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Tips for keeping your Outlook organized

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Outlook ButtonOutlook 2010 is an excellent program, though it can be a daunting one. With a plethora of viewing choices, lots of categories, and more features than you can shake a stick at (I've tried); it is hard to know where to start. Often, people just use one or two features, believing the others to be too difficult to use.

Fortunately, a recent Microsoft article does an excellent job or outlining seven rules to help you stay organized. Most of these I use myself, and it makes my work life much easier. Rare is the day I have more than one unread email in my inbox.

Here are the tips, in brief:

1.      Group by Conversation. This feature allows you to group entire discussions together, eliminating the need to hunt for previous emails in the same conversation thread. If you have ever hand twelve people respond to one of your emails, you know how much this can help.

2.      Sort emails in folders. Creating your own group of folders helps keep things in place. Most people have some folders in place, but don't forget that you can have sub-folders as well. Moreover, you can use rules to automatically sort emails into these folders as they come in.

3.      Create Search Folders. Admittedly, I don't use this feature much myself. I'm a little diligent with my folder organization. However, if you aren't nearly as geeky about this, creating search folders is just the thing for you!

4.      Route mail using rules. If you aren't using rules, you should! They allow you to mark, forward, sort, or delete emails automatically based on your needs.

5.      Use Junk filters. The bane of email marketers, these rules allow you to sort or delete email based on who sent it to you. This is the last line of defense against obtrusive email.

6.      Assign color categories. I use this feature every day. In Outlook, you can give color categories to emails. You determine what these categories mean. For example, I use red for those important "to do" emails. I use green for emails that I will keep for reference, and I use orange for those emails I need to read closer later. It is one of the handiest features in Outlook.

7.      Flag for follow up. These flags are excellent! Simply by adding a flag, you can set a due date, start date, or a reminder. It essentially turns an email into a task. They even show up on your calendar.

To learn how to do each of these, and read more about these great features, visit the Microsoft At Work Web site.

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