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Tips to an Empty Inbox

Microsoft Outlook can be a powerful tool.  However if your inbox is stacked full of old emails you may be wasting time and not using it as effectively as you could be.  Dealing with an overstuffed inbox and developing a plan for stopping it from happening again is the jumping off point to organizing your Microsoft Outlook.

Microsoft Outlook has many functions that are a great benefit when organizing your email and the time you spend on them.  Begin organizing your Microsoft Outlook with this and the rest of the articles in this series.

Maybe you’ve been using Outlook for awhile now but you haven’t been taking advantages of any of the helpful functions.  Have you realized it is time to start organizing your Microsoft Outlook?  Is your inbox overflowing?  Then it’s time to get started.  And the best place to start is an empty inbox.

Start by doing a quick clean up of your inbox, here is how.  First create a folder for old emails.  Right click on the inbox, and select new folder.  Type Old Emails in the name field and click ok.  Now move any email in your inbox that is two weeks old or more.  This isn’t the end of the road for this email, you still have to sort it.  Schedule a small chunk of time everyday to sort through your folder of old emails until you’ve emptied it.  This means you’ve acted on, filed, or deleted all of your old emails.  Shift +delete will permanently delete any emails you’ve selected.  You can keep emails you have deleted for a week to two weeks before you permanently remove them. 

Your email is not a system designed for filing.  You may have left an email in your inbox because you needed the attachment connected to it.  When you receive an email with an attachment you should save it outside of your email right away.  You can save this email attachment using one of two methods.  You could either open the email, click on “save attachment” in the file menu, or you could right click on the attachment and then select “save as”.  When you save your attachment give it a name that will remind you what the content of it is.  It is a waste of your time to have to open up multiple attachments searching for what you need because of unclear file names.  When you are organizing Microsoft Outlook it is important to save the files you need outside of your email service so that you can effectively empty your inbox. 

If it feels like an entire email should be saved and filed you can do that in a couple ways.  The first is you can save it as a word document.  In order to do this you are literally going to copy and paste from an email into a document.  Or if you prefer you can go through a different process to save the email in my documents.  First select the email you want.  Then select “file”, followed by “save as”.  Search for “my documents”, or a different location in your computer if you want.  Enter in the file name you have chosen that will clearly identify your email message.  In the “save as” type field click on the down arrow and choose Outlook Message Format (*.msg), and then save.  You’ll notice the icon next to your file in my documents will show you have saved an email.

When organizing Microsoft Outlook you need a clear inbox to start with.  Change your behaviors today your inbox is not a filing system keep it empty in the future.  You can use other Outlook tools to do this, such as the Rules Wizard.  Make a plan and decide how to organize your incoming mail today so you never have to sort through weeks of old email again!

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Sherry Borsheim has been creating business organizing systems to help businesses and individuals get organized for over 23 years. She specializes in organizing Microsoft Outlook, and streamlining paper, email, time and space workflow issues. She recognizes that each client’s situation is unique and works with them to create custom, effective organizing systems. Get your free e-kit "7 Ways to Organize Your Workspace" by visiting now.

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