How much can you get done in one day? There never seems to be enough time to accomplish what you want, but what if you could make the time you have go further? Have you eliminated all possible extra steps you are taking each day? Take a look at how you spend your time answering emails, managing meetings, contacts and tasks. If you find yourself bogged down in Outlook, like so many of us, there are things you can do! Productivity and efficiency can be easy to achieve with these 8 time saving tips for Microsoft Outlook 2013.

1. Customize Inbox Views

Outlook comes with standard views but how you view your inbox is completely customizable. Setting up custom views is easy and can make seeing important emails simpler and faster. To change a folder view in Microsoft Outlook 2013

  • Click View, then click Change View, and then Manage Views
    Custom Inbox views1
  • Click on NEW, and then add a name to the Name of New View box. Select a Type of View and then select when you want it to be used under Can Be Used On. Click Ok.
    Custom Inbox views2
  • Select any advanced setting you want to use and then click OK. To activate the changes you made, click Apply. Check out this article for more examples of how you can change and customize your views.

2. Customize How “Unread” Emails are Changed to “Read”

If you are like me and have a habit of quickly glancing at most emails, but want to read them again later, this tip can be especially useful. The default setting for marking emails as Read in Outlook is 5 seconds. That means if the email is open in your reading window for 5 seconds, it’s marked as read. If you want to skim and be able to come back and see those marked as unread later on, you can increase the time the email needs to be open to marked as Read.

  • First, go to File, then Options, then Advanced
    Customize Unread Emails1
  • Next, click on Reading Pane
    Customize Unread Emails2
  • Adjust the settings in the Reading Pan pop up to as much time as you would like.


3. Using Flags and To Do List

Using Flags to create To Do lists and generate automatic follow up reminders, for both emails and contacts, keeps you organized with minimal effort. Do you like minimal effort? I do.

  • To flag and email or contact for follow-up, click on the flag icon on the email you want to add to the task list.
    Using Flags1
  • Click on Tasks to see all flagged items.
    Using Flags2
  • To customized the Due Date for follow up notifications, click on the Home tab at the top of the screen, then select Follow Up, then click Custom
    Using Flags3
  • To add pop up reminders for each email, click on the Home tab at the top of the screen, then select Follow Up, then click Add Reminder, fill in all the info and the Reminder will be sent. You can also add subjects to the reminders as well as sounds.
    Using Flags4


4. Set Up Permanent Search Folders for Common Searches

If you search for certain things or from certain people often, setting up a permanent search folder will be useful. Keep in mind that Outlook will give results for any email containing that word or string of words. Ex- if your search includes the word jump, you will get results that include jumper, jumping etc.Example search folder titles could be “ Marketing+spend”, “IT+Issues”, “ “ , “Customer Service” etc

  • To set up a permanent search folder, click on Folder, at the top and then New Search Folder
  • When you get to the Select a Search folder pop up, select what you need from the list. If you do not see an option that will work for you, you can select Custom from the bottom of the list.
  • You can change the search criteria of each folder at any time by right clicking on the Navigation Pane, then Customize This Folder, then Criteria and changing any options there.


5. Using Quick Steps

Quick Steps is a really cool way to eliminate repetitive tasks and email responses from your day. If you routinely forward specific emails to people, or always give the same replies to similar questions, Quick Steps will save you time. Outlook has default Quick Steps that can be customized for any need, you can also create your own.

  • To access Quick Steps, click the Home tab and click on More, in the Quick Steps section
  • Click on a pre-set Step and click Edit
  • Adjust the settings to ones that apply to your situations
  • If you don’t find any Quick Steps that suit your needs, you can create one. To create a new Quick Step, click on the Home tab and in the Quick Steps section, click on Create New
  • Give your new Quick Step a name you will easily remember. Then select all the actions you want your Quick Step to perform. You can also select a Shortcut key to run the steps if you choose. Click Finish.

6. Keyboard Shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts cuts down on time spent by allowing smooth transitions between activities. Take a look at this quick study sheet on the default shortcuts set up in Outlook 2013.

Keyboard Shortcut

7. Setting Up Rules

Using Rules in Outlook can reduce time spent manually filing, sorting, routing and can also reduce clutter in your inbox. You can also be notified when important message types are received. There are 2 types of rules you can use, Organization or Notification. You can also create completely custom rules.

Organizational Rules

  • To create an organizational rule, such as “Send all Sales Emails to Sales Folder”, click on the File tab, and then click Manage rules. Then click on New Rule
  • Select a template you’d like to use from the list and then edit the rule description down at the bottom
  • Set the conditions, actions, rule description and click Next.
  • Select any possible exceptions to your rule and then add a value for any exceptions you added.
  • Click Next and name your rule. Move to Step 2, Setup Rule Options and select any that apply. Click Finish. If you want to run this rule on everything already in your inbox, make sure the “Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox”” box is checked. The new rule is automatically turned on and will run with the every new received item.


Notification Rules

  • To create a notification rule, click on the File tab, and then click Manage rules. Then click on New Rule
  • Select the option to display a new Item Alert Window
  • Select the options you need on the next menu screen and click Next

Hit Finish, your new notification Alert is now in place and will go off any time you receive an email matching the set criteria.

8. Quick Schedule Meetings- Drag and Drop

Outlook 2013 offers an awesome feature for quick meeting scheduling. You can now drag and drop any email into your calendar tab to set up a meeting. You can drag it to the date and time you need, or drop it anywhere and edit the date and time to what you need.

  • Select the email you wish to schedule a meeting for. Right click on it and without lifting off the RIGHT mouse button, drag it to the Calendar or Task bar below.
  • Select the option that best suits your needs from the list that appears.
    • Copy Here as Appt with Text will import all text in the email chain into your meeting request.
    • Copy Here as Appt with Shortcut will send a shortcut to the file location of the email chain, along with the meeting request.
    • Copy Here as Appt with Attachment will attach a file with the email chain along with your meeting request.

Move here as Appt with Attachment brings the email chain text into the appt but also contains an attachment with the same text.