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,