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Almost every client we work with uses Microsoft Outlook as their trusted email solution. However, we still get questions all the time about how professionals can streamline and optimize their Outlook experience. So, we’ve put together an informative collection of Outlook time-saving tips – and a completely FREE training video to help you master them.
The great thing about Microsoft is that it really needs no introduction. In the realm of business IT solutions, there’s no denying that Microsoft 365 provides the familiar and dynamic solutions that organizations in every industry need to stay efficient and productive. So, when it comes to staying connected through email, it makes sense that Microsoft Outlook has long been the trusted email solution for organizations of all shapes and sizes.
Outlook shows no signs of fading away either. The trusted email solution has become even more essential as the world of work becomes increasingly virtualized. More and more organizations are working to set up and optimize remote work arrangements that help their teams take care of business, even under exceptional circumstances. This means professionals are relying on email communication more than ever before.
Since professional teams are spending more time than ever in their inboxes, many are looking for ways to save time and effort by optimizing their Outlook experience. In fact, we’ve been getting countless questions from clients about the best ways to streamline their use of Outlook in a way that saves time, eliminates redundancy, and promotes maximum productivity.
Our team of Microsoft experts prides itself on helping clients get the most out of every Microsoft application they use. So, we thought it would be a great idea to create a guide of tips and tricks that will help you and your team streamline and optimize your Outlook experience. We’ve even included a detailed training video to help you get the hang of these time-saving tips. Keep reading to become an Outlook optimization expert!
Have you ever thought about how much time you spend in your Outlook inbox every day? Whether you’re catching up on messages or just trying to manage and take control of your inbox, a lot of time can be lost in the black-hole of business email. In fact, our team of IT professionals gets questions from clients all the time about how to save time and effort by optimizing their Outlook experience. Luckily, we’ve created a 10-point playbook for how you and your team can work smarter and not harder in Microsoft Outlook.
Perhaps the best advice we can give when it comes to saving time in Microsoft Outlook is to start setting and using Rules. Simply put, using Rules turns Outlook into your very own, automated personal assistant. Think of all the things you do manually with Outlook. Guess what? All of these things can be automated by strategically setting and deploying Rules.
What Are Rules?
Rules are instructions that automatically process your Outlook messages using customized criteria and automated actions. You can use Rules for things like moving a message to a folder, assigning a message to a category, deleting messages, or forwarding messages to a contact or contact group.
How Can You Set Rules?
Let’s use an example to explain how you can set a Rule in Outlook. Let’s say you have a message in your inbox that you receive regularly – like a monthly newsletter. You know you want to read it eventually, but you’d like to move it out of your main inbox into another folder so you can go access and read it later. Here’s how to set a Rule that will automatically route these messages to your preferred folder:
Overall, the Rules function offers a great way to manage key communications from important colleagues, clients, and third parties. You can use Rules to make sure email messages are moved and forwarded to the correct places so that you stay organized and a step ahead of your inbox. You can even set a Rule that deletes pesky junk or spam emails you keep receiving even though you don’t want them. Imagine how much time you’ll save when unwanted emails are automatically pitched to the trash bin. Think about all the ways you might use Rules to save time in Outlook by automating the management and organization of received, sent, and forwarded mail.
Think about the main Outlook folders you use to store important content or messages you want to save and reference later. It normally takes several clicks to get to the folder you’re looking for. Luckily, however, in Outlook, you can take advantage of the Favourites function which will help you move emails to their designated folders in a more seamless fashion.
What are Favourite Folders?
Favourite Folders are the folders you most frequently use to sort and store important emails and information. Your Favourite Folders sit above the Navigation panel, which makes them easily accessible whenever you want to move messages to them or open the folders themselves to review their contents.
How Can You Set a Folder as a Favourite?
There are several different ways to set a folder as a Favourite. One is to simply drag and drop the desired Folder into the Favourites section above the Navigation panel. However, you can also access the Folder Tab on the Ribbon and select Add to Favourites. The great thing about how Favourite Folders are organized is that they’re just shortcuts. This means you can easily rearrange them in your preferred order by dragging and dropping.
