Ask Jeff: How do I Control Outlook Overload?

Jeff Doubek, Day-Timer SpokespersonWe continue to ask readers to send comments and questions about planning, productivity and time management, to Jeff Doubek, Brand Spokesperson. Your response has been fantastic. Here is an answer to a user question that might be of interest.

Dear Jeff,

These days all information seems to get dumped into Outlook; emails, voice mails, faxes, meeting requests, webinar invites, etc. At first I thought this unified messaging feature would really help, however, it seems now more slips through the cracks than ever before.

Do you have any suggestions for managing this new tool?



Hi BC,

Your question is so welcome, because it’s a common problem for anyone who uses Outlook, or any other personal information management program. It seems, the more you use it for your organization, the more Outlook can potentially become cluttered.

Here are some keys for keeping in control of Outlook:

  • Schedule Outlook routines three times per day: in the morning, after lunch, and before you leave work
  • Use blue follow-up flags to indicate items needing to be read
  • Use red follow-up flags for items needing to be processed (responded to, acted upon, filed, trashed)
  • Do equal parts of reading and processing with each minute you spend on Outlook
  • Write items needing action into your planner’s to-do list (include date item was received in Outlook for easy reference)
  • Create a “save for reference” folder for items you think will offer value later
  • Create a “someday” folder for items you might want to read later

Your main concern each day should be to make a decision each day for every item in your inbox, whether it’s been saved, trashed or tasked.

Give these tips a try and please email me to let me know how it’s going.

Enjoy your time,

2 thoughts on “Ask Jeff: How do I Control Outlook Overload?

  1. I have a folder for each associate or friend (Fred, Mary, Pals for male friends, Women for female friends) and their emails are filed directly into the folder. Other folders include Newsletters for everything that can be read later, Pending for medical appointments, Due for online bill payments (also flagged on the calendar day when they need to be paid); Important for items that need to be handled A.S.A.P. Calendar items are color coded so I can see what type of activity or appointment is scheduled. Some of these ideas might work for you.

    • That’s a great system Adrienne. I especially like the folder for Newsletters, which you can process on a weekly basis, because those emails keep coming on a regular schedule. Thank you for sharing.

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