In a conversation during breakfast in a hotel we finally came to email and coping with it in Microsoft Outlook, and agreed that the sustainability of recreation after vacation can severely be limited by the hundreds of emails to be scanned through.
It does not have to be like that. While some propagate a more rigid method to simply delete all emails, I got question marks with my confession that I finish scanning emails after three weeks of vacation in under two hours. Rigid deleting works, too, but only if this is clearly stated in the out-of-office message in Outlook.
But what if you just are booked for some days and cannot stay on top of your email inbox? In the further flow of our conversation we noticed that often two main mistakes happen. First, inboxes are often strictly sorted to date, not grouped to conversation thread. Second, leaders often do not let newest messages show at the top, but sorted date ascending not descending.
(Eine deutsche Fassung dieses Artikels ist verfügbar: Bewältigen der Email-Flut: Emails in Outlook nach Unterhaltungen gruppieren)
Grouping emails to conversation thread
Grouping is essential. How often you saw a lively email exchange to a certain topic where people misused the medium email for conversation? And how often you noticed that you already saw the contents of an email message already as quote somewhere else? See. Something that Newsreader could do already twenty-five years ago, Outlook is capable of since some years ago, too: Grouping to conversation thread. When receiving an email message to a certain topic, every other mail of the same thread gets grouped to that and cam be expanded. This way you only see the latest message to that thread, while having easy access to older ones and may delete. You configure this view by clicking on View and View Settings. There you choose for Grouping the setting Conversation (ascending). Now you have the behavior that makes the masses of emails in Outlook easier to master. Because not dozens of email messages on the exact same conversation thread jam your inbox.
Clean up and ignore conversations in Outlook
Now how do you get rid of the nicely grouped but superfluous emails? Deleting manually is one option. A faster one is the clean up functionality in Outlook. Right click the head of a grouped email conversation and select Clean up conversation. This removes all messages that just contain text that is quoted in others. You decide that you do not want to follow a certain conversation because it is irrelevant to you? And you do not want to spend time deleting messages on that in the next couple of days? The same context menu has an entry Ignore. This deletes the complete conversation thread and new messages automatically are deleted by Outlook. I often use this for conversations on certain list mailers.
Email in context of Getting Things Done
These proposed nice Outlook functionalities are sadly enough too unknown. Maybe this post helps you to find more productivity for yourself. Working with email for me happens in the context of Getting Things Done, of course, whose implementation I discuss in my post Getting Things Done with Outlook and iPhone.
Now how do you get faster through your emails?