7 Tips to a Better Organized Microsoft Outlook

January 9, 2023 electricoak

7 Tips for Outlook Organization

“Inbox zero” is the mythical moment that you continually strive for. It’s that blip in time where there are NO emails—read or unread—in your inbox, and it feels great.

The truth is that “inbox zero” doesn’t have to be a rare occurrence. More than just deleting what can be deleted, you can better organize your to-dos and reminders if you utilize these top Microsoft Outlook organizational tips.

1: Use Outlook Folders

This is the basis of many other systems you’ll use to organize your Microsoft Outlook. It’s also one of those things most users figure out on their own (at some point).

You can create folders in your Outlook just like you would on your computer. This keeps messages organized and also makes them easier to search.

Some folders are automatically added to your Outlook account, like Drafts and Sent Mail. Other folders are best organized according to how you work. If you’re a supervisor, maybe you want a folder for each person you manage to store communications back-and-forth. Or if you’re a salesperson, maybe you want folders for specific clients.

Other common folders include:

  • Campaigns
  • Projects
  • Collaborations

2: Create Your To-Do Folder (and Sub-Folders)

The handiest of all folders is the “To-Do” folder, especially if you use emails as reminders or to track projects.

Keep your To-Do folder clean by adding subfolders (yes, you can do that too) for “Follow-Up” and “Someday.” That way, the stuff that sits in To-Do for ages can be stored in “Someday” where it won’t distract you from what needs to get done now.

3: Use Outlook Categories, Too

Categories, like folders, are a tool to organize your Outlook inbox. This helps you visually scan a list of emails for specific items.

Categories work with a color-coding system of your own personal design. A colored label is then added to specific emails.

You can see how some of these categories complement your folder structure nicely. For example, some common categories are:

  • High priority
  • Low priority
  • Waiting for response
  • Payment required

4: Use the Task List

We’ve all sent emails to ourselves as reminders. Plenty of us were excited, too, when we could start “talking to ourselves” with messages in Teams.

The best way to keep track of to-dos, though, is by using the task list in Outlook. The emails related to tasks can still be moved to your To-Do folder, but you can also set a reminder and a deadline that shows on your calendar.

5: Use Flags to Set Reminders

Speaking of reminders, flags are particularly helpful for those really important emails.

Flagged emails automatically appear in your Outlook To-Do Bar, your Tasks, and in the Daily Task List in your calendar. They also look different in your inbox, making them easier to pick out. In other words, they are the most reminder-riddled messages possible. You’ll never miss a flagged message.

You’ll even get the built-in satisfaction of marking the flag with a completion “check” once you’ve done whatever it is you need to do.

6: Always Sort by Priority

If you have your categories set up to include different levels of priority, set your Inbox to “sort by priority” and you’ll always keep those important items top-of-mind.

7: Use Automatic Rules

Your Outlook can also do specific things to specific emails the instant they come in, including:

  • Automatically marking something as “read”
  • Automatically applying a certain category
  • Automatically moving something to a certain folder
  • Automatically forwarding to certain people
  • Automatically deleting

Outlook will apply these rules based on the logic you set, including things like: who sent a message, what words are in the subject, what the body of the message contains, etc.

Maybe you’re sick of those spam emails you get with the same subject line again and again (who isn’t). Set a rule to immediately flag as “spam” and delete and see how satisfying that is.

Hopefully you’ve arrived here a little more optimistic about reaching “inbox zero” more often. Use these built-in tools in Outlook and you’ll have a better organized Microsoft Outlook inbox in a matter of minutes. (And the time it will save you in the future will be off the charts.)