email management

Handy Microsoft Outlook Tips

Drag and Drop

Of all of the amazing features in Outlook, Drag and Drop is among the very best. It is a very simple way to reduce email volume and a huge time saver for organizing information in your inbox. No longer do you need to scroll through a long email list to find the one that needs to have an answer right away. Some people drag and drop their email into folders but this feature can be used far more widely than that. In the training seminars I give I teach people how to move email from the inbox into the calendar, tasks, contacts and notes.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Outlook and go to your inbox.
  1. Find an email that you want to move to a Folder, Task, Appointment, Contact or Note.
  2. Put your mouse pointer directly on the email you want to move and press left button. Keep holding it while moving the email to the bottom of the Navigation Pane on the left side of the screen.
  3. When you get to the place you want to move the email, release the mouse button.
  4. (Note: you can use the right side of the mouse as well. It will give you a choice to copy or move.)

If you drag and drop the email onto the Calendar icon, the email subject will automatically be the subject of the appointment although you can easily change it. Note that the email will be in the body of the appointment for easy reference. Add a date, start and end time for the appointment and location (if desired) and save.

If you drag and drop the email onto the Contacts icon, just click save and you will have created a new contact.

If you drag and drop the email onto the Tasks icon, the subject will be the same as the email (although it can be changed). Fill in the start and due date. (You can also fill in the status and priority if desired). A reminder can also be added. The original email will be in the section below.

It’s that easy! Give it a try today.

Quick Steps (for 2010)

Introduced in 2010, this feature allows you to quickly manage any email by using shortcuts. You can do in one click what ordinarily might take several clicks. Each Quick Step can be customized and used on a daily basis. For example: you can move an email to a specific folder and mark it as read. Or you can forward an email. My favorite Quick Step is to reply and delete. With one click both steps are accomplished.

Below are handy Quick Steps actions that you may want to explore:

  • Filing: Move to folder, copy to folder, delete message, permanently delete message
  • Change Status: Set as read, set as unread, set importance
  • Categories, Tasks and Flags: Categorize messages, clear categories, flag message, clear flags on messages, mark complete, create a task with attachment, create a task with text of message
  • Respond: New message, Forward, Reply, Reply All, Reply with meeting, forward message with attachment
  • Appointment: New meeting, create an task with attachment, create an appointment with text of message

Here’s How To Create a Quick Step:

  1. In Mail, on the Home tab, in the Quick Steps group, in the Quick Steps gallery, click the Create New Quick Step.
  2. Click an action type from the list or click Custom.
  3. In the Name box, type a name for the new Quick Step.
  4. Click the icon button next to the Name box, click an icon, and then click OK.
  5. Under Actions, choose an action that you want the Quick Step to do. Click Add Action for any additional actions.

Now go and create new Quick Steps!

Everyone Needs A NOT-To-Do List … Even You!

not to do image

Most of us leave the office with a sense of accomplishment if we manage to complete our daily to-do list that day. Productive and successful people live and breathe to-do lists. It’s their business bible. With limited time and energy, a manageable and realistic list like this is a must.

Why, then, is a NOT-To-Do-List also a good idea? Think about it. All day, every day, we are bombarded with to-dos that are not on our daily list. While we are committed to the tasks on our to-do list, other tasks, which often appear out of nowhere, also demand time and attention. To make it worse, they take our focus off important tasks – the ones that bring us closer to our goals.

Staying away – far away — from those interloper tasks is just as important as completing your to-dos. We recently interviewed 70 successful and productive business people.  Many of them told us that they prevent “other” tasks and assignments from derailing them despite the pressure to succumb. They maintain their focus and concentrate on the tasks that matter.

In many ways a NOT-to-do list is ranks just as high as a to-do list. Knowing what you should not be doing frees you up for the tasks that need your focus and concentration. As fellow time management specialist Harold Taylor says, “If something is not critical to do then it is critical that we do not do it.”

