Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Organizing Outlook And Other E-Mail Programs — Do You Have A Method That Works?

Computers in my dreams. This photo by Aleksandra Banic of Croatia!Not long ago I bought several books on how to optimize Microsoft Outlook as a planning and organizing tool.  I bought them to give me ideas for a training segment on how to use technology more effectively–and thought I would surely be able to use some of the ideas myself. I have decided the Microsoft site is sufficient for the needs of most Outlook users, and other useful information can be found online. Unless you really, truly want a system, those resources will be enough. The one or possibly two or three ideas I got from any of the current crop of popular books, were not worth the money or time involved.

The material could be useful, I suppose, if one were attending a training session based solely on the system being touted by the various authors. However, without that in-depth study and classroom persuasion, I do not think the average person would adopt the system. Some required practically a new vocabulary! I would not have minded that so much, but some of the ideas seemed to be very complex for a very basic purpose. (A to-do list became a multi-colored, cross-indexed process that ultimately would be no more effective than my regular prioritized list.) More importantly, the authors apparently do not have the same experiences with email as I do, the same need to access it, or the same paranoid fear of not being able to document sent and received messages.

For example, one book suggests scheduling a time to read email–usually no more than two or three times a day–one author suggested trying only once a day. (If I am home, I think of email as like a business phone call and I respond quickly, and I expect that type of response from those I email for business.) One book suggests turning off the email icon and the sound that indicates mail has arrived. (I have the volume turned up on my monitor so the email sound could very well be confused with the Day of Judgment trumpet.) 

Almost all of the books were adamant that both incoming and sent messages must be immediately placed in folders or deleted permanently. (I have 870 messages in my delete folder right now, and will likely not permanently delete for another month or so.) That is not to say that my way is the most efficient and effective way–but it is my way and it works for my life and work. 

The helpful Microsoft Site: For the Microsoft site, click here. Browse through the various articles and you may find some helpful tips. One idea I found on the site several years ago, and still use, is to put a reminder flag on messages in my in-box that I want to be sure to follow-up about. You may have known about that feature, but I did not, now use it all the time and find it very beneficial. Another site that I found useful is a college site that has a monthly tech article. The one on Outlook is well-done. Check it out here.

I would be interested in knowing if some of you have learned or developed tips or techniques for most effectively using your specific email program, or if you have found a book or article particularly useful. You know how to contact me!

April 22nd, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 5 comments