Manage emails in Outlook using the 4 Ds

 Feb 12, 2015

In an earlier blog post, I talked about some of the ways to manage the flood of emails in Microsoft Outlook that we all seem to get these days. I spoke about Flags and Categories which are great ways to mark something as requiring action. However, in this blog post, I’m going to talk about having a plan or process to manage email that suits your work processes. Getting distracted by email is a common loss of productivity in the workplace. You can always close Outlook while you work on something but if you have to have Outlook open, here’s a good approach to keep in the back of your mind.

1. Delete

If the email isn’t relevant and you won’t need to keep it, delete the email. The ‘craze’ of CC-ing everyone is a plague that wastes so much of our time. If even clicking on emails and pressing delete is taking too much time then set up a rule to have Outlook do this for you. I’ll talk about this in more detail in a later blog post but here is a quick and simple way to set up a rule.

Find an email you don’t want, right click on it and choose Rules then Create Rule. Manage emails in Outlook using the 4 Ds

A rule needs the conditions of when it will run (the top three checkboxes). Here you can choose if the email is from a certain person or contains a certain subject, or both, or even if it was sent only to you. In this case, I’ve selected that any email with the subject of “Pizza.” A rule also needs an action (the bottom three tick boxes). The one you’ll want to use the most is ‘Move the item to folder’ because moving things to the ‘Deleted Items’ folder is a great choice for emails you’ll never want. You can even set up more sophisticated rules that delete (or move to a low priority folder) any email that you have been CCed on, as opposed to emails directly to you. One of the salespeople here at New Horizons has that exact rule set up, and for him this deals with over 100 emails a day.

2. Delegate

If the email isn’t part of your work role, forward it on to the person who it is. Remember, when forwarding an email that has gone back and forth a lot, it is often helpful to delete some of the quoted response text from the bottom. You have a copy of what you sent in your ‘Sent Items’ folder so quoting and requoting previous emails in the chain just distracts both you and the person you are communicating with. Deleting necessary quoting often makes your message clearer by focusing on exactly what needs to be done. If you really need to see a chain of emails, go to the View tab of the ribbon and tick the box for Show in Conversations. Manage emails in Outlook using the 4 Ds

Here’s an example: Manage emails in Outlook using the 4 Ds

Notice here I’m seeing an email from Peter that I responded to (notice this response is showing here even though it is actually in my Sent Items folder).

3. Defer

Unless the action that the email requires is going to take 3 minutes or less, don’t interrupt yourself by doing it immediately. You can use a Flag or a Category to remind yourself about it (I’ve already talked about these). However, here is one other option that is good if you know you’ll need to block out time in your calendar for it. Simply drag and drop the email onto the Calendar Icon at the bottom left of the screen and let go of the mouse button. Manage emails in Outlook using the 4 DsOutlook opens a new Calendar appointment with the same name as the email and with the same info in the body. By the way, doing this doesn’t delete or move the original email, you are just making a copy of it that is an appointment, not an email. Manage emails in Outlook using the 4 Ds The start and finish time for the new appointment are today’s time and date but you can change those. Click on the Save and Close button when you are done. This is a quick and easy way to schedule what you need to do.

4. Do It!

This one is pretty self-explanatory, no Outlook tips needed for this one. I hope these tips help you keep on top of your email.

How do your Excel skills stack up?   

Test Now  

About the Author:

Matthew Goodall  

Matthew is a qualified Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Certified Applications Specialist and a Microsoft Certified Trainer with over 11 years of hands-on experience in a training facilitation role. He is one of New Horizons most dynamic instructors who consistently receives high feedback scores from students. Matt enjoys helping students achieve real professional and personal growth through the courses he delivers. He is best known for creating “fans” of students, who regularly request him as an instructor for any future courses they undertake at New Horizons.

Read full bio