Dawn Bjork Buzbee
The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT)
Certified Microsoft Office 2010 Specialist (MOS 2010) Master Instructor
Certified Microsoft Office 2007 Specialist (MOS 2007) Master Instructor
Microsoft Certified Application Specialist (MCAS) Instructor
Certified Microsoft Office Expert
Certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE)
WOSB (Women-Owned Small Business) Certified
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How do you focus on your urgent e‑mail and organize
the rest for your review? Think about how you handle your paper mail.
You probably sort your paper mail quickly before you read it to figure
out what to look at first, what to read later, and what to throw away.
Here are some similar ways to automatically process and prioritize your
electronic mail for better and faster results:
(Although the following tips refer to Microsoft
Outlook, many of these features are similar to those found in other mail
systems. For specific how-to steps, and more email and Outlook tips,
1. Color Code to Identify Key Messages
Color code priority messages to quickly identify
email from your most important contacts such as management, staff, and
team members. To apply colors in Microsoft Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2003, highlight a message
from a contact, choose Tools > Organize, select the option
Using Colors and pick how you want to color-code your incoming
messages from the specific contact.
2. Streamline with Categories and Folders
Stop using your Inbox as a reference system filled
with messages that don’t require an immediate action. To further
organize your messages, create categories and folders with useful labels
such as Team Members, Projects, Personal, and others. The
Categories feature in Microsoft Outlook, for instance, helps to organize
and view active messages into groups within your Inbox. Create and use
email folders to store messages that you have already handled and wish
to keep for history or folders for email that contains informational
reading and general reference.
Note that folders and categories sort in
alphabetical order which is not likely to place your priority items at
the top. Adding a letter or number at the beginning of a label, such as
a-Team Members and b-Projects, will sort these towards the
top of your Inbox.
3. Filter with Rules
Rules are instructions or filters that
automatically categorize, organize, and prioritize messages based on
conditions that you set. As new messages are received in Microsoft
Outlook, right-click on the message and left click on the command
Create a Rule to apply a category or move the message to a folder.
If all you do is apply rules, you may be able to get through email in
half the time it took before.
4. Learn Easy Navigation
Stop wasting time by moving in and out of each
message and start applying simple navigation tricks. In Microsoft
Outlook, for instance, you can move in your Inbox with the up or down
arrow key to select a message. Then press [Enter] to open the
message. To move to the next message directly from the current email,
look for toolbar buttons with arrow keys or press [Ctrl] + > for
the next message and [Ctrl] + < for the previous
[Esc] to close the active message.
5. Sort to Find Messages
To quickly sort your email messages, click once on
a column heading for the new order you want such as sender, subject or
date. For instance, to sort messages by the sender, click once on the
Sender heading. By clicking twice on a column heading, the sort order
changes from ascending (A-Z) order to descending (Z‑A) order. By the
way, the abbreviations RE and FW in the Subject line are ignored when
you sort messages alphabetically by subject.
Implementing these tips
for overcoming email overload can help you become more productive and
free you from your Inbox.
© Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro®
Dawn Bjork Buzbee
is The Software Pro®
and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office
Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist
(MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart
and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software
speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.
This article and
more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with
copyright and attribution.
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To quickly check the spelling in a message, press
Press [Esc] to close an open
email message and return to the Inbox or