Below are suggested NOT-To-Dos. By not doing them, you will be able to focus your efforts on the tasks that will get you closer to your long term and short term goals.

1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. It is an interruption and you will lose focus on what you are doing. That’s why they made voice mail. If it is important, return the call on your schedule.  A program called PhoneTag will convert your voicemails into text and email them to you along with the original audio of the message.

2. Do not check email in the morning. Tackle an important task instead. Email is a low-level function that requires less brain power than other high level tasks such as prioritizing, planning and writing.

3. Do not check email all day long. Check email only at specific times.  Email is like candy. Your brain craves the novelty of finding out who just sent you the last email and what it says. Don’t play that game. Schedule a block of time (45 minutes or so) two or three times a day and enter these times in your calendar with a start and finish time. Consider looking at email mid-morning, after lunch (probably too sleepy to do much of anything else) and again around 4pm, giving you one last opportunity to reply before heading out the door. Oh, yes. Don’t forget to disable the sound and pop up alerts.

3. Do not add to your priorities without considering the implications. Were you just handed a new project? If so, how important is it and when is it due? Communicate with your boss the impact a new project has on your existing ones. Tip: write all active projects down into a notebook (paper or electronic). At a glance, you’ll see all of your projects and due dates.

4. Do not take calls while you are in a meeting unless you are the president of the United States or an ER doctor. If you must answer, be sure and inform attendees before the start of the meeting that you are expecting an important call. Otherwise your colleagues may not have nice things to say about your manners.

5. Do not allow others to clutter your inbox.  Avoid sending emails with receipts attached to them. Ask to be removed from your company’s non-essential distribution lists. And, while you are at it, unsubscribe to on-line magazines and newsletters that do not have a high payoff. One last email tip: avoid sending email with receipt requests. Some people use an auto responder thanking a person for their email and letting them know when they will return the call. Leave a phone number in case it is an emergency. Just remember to call them back when you say you will.

6. Do not connect with your smart phone 24/7. Turn it off when you are not working. Everyone needs time to recharge without being tethered to technology. Get a dog if you need companionship.

7. Do not allow social media sites to consume your time. Access updates during non-working hours unless social media sites are part of your business strategy. Use a timer to stay focused while surfing social media sites. Or, before you know it, an hour has passed and you have nothing to show for it.

8. Do not send vague emails. Write relevant, descriptive subject lines. Put “Action Needed” or “Action Requested” in the body of the email to highlight your request. The fewer words the better. Read over the email before hitting send to make sure that the email is clear and expresses your thoughts.

9. Do not say “yes” unless yes is really the answer you want to give. It is appropriate to check your calendar or to say that you must check with others first. If this project will make it harder to reach your goals, do not hesitate to say no.

10. Do not attend a meeting without an agenda. Preferably, the agenda will be sent out ahead of time along with committee reports. Focus your time at a meeting on issues and discussions. Before entering the meeting, be sure and know when it will end.

11. Do not spend too much time chit-chatting with people in the office or on the phone. Of course be friendly, but move the conversation along at the same time. Often, informing the person that you are in the midst of a project is sufficient.

12. Do not worry about something that has already happened. Did you make a mistake in a meeting or say something that you now realize was incorrect? It happens to everyone. Make your apologies and move on. Save your thinking for positive thoughts and ideas and do not dwell on something that you cannot change.

13. Do not do something if you can delegate it. Given the demands on our time these days, do not hesitate to ask an administrative assistant, a subordinate or a colleague to handle tasks they are capable of doing. H/she may have more expertise in the area than you have. Even though explaining the task may be time-consuming, it will be worth it in the end.

14. Do not do less beneficial tasks at the expense of important ones. Often we become caught up on a less important task. The task was important when you started it, but part way through you now realize it is no longer a priority. Even if you have put extensive effort into it and are emotionally tied to the outcome, drop it right away. It may be hard but your time needs to be allocated against the projects that count.

