5 Outlook Productivity Tips to Help You Work Faster

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Outlook is, by far, the best way to handle email on your PC. Outlook 2010 and 2013 have streamlined the overall process of getting email and made it pretty great. Even so, there’s always room for improvement in terms of how you use it.

Since email has been reported to take up 28% of our time, it’s a great topic to focus on when talking about productivity. Use the Outlook productivity tips below to work faster, so you can spend less time on email and more time getting work done.

1. Learn Your Shortcuts

We’ve talked about keyboard shortcuts for Outlook before, but it’s still worth going over again. Taking a few minutes to learn keyboard shortcuts can save you some serious time in the long run.

Check out our cheat sheet for Outlook keyboard shortcuts and get yourself flying through tasks in Outlook. Here are some basics to get you started:

  • Start a new message: Ctrl + N
  • Send a message: Ctrl + ENTER
  • Reply to a message: Ctrl + R

2. Check Out Quick Steps

Repetitive tasks are the worst. You don’t have enough time in the day to do all the important tasks, let alone ones that you have to do over and over again.

Lucky for you, Outlook 2010 and above has a feature called Quick Steps. Basically, Quick Steps are a way to take care of simple, repetitive tasks.

For example, if you always archive an email after replying to it, Quick Steps can do that for you automatically.

We actually did a write-up on this feature a little while ago aimed at Outlook 2013, but it should work just fine for Outlook 2010 as well.

Check out How to Use Quick Steps in Outlook.

3. Use Email Templates

When you work in the tech world, or even in the business world in general, it’s pretty common to have to send the same basic email over and over again.

It’s so common, in fact, that many people keep a document of stock replies handy. When they need to send one of them, they just open the document and copy/paste the canned response into an email. While this is a decent idea, it wastes time by opening another application.

Instead of this, why not use Email Templates to save these common emails to, and just open that template when you need it?

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To make a new template, just create the email as you normally would and click on File > Save As… > Outlook template.

To use the saved invoice, click on New items > More items > Choose Form. In the drop-down at the top labeled Look in, choose User Templates in File System. You should see your invoice listed.

Choose Form window in Outlook templates

4. Use Search Folders

If you follow the Trusted Trio method of email management, you should have just about all your emails in one Archive folder. This is great, but the system relies on your ability to search effectively.

To make search a breeze for items that you need often, you can use Search Folders to easily get to what you need. Like the other tips above, we covered this one a little while ago for Outlook 2013, but it still applies to Outlook 2010 as well.

Here is our post on searching in Outlook 2013, but for the tl;dr people out there, here are the basics:

Click on the Folders tab, then click the New Search Folder button. Next, enter the options you want the search folder to have, and click OK. Now your new search folder will show up in the sidebar.

Outlook New Search Folder window

Best of all, this folder will update with new items automatically, saving you even more time.

5. Limit Notifications

Notifications are the enemy of productivity. Used correctly, they can help you understand what’s going on and let you know when something important happens. Used incorrectly, they will waste your time and ruin your focus.

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Gone are the days when you got excited to hear “You’ve got mail!” – which means you need to turn most notifications off, except for the most important ones.

The easiest way to do this is with rules inside of Outlook 2013. Check out this post on rules for Outlook 2013 to see how you can limit your notifications to only the ones that are needed.

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