Surviving “Out of Office” Return

27 07 2008

by Vee Smith
Now is the time when a lot of people are either off on or coming back from their Summer holidays. All refreshed and raring to go, they open up their computers, and, whoa! It seems the whole world has sent them an email as there are thousands of unread new emails! Just where do you begin to sift through them all? Which are the important ones? And did you realise you had subscribed to this many newsletters? Well, before you slink off back to back to bed with a couple of paracetamol to combat the head-ache just thinking about it, here’s some tips to make light work of it and get you back up to speed in no time at all.

How to quickly sort and prioritise your emails in Outlook

Create Sub-Folders in Outlook

There are several tools in Outlook that you can use to quickly sort through masses of emails. By default all your emails land in your inbox, and when there are hundreds and thousands of emails, it’s difficult to know where to find the important ones.

First create 4 folders,

  • right click on inbox
  • select new folder
  • type in a name

The four folders could be called: “urgent”, “clients”, “biz admin”, “read later” or your might find it easier to call them “urgent/important”, “not urgent but important”, “urgent but not important”, “not urgent or important”.

Sort By Tool

Secondly, use the “sort by” tools. By default emails are sorted by date order, but they can also be sorted by any of the headings, so first try sorting by “importance” (click the icon with the exclamation mark),

  • drag the sub-heading into the newly created “urgent” folder. All the emails under that sub-heading get dragged along with it.

Next sort by “from” (click on the heading called From).

  • scroll through and find the sub-headings of emails from your clients and drag (again by the sub-heading) to the newly created “clients” folder.

Next sort by “subject” by clicking on the heading called subject.

It should be easy to identify all the newsletters and other bulletin type emails which can be dragged over to “read later”, or emails related to your admin (tasks essential to the health of your business but doesn’t generate income)

Creating Rules

Rules are another tool you can use to filter out emails:

  • Select a typical email or newsletter
  • Right click
  • Select “Create Rule”
  • Check the relevant box
  • hit “select folder” and locate the folder you want them moved to
  • OK, OK
  • Check the box to run the rule on messages in the current folder

Using Flags

Having sorted out emails into the various sub-folders, you can now go through each folder and flag each email with a different colour to denote priority or project. For example you could allocate a colour flag for each client, or project, then when you sort by flag, all the same emails relating to that client or project appear together, making it easier to deal with.

Hopefully, your inbox should be looking much less stressful and now, it’s easier to identify the important emails and deal with them first. It’s also much easier to prioritise which category to work on next. You could schedule half to an hour a day to go through the “business admin” and “read later” folders and similarly flag/file/delete them as you’ve read them or dealt with them.

By Vee Smith

Founder, My Super VA




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