Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all the rage, but for most businesses Outlook is a still the tool that they cannot live without. E-mail is so integrated into our lives we don’t even think about the impact it has on how we do business. But did you know that the majority of professionals don’t fully leverage the simple productivity tools within Outlook?

Here are 3 quick tips to put you ahead of the curve:

Highlighting Messages

Most of us know about rules and alerts to organize our inbox into folders. But did you know that Outlook can color code messages for you? For example, if someone sends an e-mail directly to you as opposed to a distribution list, they could require a timely direct response. Here is how you can make sure you see and respond to those messages quickly. (Note – I’ve been saved a few times with this tip.)

  1. Go to “Tools” > “Organize” in your menu bar
  2. In the window that pops up, click on “Using Colors” on the left
  3. Then turn on the rule for “Messages Sent Only to Me” and assign a color.

You can also set this rule for other conditions, such as sales leads with the parameters in the line above.

Search Folders

While rules permanently send messages to different folders, “search folders” allow you to gather messages into a ‘virtual folder’ without changing which folder they are actually stored in. I recently used a search folder to find all e-mail on a subject without re-filing all of my e-mail messages, which would have made a mess of my folders. Search folders are a flexible feature that you can use on an ongoing basis, or just to temporarily sort your mail for a specific task.

  1. Scroll down your left hand folder list to the Search Folder section
  2. Right click on “Search Folders” and select “New Search Folder”
  3. In the pop up window, scroll down and select “Create A Custom Search Folder”
  4. Then under “Customize Search Folder” click on the choose button.
  5. Set your criteria in the wizard that pops up and save.

Outlook Journal

If you are like me, the fast paced workdays turn into fast paced weeks and months. But often, it is important to track when events or milestones happened or how long something took. I was lost until I started using my Journal feature. With the Journal (all the way at the bottom of the left hand side bar) I can keep track of milestones and even track how long I have worked on projects. It seems simple, but try it – you just might like it!

We all depend on Outlook, but often the process of e-mail seems like a drain. Play around with Outlook and you might find that it is a robust program that can actually boost your productivity.

nd-headshot Nicholas DeGraff
Marketing Manager

Currently serves as a Marketing Manager with a focus in online marketing and market strategy. Prior to joining Pacific Business Centers (rebranded as Pacific Workplaces), Nick consulted with small businesses to assist in a business development and public relations role.