Here’s my top 10 tips boosting your email inbox productivity. Used cleverly and regularly, these tips can save you at least 1/2 an hour a day. That’s 3 weeks a working year.
- Rules — your personal inbox secretary What: This function automatically reads your incoming or outgoing emails and performs the tasks you set — such as filing, forwarding, answering, deleting emails.
How to use: automatically sort incoming emails; answer web enquires quickly; perform routine tasks, sort through irrelevant emails.
Where: Outlook: Tools>Rules. Lotus Notes: Tools>Rules. Gmail: Settings > Filters.
- Tasks — never forget againWhat: Your automatic memory prompt, persistency builder and project manager
How to use: Tasks is one of my favourite functions. Build in sales tenacity by reminding yourself to follow up on outstanding proposals, quotes. Build relationship management by reminding yourself to call regularly. Use to remember to follow up after a certain period of time (if you were originally unsuccessful). Assign meeting action points to individuals and prompt them. To remind staff of items due like expense or sales reports. To take a project through from start to finish — even assigning time and mileage.
Where: Icon under Sent; Lotus Notes: To Do; Gmail: Tasks
- Drag and drop — never type out againWhat: Used creatively drag and dropping can replace cut and paste and typing out from scratch.
How to use: take incoming emails and drag, then drop into contacts to create a new contact. To calendar to create a new appointment or meeting. To windows explorer to save the email (and attachments). Even better, you can highlight text within an email and drag and drop that instead of the entire email.
Where: Primarily an Outlook function. Lotus Notes: You can drag and drop into the To Do list only. Gmail — not available.
- Archive — Speed up and slim down
What: Archives store your older emails instead of deleting or keeping them in your inbox. It creates a separate and identical folder structure (to your inbox) which you can have open and view within your inbox. In other words, it’s like taking some of your emails and moving them to a different filing cabinet drawer.
How to use: Archiving is automatic in both Outlook and Lotus. You can set the parameters (unless you’re in a large corporation — the corporate policy overrides yours). Also wonderfully you can:
A) set when you want your folders to be archived (every six months, every two weeks) B) from which period to archive (six months old, one year old) and
C) each of your folders can have its own archiving policy.
Where: Tools > Archive for both Outlook and Lotus. Gmail — not necessary.
- 4. Reply signature — thousands of seconds saved
- Repetitive phrase signatures — who said signatures were only for contact details?
(I wrote about these two last time. Here’s the link http://bit.ly/f8t8Bt)
- Autopreview & Reading pane — scan without openingWhat: Save oodles of time clicking open and reading every email. Some of you might not have the preview or reading pane turned on so you’ll just see the subject line of each email.
How to use: Autopreveiw — see the first three lines and Reading Pane: view the entire email without opening it. The view can be the bottom half of your screen or on the right third of your entire screen.
Where: Outlook View > Autopreview and Preview Pane. Lotus Notes: View > Preview Pane > Show Preview Both Outlook and Lotus Notes show either a vertical or horizontal reading pane. Gmail: Settings >Snippets
- Search foldersWhat: Virtual folders. Using a keyword or preformatted folders (size, unread) you can view all emails in the search folder irregardless of their actual physical folder location.
How to use: Never go over mailbox limit again by looking through the size folder — you can immediately see where the gigantic (+5 megs) files are for quick deletion. If you’re using a lot of rules, quickly see what’s new by viewing new emails via the unread email folder (I have added it to favourites and look at my email in mail view).
Where: Outlook search folder is under the Sent folder. Gmail and and Lotus Notes — use search.
- Reorder your foldersWhat: Changing the ABC order of your inbox folders. kiss scrolling up and down goodbye.
How to use & Where: Outlook, Lotus Notes: If you put a letter, number or symbol in front of your folder name, you’ll save yourself an enormous amount of dragging and dropping down. For example 1website would reorder an inbox folder named website from down in the W’s up to the very first folder. Gmail — Settings >Labels
- Categories — Target with a click
What: you can assign categories to your emails, contacts, appointments and tasks. How to use: Where I use categories most is with contacts. It’s utterly marvelous. You can create categories to suit your business, then assign them to contacts and easily resort your contacts by category. For example: get newsletter, bought a certain product; renewal time, small business, industry…. The limit is only your imagination of use to you.
Where: Lotus Notes: Contact >Category. Outlook 2003 — click open a contact. The category button is on the bottom — centre. Outlook 2007 > A four coloured square icon is on the Toolbar, plus you can get to it thorough Edit. Gmail >Contacts >Groups (new Group) Also Labels.