You can also remove a Folder from your Favourites if you no longer want it there by simply right-clicking the Folder in the Favourites section and selecting Remove From Favourites. Keep in mind that when you do this, the Folder and its contents still exist – you’re just deleting the shortcut from your Favourites.
The best thing about having your Favourite Folders front and center is that you can easily click and drag emails into your most frequently used folders as you get them. You can also easily access your most frequently used folders to retrieve important information efficiently. All in all, Favourite Folders is another great way to optimize your Outlook user experience by keeping your inbox functionally organized.
Another great way to save time and prioritize productivity in Outlook is to convert email messages to tasks as needed. In short, we encourage you to STOP using your inbox itself as a scattered and chaotic to-do list. Instead, start converting messages to tasks so Outlook creates an actual to-do list for you that is neat, organized, and accessible.
What Does it Mean to Convert an Email to a Task?
Converting an email to a task takes the content you’ve received in an email and converts it to actionable items that you can categorize and set reminders for. This makes it easier for you to take tasks you’ve been assigned via email and organize them in a concrete list. This makes it way easier to track progress and ensure important tasks don’t get lost in the hustle-and-bustle of your inbox.
How Can you Convert an Email to a Task?
There are multiple ways for you to convert an email to an actionable task. Let’s use an example to breakdown the instructions. Let’s say you receive an email with sales figures that a colleague would like you to review and provide feedback on. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to do it until Monday but you want to make sure it’s on the top of your list after the weekend. Here’s how to convert the message to a task so you remember to follow-up:
Think of the time you’ll save by converting email messages into actionable to-do-list items. The great thing about this feature is that it offers a seamless way for you to review important email contents directly from your Outlook to-do list as you work, instead of requiring you to go sifting back through your inbox for relevant information.
You can also save time in Outlook by converting email messages to meetings and appointments. This makes it easier than ever to streamline email invitations directly to your Outlook Calendar and helps eliminate the dreaded back-and-forth that often occurs with scheduling.
What Does it Mean to Convert an Email to a Meeting?
Converting an email to a meeting is very much like converting an email to a task. However, in this case, we want to take email contents and convert them directly into a scheduled meeting or appointment in our Outlook Calendar. Again, this feature is designed to help you get important meetings and appointments scheduled and on the books efficiently by cutting out the need for long-winded email chains focused on scheduling.
How Can You Convert an Email to a Meeting?
To convert an email to a scheduled meeting or appointment, select the email you want to schedule and right-click-drag it all the way down the Navigation pane to your Calendar tab, and then let go. From here you’ll have a variety of options for how you want to schedule your appointment or meeting. You even have the option of inviting other attendees and attaching the original email contents so they are sent to everyone who receives the meeting invite.
The great thing about this feature is that it transforms scheduling nightmares into a seamless breeze. Did you get an email from a client who wants to meet up to discuss business? Or perhaps from a colleague who is hoping to get several team members together for a project meeting? Maybe it’s just your dentist sending an email reminder about your upcoming appointment. Forget the back-and-forth or tracking down your Calendar to confirm availability. Simply drag the email to your Calendar and Outlook will help you streamline the rest.
Another great way to save time and effort as you move through your Inbox is to enable the Read Aloud function. Read Aloud helps you get through mass amounts of email by reading them to you instead of leaving you glued to your screen, reading every word.
What is the Read Aloud Function?
Read Aloud – or Immersive Reader, as it’s dubbed in the web version of Outlook – allows you to hear the text of an email while following along. This means you can check mounds of daily email without staring at your screen for the first hour of your day
How Can you Access & Use the Read Aloud Function?
The first step is to assess whether or not your Outlook is equipped with the Read Aloud or Immersive Reader function. To confirm whether or not you have this feature or whether its enabled, and then explore how to enable and use it, follow these straightforward instructions:
The great thing about the Read Aloud function is that you can have your daily communications read to you in the tone and speed you prefer. This is a major Outlook time-saver because it makes it possible for you to stay productive, drink your morning coffee, and even multitask as you check email for the day. Think of the possibilities!
