It’s easy to forget that Outlook’s default settings can be changed to suit your particular role and workflow. You don’t have to tailor your workflow to Outlook; Outlook’s perfectly adaptable to suit your workflow. The following six customization tips will help you get Outlook to fit how you work.
1. Only Receive Updates Periodically
If you’re busy working on a project, it can be hard to concentrate when you’re constantly flooded with new email messages. You can setup Outlook to check for new messages periodically, say, every 20 minutes.
- Switch to offline mode by choosing SEND/RECEIVE, then clicking WORK OFFLINE.
- Choose TOOLS>SEND/RECEIVE>DEFINE SEND/RECEIVE SETTINGS. (Or press <CTRL-ALT-S>)
- Choose the send/receive group you want to modify.
- Check the box labeled “Schedule an automatic send/receive every n minutes”, then enter how often you want to check to updates.
As long as people can wait for replies within the time interval you enter, you should be able to eliminate distractions while still remaining in the loop!
Plus, since your outgoing messages are scheduled only to be sent automatically
Bonus Tip: If you really want control over when you receive messages, you can take a further step and disable send/receive.
To turn off scheduled send/receive: Choose SEND/RECEIVE>SEND/RECEIVE GROUPS>DISABLE SCHEDULED SEND/RECEIVE.
Then, to manually send and receive messages, choose SEND/RECEIVE> or press <F9>.
This will ensure messages are never automatically sent or received, and give you time to think about outbound messages at least a second time before actually sending them.
2. Customize Your Work Week and Hours
Many people, entrepreneurs and business owners especially, eschew the traditional 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday work week. To reflect this reality, you can arrange Outlook to reflect the real hours you keep.
- Choose TOOLS>OPTIONS.
- [Click] CALENDAR OPTIONS.
- To change the work week days, check/uncheck the boxes for the days you want included/excluded from your work week.
- To change the time you start and end your workday, under the CALENDAR WORK WEEK heading, enter the start time and end time of your work day.
Entering the actual days and times you work during the week is useful because it helps Outlook determine when you’re busy or free for meeting requests from other people. And it hopefully ensures, that even if your work week stretches from Monday to Saturday, you have at least some time off.
3. Add An Address Book
It’s always a great idea to have your contacts consolidated in one place. Luckily, Outlook 2010 makes it easy to search across different address books in the “Find a Contact” field on the HOME ribbon.
On the [Right Click] a contacts folder and add it as an Outlook Address book. This adds the address book be in the list of books that are searched when checking for contact info.
4. Add a Command to the Quick Access Toolbar
The Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the Outlook window can give you a quick way to open your most used commands without having to dig through menus.
“Switch to HTML” is a command that allows you to take advantage of the various styling options that HTML editing mode provides when writing an email. Adding a Switch to HTML button on the Quick Access toolbar lets you switch to HTML format and unlock these features with a single click.
To add Switch to HTML to the Quick Access Toolbar:
- Open a new email. (You’ll be adding Switch to HTML in the compose message Quick Access Toolbar)
- Choose FORMAT TEXT, then [Right Click] .
- Select ADD TO QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR.
Note: You can add any Outlook command to the Quick Access Toolbar. Earlier this year, we explained how to do this and more with the Quick Access Toolbar.
5. Add Send/Receive to HOME Ribbon
The SEND/RECEIVE command is a handy tool – especially if you’ve disabled scheduled updates.
To add Send/Receive to the HOME ribbon:
- Choose HOME>OPTIONS, and [Click] the CUSTOMIZE RIBBON tab. Or, [Right Click] the Ribbon and choose CUSTOMIZE THE RIBBON.
- On the CHOOSE COMMANDS FROM field, select SEND/RECEIVE ALL FOLDERS.
- [Click] NEW GROUP..
- [Click] ADD.
Send/Receive will now appear in the NEW GROUP group on the HOME ribbon.
For more on customizing the ribbon, see Microsoft’s very thorough explanation.
6. Avoid Missing Messages by Adding Junk E-Mail to Favorites
The Favorites section appears at the top of the Navigation pane. By adding the Junk folder to Favorites, you’ll be reminded to check for messages that we wrongly marked as spam.
Here are two ways to add the Junk folder to favorites:
- [Right Click] the JUNK E-MAIL folder in the Navigation pane labelled JUNK, then [Click] SHOW IN FAVORITES .
- Select the JUNK E-MAIL folder, then choose FOLDER>SHOW IN FAVORITES.
Do you have any favorite tips for making Outlook fit better into your workstyle and/or lifestyle? Please let us know in the comments!