With hundreds of messages hitting your inbox each week, email can get out of control quickly. The good news is that simple, regular maintenance of your mailbox can not only help you be better organized, but also increase your efficiency and productivity. Below are some quick tips for cleaning up and keeping up with your Outlook email mailbox.
Watch the Outlook 2013: Efficient Email Management course on lynda.com for more great tips.
- Use Mailbox Cleanup
Microsoft's Mailbox Cleanup tool can help you automate many of the following tasks, saving you loads of time. Learn How
- Check your mailbox size
You'll want to check this from time to time. Keep this number under 50GB (students) or 100GB (employees) to avoid any disruption to sending or receiving emails.
Go to File > Check the progress bar under Mailbox Cleanup
You can also check the size of individual folders.
Right click Inbox (or any other folder) > Select Properties > Click the Folder Size button
- Empty the trash or deleted items folder
Every time you delete an email, calendar appointment or other item, it goes to the Deleted Items or Trash folder. This folder can grow quickly, so it's important to empty it periodically.
Right click Deleted Items > Select Empty Folder
- Automatically delete old messages
You can also set up retention rules to automatically delete messages based on their age or other criteria. Learn How
- Delete messages with attachments that are no longer needed
Attachments and embedded images take up a lot of space. Delete as many of these messages as possible.
- Save attachments outside your mailbox
If you need to keep an attachment, save it to a convenient and easy-to-remember location on your computer.
Right-click the attachment > Select Save As > Choose a location > Click Save
Then either delete the message or keep the message and remove the attachment.
Right-click the attachment > Select Remove Attachment
- Use OneDrive for Business to share documents
Forget clunky attachments altogether. Employees can save documents to OneDrive for Business and then just share a link to a particular document rather than sending it as an attachment.
- Condense message threads
Clean up message threads-series of emails and replies pertaining to one topic or subject line-by deleting all but the final message. You can also clump together emails based on the conversation.
View > In the Messages section, check the box for Show as Conversations
- Empty the junk mail folder
Most of the emails that get caught in this folder are truly junk. Do a quick scan of the folder-reminding yourself not to fall for phishing scams-and delete all junk messages.
- Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters and mailing lists
Tired of hearing about upcoming higher ed conferences? No longer interested in MailChimp? Unsubscribe from irrelevant marketing emails to cut down on traffic to your inbox.
- Delete old stuff
Email hoarders, this is for you. If you have any other old messages or folders that are no longer needed, it is time to bid them adieu. Also, Outlook keeps a copy of every message you send by default (which can really add up!). You can easily turn this feature off. Learn How
- Move mail into folders
Folders can help you organize your mail by project, conversation or whatever criteria make sense to you. You can also use the Clutter folder to sort low priority messages. Learn How
- Set up rules
Rules help you stay organized and up-to-date by automatically filing or notifying you of certain messages. Learn How
- Create an email archive
Archiving removes emails from your mailbox and stores them on your computer's hard drive. Learn How
- Maintain your mailbox
Once you have your email under control, it will be easier to stay on top of it. In addition to the steps outlined above, try using the RAFTS method to keep afloat of your day-to-day email in the future.
Briefly skim through the email and determine whether it's something that requires your attention. If it doesn't require your attention, delete it immediately.
If an email requires a quick reply, do it now and delete or file the message. If it requires future action or more in-depth review, place it on your calendar, flag it as a task or otherwise track and file it.
File the message if it does not require action but may need to be referenced in the future.
Delete messages which do not fall within the guidelines above.
Use the search bar and advanced search options within Outlook to quickly find specific messages and conversations. Learn How