Not only do you have the option to have Outlook read your messages to you directly, but you also have the ability to have Outlook write your emails for you too! The Dictation function makes it easy for you to dictate important messages and have Outlook draft them up for you seamlessly.
What is the Dictation Function?
Outlook’s Dictation function allows you to use speak-to-text technology to easily create messages and content in Outlook. It’s just like using talk-to-text on a smartphone. However, it’s important to note that this feature is only available to users with the Microsoft 365 Outlook desktop application.
How Can You Use the Dictation Function?
You can use the dictation function to compose a new message or even a reply to a message you received. You can find the Dictation function under the Message Tab on the Ribbon where it’s listed as Dictate. Simply click on the Dictate option, look for the button to turn the feature on, and then start dictating! You can also use it in both the subject line or the body of the message. To insert punctuation at any time, simply say the punctuation explicitly. Remember, you can always go back and edit with your keyboard to correct things that didn’t register correctly while dictating.
Using the Dictate function is a simple way for you to save time and effort by creating and responding to email communications verbally instead of typing your thoughts out manually. Think of how many times a day this might help you streamline productivity and optimize your use of Outlook.
Another great way to be more productive and efficient in Outlook is to make use of the Delay Delivery function. Delay Delivery is a useful feature that will help you stop putting important email communications on the back-burner and make sure your to-do-list is never disrupted, no matter what time of day you might be working.
What is the Delay Delivery Function?
The Delay Delivery function allows you to compose emails and then schedule them to be sent automatically at a later time and date. This means you can get all your messages written at one time, but delay their delivery until a more appropriate time. This helps you keep your workflow moving and will ensure you don’t forget to come back to an important email response after some time has passed.
How Can You Use the Delay Delivery Function?
Let’s use an example to explore how you can use the Delay Delivery function in Outlook. Let’s say you need to send out a message to a client next week. Or maybe you’re working on the weekend or in the evening and don’t want to bother your client by sending an email outside regular working hours. You can easily take these items off your to-do-list right away by scheduling a message with Delayed Delivery. Here’s how to do it:
This is a great way for you to stay productive and avoid putting things off for any reason as you move through your inbox. With delayed delivery, you can ensure you stay efficient while still ensuring that your email messages are always sent at the appropriate time.
Another seamless way for you to streamline and optimize your Outlook user experience is to create Quick Steps. Creating Quick Steps can help you automate frequently used Outlook tools and processes to make every click and keyboard stroke more powerful and productive.
What are Quick Steps?
Quick Steps make it possible for you to apply multiple actions to a message with a single click. This allows you to automate processes in Outlook so that you spend less time searching for the right tools and features you need and instead can access them all from one single, streamlined location. This is a great way to simplify repetitive steps, and unlike Rules which are always on and processing mail, you get to decide when and how to use Quick Steps.
How Can You Use Quick Steps?
You can find Quick Steps in the Home Tab of the Ribbon. Outlook includes a variety of default Quick Steps for things like moving an item to a folder or creating a message for a team. However, you can also create your own Quick Steps and delete any that you won’t need or use. Creating a new Quick Step is simple. Start by selecting Create New Quick Step. Then, give your Quick Step a name. Next, you can choose an action for the Quick Step. This can include anything from moving an item to a folder, changing the status of a message, flagging it, converting it to a task or meeting, responding to it, and more. There are countless options for Quick Steps that include many of the key functions you use in Outlook.
The great thing about Quick Steps is that you can continue to add actions as they apply so that the sequence of actions will happen with a single click on the completed Quick Step. If you’re creating a Quick Step you think you’ll be using often, you can also assign it an optional shortcut key. Once you’ve done all this, select Finish and you’ll be ready to use your Quickstep whenever you need it.
To try it out, select a message, choose the Quick Steps button from the Home Tab, and then select the Quick Step you created or simply use the keyboard shortcut you created. You can also manage Quick Steps once they’ve been created by selecting Quick Steps from the drop-down menu. Here you can move Quick Steps up and down the list, edit Quick Steps, duplicate existing Quick Steps to add or edit actions or delete Quick Steps you no longer need. Explore all the Quick Step options to see all the ways you might save time and effort by streamlining your Outlook experience.
