07:27 AM

Management Matters: Take control of your Outlook inbox

Vol. 79, No. 4 / July - Aug. 2023

Danielle DavisRoe
Danielle DavisRoe is a graduate of The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She practiced law at a boutique firm in central Ohio prior to coming to Affinity Consulting. As a consultant, she focuses on training and helping legal professionals work more efficiently.


The average lawyer's inbox is overflowing with emails from clients, opposing counsel, support staff and others. That sheer volume can make it difficult to find important messages quickly. These tricks for Outlook users will help you get control over your inbox and ensure that you are reading and responding in a timely manner. 

Use rules to automatically sort incoming and outgoing email.   
Rules allow you to automatically sort email into different folders. If you use Outlook, from the home tab, click on “Rules.” From here, you can create instructions based on various criteria, such as the sender, the subject, or specific words in the body of the email.  

Create Quick Steps to process email with a single click.   
Quick Steps combine multiple actions into a single click. For example, you can create a Quick Step that forwards an email to your assistant, moves that email out of your inbox, and marks it as read with a single click. On the home tab, click on the drop-down arrow in the Quick Steps gallery. From here, you can create and manage your Quick Steps.  

Use AutoText to insert commonly used text.   
AutoText entries are pre-written (and pre-formatted) snippets of text that you can insert into your emails with just a few clicks. They can be used for answers to commonly asked questions, instructions, lists of attached documents, and more.

Start by typing and formatting the new entry in a new email. Select the text. On the insert ribbon, under “Quick Parts,” select AutoText, and save the selection to the AutoText gallery. Then, you just need to select the entry from the gallery to insert it into a new email.  

Use categories to organize emails.   
Categories can help you organize your emails into different groups and even color code them. This can be helpful for quickly sorting and filtering email. Categories are also useful for color-coding calendar appointments, tasks, and contacts. Right-click on the email in your inbox. Under “Categorize,” select the desired category. To edit the existing categories, select “All Categories.”  

Filter your email.   
Filters are a great way to quickly show only unread emails, email categorized in a certain way, or flagged emails. From the “View” ribbon, click on “View Settings.” Then click on “Filter” to set up a filter.  

Customize your view.   
Outlook allows you to customize the way your inbox is displayed. Decide which columns to show, sort your email in a variety of ways, and add your calendar or tasks to your inbox. All of the settings related to how your inbox appears can be found on the “View” ribbon.  

Work faster with keyboard shortcuts.   
Keyboard shortcuts can help you work more efficiently. Commonly used keyboard shortcuts include:

Delete key – deletes the selected email/appointment/task   
Ctrl + F – forward   
Ctrl + R – reply   
Ctrl + N – new email   
Ctrl + 1 – switch to email   
Ctrl + 2 – switch to calendar 

Clean up your inbox automatically   
Your mailbox has a limited amount of space. (Go to “Info” under the file menu to see how much space you have remaining.) If your mailbox is starting to fill up, you can free some space by archiving old emails. Archived emails are stored in an Outlook data file (.pst) on your computer and are no longer visible in your Inbox.  

Taking control over your inbox is key to a productive and stress-free workday. Take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to take control over your inbox.