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How to regain control of your Outlook Inbox in 15 minutes or less

Inbox overrun to the point where you're losing important messages? Take 15 minutes and get your Inbox under control!

There's an old saying about the cobbler's children having no shoes. Well, I can dish out great advice for keeping your Inbox in good order, but I'm not so fast to take my own advice. This morning, after downloading 253 new emails, I had 2,383 messages in my Inbox.

Watches, flags, categories, and so on are all great management and organization tools, but even the best system requires a personal touch now and again to keep things under control. So, today was the day.

First, I added three new folders:

  • ActOn: These are the emails with watches, flags, and so on - emails that need my attention.
  • ReviewLater: These are emails that I need to read, but that don't need any kind of response from me.
  • DeleteMidJune: These are for those messages that I probably don't need at all, but that I'm reluctant to delete right now. If I do need something, it'll be there. Next month, they're toast! I won't even open the folder and review it one last time. I'll just delete the folder. (I like to live dangerously!)

I deleted everything else. I use the Deleted folder as a holding folder. Once a month, I delete whole blocks of emails. It seems obsessive, but I've found important information in there more than once. While moving and deleting, I didn't read or respond. I just moved emails! As I moved down the list, I deleted more and move less.

I also made good use of the two keyboard shortcuts for selecting blocks:

  • Hold down [Shift] and click to select contiguous blocks:
  • Hold down [Ctrl] and click to select non-contiguous blocks.

That way, I was able to move or delete several emails at one time. In addition, I thought of two new filtering rules.

I spent 15 minutes and I have only 14 emails remaining in my Inbox. I created two new filtering rules that should help in the future.

What housecleaning tricks do you have for keeping your Inbox manageable?

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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