In addition to Quick Steps that help you automate Outlook processes, you also have the ability to streamline the composition of email messages using Quick Parts. This feature helps you automatically insert commonly used phrases, replies, and content so that creating email messages and replies is made much easier.
What are Quick Parts?
Whether you’re creating a new message or replying to an existing message, Quick Parts is easily one of the most efficient ways to build a message. In Outlook, use Quick Parts to save and access boilerplate blocks of text and content for use on an ongoing basis. These might include responses to requests for information, common replies, and responses to frequently sent emails and questions, and/or other repetitive content that you might need to send to multiple committees or board members.
How Can You Use Quick Parts?
To Create Quick Parts, open a new message and type in the content you want to reuse. You can also access an old email and highlight the already existing content you want to reuse as a Quick Part. Next, go to Insert on the Ribbon. Then, choose Quick Parts from the right-hand side. Then choose Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery. Provide a descriptive name, and then store it in the general category or create a new more specific category. You can also include an optional description and choose between different options for how the Quick Part will be inserted in your email messages. When finished, select OK, and then the Quick Part will be ready to use in your email messages and replies.
To include a Quick Part in an email message, move to the body of your email, choose Insert, choose Quick Parts, and then choose the Quick Part you want to use. You can then customize it, add other Quick Parts, or add more content. If you ever want to replace an existing Quick Part, simply repeat those steps and Outlook will ask you if you want to replace an existing Quick Part. You can also do this by going to Quick Parts, hovering over an existing Quick Part, and then right-clicking for a variety of options that help you manage and organize each Quick Part. Remember, unlike signatures, you can include multiple Quick Parts in one email.
Keep in mind that Quick Parts is so great because it’s not just about creating generic boilerplate text. Quick Parts can include formatting, multiple paragraphs, and even images. Also, remember that you can include more than one Quick Part in the creation of a single email message. Think of the potential time and effort you can save as you eliminate the creation of repetitive emails by automating and streamlining your communications.
The final tool we want to recommend is the Quick Access Toolbar. This final Outlook optimizer is the ultimate in productivity because it brings together all your most commonly used tools and features into one accessible toolbar, allowing you to find exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.
What is The Quick Access Toolbar?
The Quick Access Toolbar is one of the easiest ways to save time and effort with Outlook. Many users may not have even noticed that this feature is available. The Quick Access Toolbar sits above your Ribbon tab and it includes some pre-set action options like Send/Recieve and Undo. But the key here is that you can add a lot more features – especially the ones you use the most so they’re handy for easy access.
How Can You Use the Quick Access Toolbar?
There are three different techniques for customizing the Quick Access Toolbar. There are also different Quick Access Toolbars for different sections of your Outlook platform. Let’s explore the different ways to find and customize the Quick Access Toolbar in every corner of your inbox:
The Quick Access Toolbar is such an effective optimizer because each time you come into Outlook, your most commonly used functions are readily available to you which makes it easier than ever to streamline and optimize your Outlook experience by saving time at every step. The goal is always to make sure Outlook is positioned to support the way you work and the Quick Access Toolbar makes sure this happens consistently.
We hope these time-saving tips have inspired you to start streamlining your Outlook experience by saving time and effort at every step. You might even be eager to learn how you can start optimizing your entire suite of Microsoft solutions. The good news is that there are countless other tips and tricks available for you to save time and effort by optimizing every feature that is built-into your Microsoft applications.
Here’s the easiest way to know if you’re getting the very most out of the Microsoft solutions you rely on: reach out to a team of experienced Microsoft consultants. A team of professionals can assess your Microsoft infrastructure and help position it for optimal productivity and performance. Don’t rely on guesswork. If you’re serious about taking productivity to a whole new level, partner with a team of professional IT consultants to help you save time and effort by optimizing your Microsoft experience from end-to-end.
No matter your industry, we can help you optimize Microsoft 365 from top to bottom. Give us a call anytime at (416) 410-7268, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at www.sysoft.ca to chat with a live agent and book a Microsoft consultation.