15. Do not worry about things you can not affect. If your revenue was down last month, think about ways to make it up. Worrying about the problem won’t fix it.

Now you have 15 NOT-To-Do items and you are sure to come up with others on your own. Be mindful and oh so conscious of the tasks you should not do because they will rob you of the time you need for crucial tasks. What will you put on your NOT-To-Do List? Write to us and let us know.

For more information creating your very own NOT-To-Do List, check out the 3/14/13 Forbes article by Pat Brans and Michael Hyatt’s point-of-view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email = Interruptions

email ampersandWho could have predicted the incredible effect of email on our daily work and personal lives 20+ years ago when it  was introduced? Dictating to secretaries in the ’60’s and ’70’s (Madmen anyone?) and using dictaphones to compose a document someone else then types have virtually disappeared except in medical offices. Probably anyone in their 20’s and 30’s reading this may not have heard of a dictaphone.

Email is the accepted way of life these days and has dramatically changed the way we work. It has invaded our personal and work lives and is with us 24/7. Many of our clients are unhappy with the number of emails that pile up in their inbox daily and a few describe it as the bane of their existence. There are less face-to-face conversations which is too bad because they often spark ideas and promote communication with fellow-workers and clients. Colleagues and clients expect answers from their email immediately. There isn’t any time left over to think.

Author Phyllis Korkki who wrote the June 16,2013, New York Times article Messages Galore, But No Time To think blames our lack of thinking time on email interruptions. She suggests that companies set expectations around email for their employees. People can be more productive if they know if it is acceptable to turn off email to work on a project,  the acceptable period of time before replying to an email, and where email should be saved.

All of these questions are perfectly acceptable to ask a manager. Do you know what your company policy is?

Email Etiquette

Everyone uses email these days but many people do not realize the common errors they make on a regular basis. Bill Husted in yesterday’s The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out three areas where we can all do a better job.

1) Responding to someone in the heat of the moment. There is no taking it back when you write an email when you are angry and hit the send button without waiting until you calm down. As Husted points out, “quick on the trigger” only makes a situation worse.

2) Reply to all — Be extra careful to reply only to the people who need to know. Even though an email has been sent to a number of other people, there is no reason to send your reply to everyone. Were you invited to a meeting? Reply only to the sender. The people in the group don’t  care to know the details as to why someone can — or can not — attend a meeting.

3) Edit your emails — Spelling and grammatical mistakes are a poor reflection on the writer and send a negative message to the reader. The writer did not consider it important enough to re-read and edit the email. While expectations may not be as high as a written letter, it is still important to be as accurate as possible.

There is an exception, however, which is a reply from a phone. It is not always easy to use a small screen and letters so mistakes do happen.

Thanks, Mr. Husted, for your email etiquette suggestions. Do you have one that you would like to send us?

Zero Emails In Your Inbox. Is It Possible?

Have you ever considered what it would be like to have zero emails in your inbox? Most of us have a comfort level and stick with that number. For some it may be 20 while others are happy if they can keep the number to 60. Then there are those who aspire to less than 500. Each one of us has a number. What’s yours?

David Allen from Getting Things Done suggests that the number should be zero. While Allen blogs that zero emails in your inbox will require a definite change in thinking, he thinks it is worth the effort. It is possible to make this change only when you decide that the number you are currently comfortable with is no longer acceptable.

If you are wondering why Allen suggests that we take our inbox from our comfort number to zero, he gives several good reasons. Even though you may flag them and know what emails are already in your inbox, Allen points out that:

1) it takes time — and energy — to go through them every time. This is valuable energy that takes us away from important tasks.

2) the email is still there because you haven’t taken the time to decide how to handle it.

If  you are stressed out by the the number of emails in your inbox, we can teach you the techniques to make decisions on how to handle each email, how to sort quickly and where to put the ones needing further action. Call us at 404-303-8431 or email info@ItsTimeToGetOrganized.com for a free consultation.