Time Management With Microsoft Outlook At A Glance–Part III

staying on the surfacePart I covers key project management principles applied when using Microsoft Outlook. Part II shows how to manage information using Microsoft Outlook. In this post I will show you key techniques with Microsoft Outlook that save time and keep you on the surface vs. drowning in information overflow.

  • Zero items Inbox. Keep your inbox clean, ideally with zero items in it. If there are items there it means you have unplanned work items. There is a reason why you purge your mail box almost daily. Same should be done with your email inbox. Keep it clean by following 3 simple rules: action items tag and move to the backlog/hotplate, info nuggets move to your KB folders, delete the rest.
  • Prioritization.  The ultimate outcome of the prioritization is having clear list of high priority action items that make your hot plate. Organize your hot plate list using email items – see Zero items inbox. Tag the items with the categories. Categories are your projects that are important. If you have hard times to categorize specific email item chances it’s low pri – delete it, or file it in your KB.
  • Backup and Restore.  Keep all your Outlook files, usually PST files, in one place. Create a folder called PSTs and every time you create new PST file make sure it’s created there vs. default location. That way it’s easy to grab these files and put it where ever you want. Very handy for backup/restore procedures. Usually it happens when upgrading to a new laptop. Saves ton of time.
  • Follow up. Don’t use flags – it will only lead to more distraction. Instead, put followup items into your backlog or hotplate list, where other high priority emails are – either send email to yourself and move to the hotplate or when sending an email that requires followup put yourself in CC so it lands in your inbox, then you move it from there to your hotplate. When comes the time to process relevant emails for specific project you will naturally bump into this followup email – it will be contextual vs. random.
  • Time budgeting. Block time in your calendar proactively and defensively. I do it each Monday morning week ahead. Allocate your time to high priority work items from the hotplate – this makes sure your high priority work items are given adequate time budget.
  • Reducing distraction. Disable all reminders and flags – they are pure distraction. No incoming emails reminders of any kind, no flags, nothing.
  • Most used shortcuts.
    • Ctrl+Shift+S – Self post to current folder.
    • Ctrl+Shift+M – New email.
    • Ctrl+R – Reply to selected email.
    • Ctrl+F – Forward selected email[s].
    • Ctrl+Shift+V – Move selected email[s].
    • Ctrl+Shift+Y – Copy selected email[s].
    • Ctrl+1/2/3 – Switch between emails, calendar, contacts.
    • Ctrl+E – search items.
    • Tab – switch focus forward
    • Shift+Tab – switch focus backward


image by mikebaird

Posted in: Time Management

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This blog is dedicated to share simple practices I that get me results.

7 Comments on "Time Management With Microsoft Outlook At A Glance–Part III"

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  1. If you say my Outlook, you would explode. It has 12,000 messages. I’m also a big user of the Red Flag button. I’ve done it for so long that it helps me, but I’m sure there’s a better way.

  2. Alik Levin says:

    I see almost it daily, I am used to it. I bet you have 4 types of emails there:
    * Action items
    * Reference/info nuggets
    * Something that was important once but not any more
    * Junk
    It’s easy fix. Go through it, leaving those from the first category. Filing the second one, and deleting 3 and 4. Set a limit to scan until specific date, say 6 months back, the rest gets the axe no matter what.
    Doing that you will save yourself ton of time touch same emails multiple times, it adds up to ton of time all-in-all.

  3. Lew S says:

    Although I have a tendency to let a few items stack up in my inbox, I’m usually pretty good at keeping it manageable. I am going to focus on budgeting my email time and turning off the distractions though.
    Thanks for the great advice.

  4. Alik Levin says:

    Thank you.
    Turning off reminders does wonders for me. Think of how much time you would save on cool downs and warm ups caused by these reminders.

  5. Shilpan says:

    Alik, I am going to save this article as it is really time saver for me. I am going to share with few friends so that they can benefit from these wonderful tips. I am really horrible at managing my in box. With my new found interest in minimalism, I have started to introspect every aspect of my life to eliminate clutter, and this article definitely will help me in that regard. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Alik Levin says:

    Thank you.
    Minimalism and decluttering are both good to make sure we have time and space for meaningful things in life. You declutter/minimize both tools and practices – this is key to success in my observation. Some folks keep using many tools w/decluttered practices, some use minimal toolset with convoluted practices. It’s both decluttered tool-set and the practices that make the difference though.

  7. Liara Covert says:

    Outlook is for the brave. You grow aware of what you require with prefect timing. You move on from what you outgrow when you are ready for something new.

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