Help me better utilize Office for work email, scheduling, etc
April 1, 2013 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I have MS Office Pro Plus 2010 at work, and I haven't used Office before. After using Gmail exclusively for a number of years, and never any scheduling tools beyond what came on my Droid from Verizon, I'm looking for ways to better utilize the email, organizational and time management options I have. I recently learned about flags and conversation view from a co-worker, but I feel like there are more features I should be using.

I get 20-30 emails a week, which isn't a ton, but many of them need some action and those deadlines are out a few weeks. I keep all the email that require some response or action in my inbox, and old discussions get pushed down as I get new emails. I flag the key items, setting priorities for today, this week, or next week, or if there's a hard and fast deadline, I'll add the item in my calendar. Still, low priorities can fall by the wayside.

Beyond color coding events, my use of the calendar is pretty basic. My use of contacts is even more limited, because my work network includes contact information for everyone in our system, so I rarely add contacts.

My mailbox is about 900mb, and I've already used 200mb in my 4 months working here. I also have a 133 MB Outlook Data file with more email, saved on a work server.

Last note: I know there are some 3rd party add-ons that can add functionality, but my access to my computer is limited. Either those add-ons have to be able to run without admin rights, or they have to be good enough for me to sell the computer administrators on their usefulness (and they can't cost any money, unless they're really great, because I'm not allowed to purchase software and run it on my work computer).

How do you better manage your inbox, calendar, contacts, and your file sizes? Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Work & Money (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoy the features integrated into the task tool. I have various job functions that need to be completed on different days of the week, but on a weekly basis. The task tool lets me set a reminder to go off at a time of my choice on that day, and the task is set to repeat itself on a weekly basis. You can also use this for non-repeating tasks that just need to be done in the future. It goes a long way in helping me to remember to do everything I need to do in a given day.

You can access the task tool via the To-Do bar (defaults to the right of your email view).
posted by erstwhile at 9:48 AM on April 1, 2013

File Size
Do you get a lot of big attachments? You might consider saving those to your computer/a network drive and then stripping them out of the email messages. If you use the reading pane, you can toggle between the message view and a view of the attachment(s) by clicking on either the envelope or the attachment. When you are clicked on the attachment, you get an Attachment tab on your ribbon which includes the option to remove the attachment.

If you're getting or sending lots of file to people who share a network drive or other file storage location with you, you can also send them a link. I usually type this out in my email like this:


With angle brackets at the front and back. <> (Can't do that in the comment here.) There's probably an easier way to do this. In any case, that will save you some storage space.

There's also a Mailbox Cleanup button in the File tab that lets you see what is hogging all the space.

I feel like the calendar functionality is really focused on setting up meetings. It has a nice view (Scheduling Assistant) for seeing when people are available. If you are in a work group, you can all share your calendars with each other so you can look directly on them. I usually pop the calendar page out as a separate window (right-click on the calendar icon at the bottom of the screen that you would use to switch to Calendar view). All the people who have shared their calendars with me are listed and I can use checkboxes to select which calendars are visible. You can also create additional calendars under your own name if you need to track things (equipment, rooms, etc.) that are not you.

Sometimes I use a different sort for my inbox so that I don't get too focused on just the most recent stuff. I'll either flip the sort so the oldest stuff it at the top, or sort by sender.

In addition to flags, you can set up categories. These can be used for projects, and can be used across email messages, tasks and calendar appointments.

Microsoft does a nice job of providing learning resources for their products.
Free Outlook 2010 online training
Ebooks if you scroll down and other articles and courses
posted by jeoc at 6:20 PM on April 1, 2013

I create new folders under my mailbox, and I move emails important emails out of the inbox and into the subfolders. This allows me to organize by project. I mark emails that require action as unread. That way I get a number next to each project folder that tells me how many action items I have for each project. Each project folder gets a subfolder called "Waiting for response." When I send an email that requires a response, I move it from my sent items folder, and mark it as unread until I get a response. That way I know if I need to remind anyone that I'm waiting for a response.

For action items that don't correspond to an email, I use tasks. I create categories that correspond to my projects, and then I sort the task view by category.

I find that all of Outlook's other functionality for organizing and scheduling is too fiddly for my needs.
posted by diogenes at 8:45 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stumbled upon this while searching out something else. A lot of people I know use a .PST file to archive old emails, to free up server space. With conversation view you can also ask it to search your 'sent' folder so your conversation thread includes what you sent out (kinda greyed out and in italics) which is helpful to me. I'm in a large organization, and I use our global contact info to figure out who a person is/what group they work with, sometimes (like when I forget a last name and I want to 2x check that I have the right Mary-Ann or Jonathan or whoever). You don't need to type a date in the new calendar/appointment window , you can type "next Friday" and it figures it out... those are the key ones I remember. I had access to which helped me with a lot of these kind of tips, so you might want to check that out too
posted by NikitaNikita at 4:21 PM on November 19, 2013

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