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10 Outlook Tips & Tricks to Take Control of your Inbox

If you are an employee, manager, or employer, one mandatory office activity you most probably do daily is checking the Outlook inbox frequently. Usually, we receive tons of different emails during office hours, but a small number of them actually need our attention. So, looking at every email is an inefficient and time-consuming activity. In this blog, we are presenting the best 10 tips & tricks on how to smartly control your Outlook inbox.

  1. Text Message (SMS / MMS) Rule

There are always chances that you miss out looking at the important emails due to an overcrowded inbox. For example, your boss sent you an important email but you didn’t notice it. Outlook facilitates here by letting you create a rule with which you will receive a text message on your phone about your important emails. Follow the below steps to create a text message rule:

  1. Select the email that is important to you from the inbox email list.
  2. Go to the “Home” tab and click “Rules”. Afterward, click “Create Rule”.
  3. Tick the “From [person name]” checkbox. This means you want to create a rule specific to that person’s emails. Afterward, click “Advanced Options”.
  4. In the advanced options, make sure the checkbox “From [person name]” is ticked and then click “Next”.
  5. Tick the “Forward it to people or public group” checkbox. Under the “Edit the rule description” section, click the “people or public group” hyperlink.
  6. Under the “To” section, under your phone number, and then add the SMS gateway domain. For example, You can find the SMS gateway domain of your carrier by clicking here. Once done, click “OK”.
  7. Keep clicking the “Next” button until you click the last “Finish” button.

This way, you will now start receiving text messages on your phone whenever that person sends you emails.

  1. Conditional Formatting

Other than getting important emails messages on phone, you can also make the important emails stand out in the inbox by conditional formatting. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Go to the “View” tab, click “View Settings”, and then click “Conditional Formatting”.
  2. Click “Add” and give this new rule a name, such as “From [person name].
  3. Click “Font” and set up the font style, size, color, and other settings that you want to apply to that email so that it stands out from others in the inbox. Once done, click “OK”.
  4. Now you have to set up the condition on which this rule will apply. Click “Condition” and enter that person’s name in the “From” section. You can also set up more conditions using other options available. Once done, click “OK” and close all the windows.

This way, you will notice that the emails from that person are now highlighted in different font size and color as you set up in your rule. Therefore, if you are receiving tons of emails daily, you can now easily identify that person’s emails due to its unique look.

  1. To & CC Rule

Usually, the emails that are sent directly “To” you or you are “CC” in them actually matters the most. But there are also newsletter emails from your company or other platforms that don’t contain your email under the “To” or “CC” section. One way to get rid of such newsletters is to unsubscribe them, but sometimes that doesn’t work. The best way is to create a rule where your inbox only shows you the emails in which your email is either listed under the “To” or “CC” section, while the other emails such as newsletters can go to a specific folder. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Go to the “Home” tab and click “Rules”. Afterward, click “Create Rule”.
  2. Click “Advanced Options”. Under the “Select condition(s)” section, there is nothing to do in it, so just click “Next”.
  3. Tick the “move it to the specified folder” checkbox. Under the “Edit the rule description” section, click “specified” hyperlink.
  4. Under the folder selection where you want to send such emails, you can choose the “Archive” folder or create a new folder. Once done, click “OK” and then click “Next”.
  5. Tick the “except if my name is in the To or Cc box” checkbox. Afterward, click “Next”.
  6. Lastly, give the name to this rule, also tick the “run this rule now on messages already in inbox” checkbox if you like. Afterward, click “Finish”.

This way, all the emails in which you are not under the “To” or “CC” box will head to the specific folder you set up in the rule.

  1. Conversation View

When you receive multiple emails from the same person, Outlook shows them as separate emails in your inbox. But just like you have conversations on WhatsApp where all messages from a person are available in one place, you can also do the same in Outlook. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Go to the “View” tab.
  2. Tick the “Show as Conversations” checkbox and pick “This folder” or “All mailboxes” as you like.

Once done, you will see that all the emails from one person are listed in the conversation view format where the new messages are listed at the top.

  1. Flag Messages for Follow Up

You can keep your inbox clean in a number of ways. Once you are done with the email, you can put it in the “Archive” by clicking it from the “Home” tab or delete the email. But there are usually some emails that need extra attention or you like to respond to them after some time. This is where the “Flag” option facilitates a lot.

