31 May 2018

Outlook productivity hacks

Eight days of a person’s working year are lost due to using a mouse instead of the keyboard. That is an ENTIRE year over a 30 year career span. Claim some of that time back with a few nifty Outlook productivity hacks that can make a major difference to the time spent on email (and in the office).

Keyboard Shortcuts

Apps and gadgets for optimizing workflows make up a multi-billion dollar market, so it’s a wonder that many of us rely on a mouse or trackpad for basic functions that are otherwise – quite literally – waiting at our fingertips: a dazzling array of keyboard shortcuts.

There are logical ones like Ctrl + F to forward or Ctrl + R to reply. Some more advanced ones include Ctrl + Shift + Q to request a meeting through Outlook or Ctrl + Alt + K to broaden a search inquiry to include items from your current folder. There’s even Ctrl + Shift + D for dialling a number straight from your contacts.

Quick Steps

If the built-in selection of keyboard shortcut isn’t enough, you can always make customized chain-like actions for the set of steps you most often go through in Outlook.

Go to the Home tab in mail and find the Quick Steps group, then click on the More Gallery More button arrow in the Quick Steps box, from there Manage Quick Steps. Click on the Quick Step you’d like to adapt, and then click Modify. Find Actions and set or add exactly you want this Quick Step to do.

Quick Parts

Just as Quick Steps above programs functions, you can use Quick Parts to program entire phrases. Do you find yourself always writing the same line over and over (and over) again: “If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.” You can program this sentence into Quick Parts and have it autofill for you (voilà). This is a great way to save phone numbers, postal and email addresses, URLs, and more so the spelling is correct every single time.

Just highlight some text, click Insert, and from there click on Quick Parts and Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.

Delay Emails

A familiar scenario – either you have the perfect email response written, but it would look unseemly to respond so quickly, or you have to respond to a bunch of clients without looking like you work on the weekend. Outlook to the rescue – just click on Options when you’re composing a new mail and select Delay Delivery. From there just set the right time and go back to all of the other tasks that are waiting for you.

Another similar hack is setting a reminder for an email. Head to the Home tab, click on Follow Up under the Tags group, and from there Add Reminder. You can use this function for all sorts of reminders, and can share them office-wide if you have joint calendars.

Color Codes

If you’re like most people these days, chances are you’re involved in more than one project. All of you who have three different Slack tabs open simultaneously? Color coding is the answer. Color coding is a great way visually to ensure some projects get prioritized over others. The emails you absolutely need to read will pop out brightly, almost shouting READ ME (no, not really).

Just go to View, and then click View Settings and lastly Conditional/Automatic Formatting. You can even set other things such as font and font size per individual sender.

Public Holidays

The public holidays hack is a great one for productivity, namely because you can so easily see on which days you don’t need to engage with a certain sender. You will see immediately on your calendar that today is St. Patrick’s Day, and you can rather focus your energy on something else than correspondence with your Irish business contacts. Combine this with the delayed email tool above and you can even schedule emails with good cheer for your partners’ holidays for the entire month in advance.

This is one of those two-second hacks that can save you a whole day of worry. Find Options under File and then click Calendar, Add Holidays, and select the countries you do business with.

Here’s to harnessing Outlook’s power with some of these email hacks to manage inbox madness for insane productivity!