We promote people into management and we just hope that they figure it out. And then we stand, mouth agape, when things go sideways. And this isn’t just a problem for our new managers. We are 40 years into this strategy and now the overwhelming majority of the workforce came up through this same form of occupational hazing. Here’s a new job. It’s very high stakes. It’s totally different from what you’ve done to date. And the skill set isn’t intuitive at all. You’re smart. You’ll figure it out. And if not, you’re fired. Good luck.
I love when one of my favorites writers interviews some of my other favorite writers. I love Raw Signal’s work and when I saw they were being interviewed I was delighted to read more of their work from someone also deeply interested in work and work culture.
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…
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.