Getting organised with Outlook: Resources, tips and tools


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Microsoft Outlook is more than just a way of accessing email, it’s a phenomenally powerful productivity and collaboration tool. For reference we will be focussing on the Outlook 2010 email client (ie the software tool that’s part of office) rather than the outlook.com web interface which some of you may use to access your inbox or calendar (especially on your personal devices). The web based interface is accessing the same inbox and calendar as the desktop email client, and will allow you to do many of the same things, but generally it’s easier to make manage things in the email client.

Here are a Durham specific resource to get your started, in particular for synching up your smartphones

Microsoft provide some training materials and this one looks like a good starting point for getting more organized. This is a video so ideally you will have sound, but it has subtitles too (just click on CC for closed captions). Here is an article about best practices in 2010 which has lots of tips and tricks.

Here are some more targeted resources

Inbox management

To start with here is a really good blog post about information overload and managing emails. One useful tip I’ve used in the past is to re-order your inbox to sort for sender. This makes it really easy to delete large numbers of unimportant emails, but also makes it pretty obvious where a lot of your emails are coming from, highlighting possible mail rules and folders to help organise things in future.

One of the big recent ideas around inbox management is ‘inbox zero’, with the idea being that your main inbox should be somewhere that emails only stay in temporarily, being either deleted or filed away immediately as part of de-cluttering effort. Your inbox should be empty by the end of each day (even if they’re all been filed away in a ‘deal with later’ folder). Here are some resources about that, whether you achieve inbox zero, or just inbox a bit less than before, I think the effort is a worthwhile one.

How I get to zero inbox in outlook

Mashable on inbox zero

Some more critical thoughts on inbox zero 

 Calendar tips and tricks

Some people might not use the calendar at all, and some might have their whole lives on there. I definitely tend towards the latter! Having a comprehensive outlook calendar synched up to a smartphone can make managing a busy work/ life schedule much easier. Using the shared collaboration features can make it much easier to arrange and manage meetings. Some of the general resources at the top of the page deal with basic calendar management but here are some resources for getting the most out of the outlook calendar.

If you do use your calendar for personal stuff here are a couple of useful tips for managing your privacy, and here are some general tips for managing calendars

General tips and tricks

12 tips and tricks to work faster in Outlook some good stuff here, I particularly like turning off desktop notifications for all but the most important emails.

Some good intermediate tips from PC Mag 

As ever if you have any suggestions for resources or tips for Outlook let me know and I’ll update this post.

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About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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