my world of work and user experiences

June 30, 2009

How Outlook helped me survive the post-holiday mail stack

Filed under: New world of work — Tags: — frederique @ 23:23

I have just come back from a three week holiday. If I am not careful, I land in a huge stack of unread e-mail upon my return. Finding the urgent and important e-mail in that stack is difficult but very necessary. But I’ve set up Outlook to help me deal with it, by structuring the pile more than in previous years. It’s not high tech, but it’s effective. I have used the following:

  • Out-of-office assistant: Of course I try to warn my contacts in advance that I will be out of office, but it is useful to have an automatic reply which tells the sender when I’m back and whom to contact during my absence. In Outlook 2007, I could set the end date and distinguish between mailers from within my organization and mailers from the outside. In my other workplace, with Outlook 2003, I had to switch it off manually after I returned, but it did warn me. (Tools > Out of Office Assistant).
  • Rules to sort mail: I used rules to sort mail into different folders. Especially recurring mail that usually is not that urgent. For example, all mail with the word ‘newletter’ in the subject goes into the newsletter folder. This works already in Outlook 2003 (Tools > Rules and Alerts)
  • Rules to forward urgent mail: For projects with deadlines that interfered with my holidays (actually, it’s the other way around), I set up a rule to forward mail to colleagues, so that they could deal with it immediately. That concerned mail with specific keywords in the subject or from particular senders. This works also in Outlook 2003 (Tools > Rules and Alerts)
  • Archive: I cleaned up the Inboxes beforehand, so that they would not overflow during my absence.

And I have switched off many automatic notifications, that alert me of changes in project sites. Or at least changed them from immediate or daily notifications to weekly notifications. Of course I don’t need to be notified immediately if anything happens in an interesting project site or blog while I am watching the puffins on the cliffs of Orkney…

Note to self: next year, take the same measures, because they really help.

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