Ask Jeff: How Do I Control My 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.

Do you have a question for Jeff? Visit the homepage and scroll down to the link next to Jeff’s picture.

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 My Outlook Overload?

  1. Outlook, in concept, was a good idea. I came to detesst it. Finally I figured out why… I was not using my head before giving out my email address. I never gave out the business email address to persons not connected to work. I never gave the personal email address to those with whom I worked. I am now semi-retired, so there is less volume of email and other things coming in, but I still do not just give out my email address.

    Friends have my email address because I give it to them and I ask them to keep my contact information personal and confidential. Life is easier that way. I can use my gmail account for friends and family and not jam up the work mail program with things that are not taken care of at work. Those who need to know where to find me have my cell number, but I do not text friends or answer texts sent to my personal cell phone while on a job.

    It is called the “Tyranny of the Urgent” and anyone can become a victim of it.

    1. Dianne, thanks for your great comment. You are right too… I have always preached that the best way to reduce your volume of incoming email (and texts) is to not create it in the first place. In other words, be concise with your messages to others, don’t sign up for too many newsletters, and control who you give your email address out to.

      Thanks, Jeff

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