each other. For
example, you can group messages by topic, project, contact, or other categories
that make sense to you. You can even create a folder for all the messages from
your manager or that include tasks that you have to complete.
* To create a new folder in Outlook 2010, on the Folder tab, in the New group,
click New Folder.
* To create a new folder in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003, on the File menu,
point to New and then click Folder.
3. Create Search Folders to find messages fast
Search Folders are a quick and convenient way to look at predefined collections
of email messages. They don't actually store any messages themselves, but
instead are virtual folders that offer a view of all the messages stored in your
mailbox depending on the attributes you've defined. Outlook provides default
Search folders?such as Unread Mail?but you can also create your own. For
instance, you can use Search Folders to help you find all the information
related to a particular project, an important client, or an upcoming conference.
Create a Search Folder in Outlook 2010:
* In Mail, in the Folder tab, in the New group, click New Search Folder.
Create a Search Folders in either Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007.
* In Mail, on the File menu, point to New, and then click Search Folder.
In all versions of Outlook, specify whether you want to use a predefined Search
Folder or create your own custom folder, and then follow the instructions on the
4. Route mail efficiently using mailbox rules
By creating rules for Outlook, you can automatically perform actions on both
incoming and outgoing messages based on the criteria you establish. For
instance, you can automatically forward to your manager all messages sent by a
certain person as soon as they arrive, assign the category Sales to all messages
you send that have the word "sales" in the Subject line, and much, much more.
Routing mail efficiently not only organizes your mail for you?but also frees up
your time from performing routing tasks.
5. Reduce unwanted email with junk filters
Keep distracting and unwanted messages out of your inbox by using Outlook Junk
Email filters. These filters send email flagged as junk to a separate mail
folder under your Mailbox. You can review the contents of this folder to ensure
that no legitimate messages have been sent there, and if they have, you can
adjust the filter to avoid flagging such messages in the future.
6. Assign a color category
Assign a color category to a group of interrelated email messages, as well as to
other items in Outlook such as notes, contacts, and appointments, so that you
can easily identify and organize them. For example, keep track of all the
messages, meetings, and contacts for the Morris project by creating a category
named Morris Project and assigning items to it.
7. Flag for follow up
You can use the Flag for Follow-Up feature to flag email messages, tasks, and
more to help classify them or mark them for action. Flags can remind you to
follow up on an issue, indicate a request for someone else, or set a reminder
for a message or contact. Best yet, they make organizing your mail folders a
breeze, because you know exactly what to do?and when to do it. Note that when
you create a task and set a due date, the task is automatically flagged, so that
you don?t let that due date slip past you.