Making Outlook Manageable
I am stuck in Microsoft Outlook. As many others around the world, I too suffer through dealing with Outlook. I’m often struck by its lack of flexibility and usability. For an application that appears to do absolutely anything I can imagine, it fails at some basic points. One of the times I moaned about being stuck in Outlook…
Jason Rehmus shared his secret of Outlook Contentment…
I’ve setup this system in Outlook 2010 and have used it for a few weeks with no issues. It does not require scripting nor a degree in Computer Science. It uses only Outlook’s built-in features.
Steps to Outlook Contentment
- Create a new folder and give it a name. I named mine Archive but the name doesn’t matter. Call it whatever you like.
- Setup a rule to do two things. First, it will copy all incoming emails to your newly created folder (which I’ll call Archive for the rest of this post). Second, it will mark all received mail as read.
- Start the Rules Wizard in Outlook.
- Create a New Rule.
Under the heading Start from a blank rule click Apply rule on messages I receive and click Next >.
On the What condition(s) do you want to check? screen select nothing, and click Next >.
Outlook will display a prompt that says This rule will be applied to every message you receive. Is this correct? Click Yes.
On the What do you want to do with the message? screen, check the boxes for mark it as read and move a copy to the specified folder.
Click the link that says specified in the lower box.
Choose the folder you created in Step 1. For me, it is Archive.
Verify the rule now reads move a copy to the Archive folder. Then click Next >.
On the Are there any exceptions? screen. Don’t check any options. Then click Next >.
On the Finish rule setup screen, name the rule and check both boxes.
For Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, name the rule whatever you like. I’ve called mine ARCHIVE all received mail.
For Step 2: Setup rule options check the first two boxes, Run this rule on messages already in “Inbox” and Turn on this rule.
Click Finish. A dialog will pop-up stating This rule is a client-only rule, and will process only when Outlook is running. So none of this will take place when Outlook is not running.
Once you click Finish, Outlook will begin copying all email to the Archive folder and marking it all as read in both the Inbox and Archive folders. This will take some time, especially if you have a large mailbox.
Once it finishes running check to make sure all messages were copied over. An easy way to do this is to look at the number of items in each folder. Once those numbers match, I also check the first and last message in the folder and make sure they match.
Once you’ve verified all of your messages were moved successfully, delete everything from your Inbox. All of those messages are safe in your Archive. You don’t need them in your Inbox too. Delete them!
Now the system will work for you. Only keep any message you’re actively working on in your Inbox. When you’re done with it, delete it. Remember, you have a backup copy in your Archive folder.
Now, instead of having thousands of messages in my Inbox, I have 3. And once I’m done responding to those, they’ll be gone too.
Why go through all of this?
You mean other than for your own sanity? I worked in a customer support role, so it’s valuable for me to keep all communications I receive from customers. But I don’t need to see them all the time.
When I need to find an old message, I search my Archive. I need the messages for reference, but I do not need to look at them everyday.
Why do I mark them all as read?
I don’t care about unread/read status. If it’s in my Inbox, I need it. If not, I don’t. I also mark them as read or they’ll show up as unread in my Archive too. And it’s a waste of your time to mark messages read. The fewer things I have to touch, the happier I am.
What if I don’t have space on my mail server?
Setup your Archive in a Personal Folder instead. You can set up the folder anywhere you like. On the mail server or saved locally to your computer. Though please, if you are going to save everything in a Personal Folder, please save it to a network drive where it can be backed up. The Archive is useless if it can be lost when your hard drive crashes.
I like to tweak and tinker. I like to try to be clever and make things easier for myself. But often times it only results in more work. Let me leave you with this piece of advice I’ve tried to adopt as much as possible. Don’t complicate the system!
I’ve resisted complicating the system. Mostly. I had a few rules I’ve automated to categorize messages I need to quickly find to run reports again.
I turned off those rules after setting up this system. I realized the categories are unnecessary. If I need a message, I search the archive folder. Categorization is complication. So I disabled those rules and haven’t missed them.
I hope helps bring some sanity to your life in Outlook. I’m much happier looking at a tiny number of emails instead of thousands. I hope you will be too.
Did this help you? Have a suggestion (but not a complication), please let me know! I’d be curious to hear from you.
SimpleNote is textual nirvana
You need to back up. Everyone says it but most people don’t. There is no excuse not to back up your data. If it is important enough to write down and save, it is important enough to back up.
Here’s an example. The head of a large media company is composing the eulogy for a friend of over two decades. He has written four pages of heartfelt prose. He pours out his thought sand feelings to be read to a crowded room of friends and family about his dearly departed friend. Upon completing his missive, he presses send on his mail client and sends the important document to his assistant for proofreading and editing before it becomes the final document to be practiced and delivered.
Or so he thought. Upon arriving at the office to meet with his assistant and go over the eulogy, she had nothing. She has never received the document. He went to look for it in via sent items. Nothing. He checked the deleted items. Nil. He checked the drafts folder. Perhaps he had forgotten to send the document and there it was!
Out of his four written pages, less than one remained. Sitting in the Drafts folder mockingly offering him a copy. A poor copy for sure. His words were lost.
Does this sound familiar?
How many times have you written a brilliant blog post, long, well-reasoned comment, or essay for class in a browser window or email client? How many times have you lost an important note? Did you take it down in a text file but never saved and your computer rebooted or crashed? I did not ask if you lost data because I know you have.
Enter Simplenote. The idea is so simple you’d wish you have thought of it first. In Simplenote for each note you start, it not only lives right then and there in the moment you wrote it. It will also push a copy to the “cloud” for safe keeping. So now your information lives in two places. Congratulations! You have now backed up. Wasn’t that hard? But what if you delete your note you ask? Well first off, you did something to delete it. It wasn’t a computer error or something out of your control. But we’re all human. We all make mistakes.
Enter versioning. This big scary looking word just means “more than one copy” of your document. What if you make a change to your document, delete a large portion without meaning to, or at the very worst delete the entire thing? Click a button or drag a slider and your hard work is restored just like that.
Simplenote is perfection of textual nirvana. Write words and don’t press save. Write more words and they’re all safe. Write your words and never worry about whether they’ll be there when you need them. It’s something we all take for granted, until it fails us.