You can flag any email by bringing the mouse cursor close to it and then clicking the “Flag” icon. Once the email is flagged, Outlook will also add it to the “Task View” and the “To-Do” list. You can archive the flagged email to remove it from the inbox but still access it from your task view window. Click the “Task View” icon from the bottom left corner. There you will see the email that you have flagged. From there, you can simply open it and give the response.

If you also use the Microsoft To Do app, then the flagged email will also be shown there. Go to “Microsoft To Do” and click the “Flagged email” section from the left-side menu bar. There you will see the flagged email. In addition, you can also add the flagged email to your “My Day” list to ensure that you can reply to the email on the same day. To do that, right-click the email and then click “Add to My Day”.

  1. Keep Track of Requests

Sometimes you send an email to someone and want to get a must reply on it. But the other person might unintentionally skip your email. So, you have to remind him/her back after a certain time is passed.

You can add a “Follow Up” flag on such emails to make sure you are keeping track of them until you get the response. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Before clicking the “Send” button while composing a new email, click “Follow Up” from the top menu bar and then click “No Date. This way, a follow up flag is linked with the email. Once done, click the “Send” button.
  2. Click the “Task View” icon from the bottom left corner to view the follow up flagged emails. But if you have flagged other emails as well, then it will be hard to distinguish “follow up” emails from them. So, you can create a separate category for follow up flagged emails.
  3. Right-click the recently flagged email, click “Categorize” and then click “All Categories”.
  4. Click “New”, give it a new and color. Once done, click “OK”.
  5. Now go to the “View” tab and click “Categories”.

This way, you can see all the follow up flagged emails under one category in the Task View window and can easily check back with recipients when a certain time is passed.

  1. Respond with Meeting

Instead of doing back and forth email conversations with someone, you can set up a meeting from within Outlook. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Go to the email that you want to turn into a meeting.
  2. From the “Home” tab, click “Meeting”. It will open the new meeting window where it will automatically take email subject as title, add email content as description, and add the participants based on the ones linked with those email messages.
  3. Set up the time, date, and other details of the meeting, and hit the “Send” button.

This way, instead of spending extra time doing back and forth email conversations, you can complete the discussion in a short meeting.

  1. Remove Distractions

Whenever you receive new emails, Outlook tries to notify you by alert sound or other notifications. If you are receiving tons of emails in a single day, such alerts can distract you frequently. The best solution is to remove all such distraction elements. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Click “File” from the top left corner and then click “Options”.
  2. Click the “Mail” tab from the left bar and then untick the checkboxes mentioned under the “Message arrival” section. Once done, click “OK”.

This way, you will no longer receive emails alerts.

  1. Separate Compose Window

In Outlook, when you click “Reply”, “Reply All”, or “Forward”, you will still be seeing the inbox email list on the left side. This can cause a distraction for some users. For example, while replying to an email, you unintentionally clicked a new email you just received. This way, you are going to lose the track of the email you are replying to. The solution to this problem is to make Outlook open a separate compose window whenever you click ” Reply”, “Reply All”, or “Forward”. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Click “File” from the top left corner and then click “Options”.
  2. Click the “Mail” tab from the left bar, scroll down a bit until you see the “Replies and forwards” section.
  3. Tick the “Open replies and forwards in a new window” checkbox and click “OK”.

This way, Outlook will now always open a separate compose window.

  1. Ignore Messages

If you are a part of an email thread but you don’t want to look at the follow-up emails, then you can use the Outlook “Ignore” feature. If you mark any email as ignore, then all its messages will divert to the “Deleted Items” folder. Follow the below steps to do it:

  1. Go to the email that you want to mark ignore.
  2. From the “Home” tab, click “Ignore” and then click “Ignore Conversation” on the pop-up window.

This way, all the future messages from that email will automatically go to the “Deleted Items” folder and your inbox will remain clean.

Wrapping Up

A productive workday depends on how smartly you handle your day-to-day activities. Since sending and receiving emails is one of the core daily activities, you should make it a time-efficient activity. The above-listed 10 Outlook inbox tips and tricks are surely going to help a lot in managing inboxes and never missing out on important emails.

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