Processing e-mail effectively and efficiently is the greatest area of productivity improvement you can achieve today. Setting up your Microsoft Outlook e-mail client properly will quickly get you processing that never-ending stream of communication more efficiently. The short video below walks you through the setup steps that will make your Inbox a power processing center. Below the video panel is a brief overview of each setting I recommend and the reasons why.
Here’s a categorized list of the changes I recommend and the reasons for those changes:
1. Turn Show in Groups Off – View, Arrange by, uncheck Show in Groups. This eliminates the Today, Yesterday, Last Week line items in your Inbox screen. After all the setup changes are made, you will see a Received column in your Inbox that shows when each e-mail arrived.
2. AutoPreview Off – View, click on AutoPreview so it does not appear in your screen. This setting clutters the screen with only partially useful information. One of the primary objectives to these setup changes is to de-clutter your Inbox screen.
3. Reading Pane Off – View, Reading Pane, Off. This is a difficult one for most, but the next few changes will provide you a preview of each e-mail as you process it in a much more efficient and effective manner. Turning off the Reading Pane promotes a cleaner Inbox screen and prevents you from allowing e-mails to compost at the bottom.
4. Open Next Item – Tools, Options, E-mail Options, select “open to next item” in the first drop down. The default setting is “return to Inbox” which is an inefficient way to process email. By setting this to “open to next item,” you will be able to process one e-mail, then immediately proceed to the next e-mail in the list – a rapid fire way to process e-mail.
5. Uncheck “Close original message on reply or forward” – Uncheck the box adjacent to this statement which is just below the “open to next item” drop down. This will keep the original message open after you do something with it (reply or forward). Thus, you can delete or file the original once you’ve processed it without having to leave this in-line power processing method.
6. Turn Off Most New E-mail Alerts – In the same screen as the last two settings, click the button called Advanced E-mail Settings. In the middle of the screen that pops up is a group of items titled “When new items arrive in my Inbox.” Uncheck the first, second and fourth boxes. This will turn off most of the new e-mail alerts you’re receiving, except the little envelope that appears in the bottom right corner of your screen. The short answer to why is: It’s okay to know you have e-mail to process (the little envelope). However, it’s not okay to be interrupted every time you receive an e-mail (the other alerts) because it’s hugely distracting to what you are doing right now! Check your e-mail frequently, just don’t get interrupted every time one shows up.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.