Have you ever missed a deadline or been caught off-guard by your boss when she asks your opinion about an email she sent because you simply never saw it? I can help with that!
Presuming, of course, that you use Microsoft Outlook…
Emails From VIPs
For obvious reasons, let’s talk about that missed email from your Boss first. You can set Outlook up to automatically change the font of emails from a particular person to a color of your choosing (instructions for Outlook 2010 here). If emails appear in big, bolded, red, scary-looking font, you’re almost guaranteed to see it! I’ll mention, too, that you can use this conditional formatting to alter the font for unread messages, overdue email, and more.
Emails Sent Specifically to YOU
If someone sends an email with only your name in the To line, they’re probably looking for a response from you, specifically, right? Let’s make sure you don’t miss it! In the same Conditional Formatting window you used above, you can alter the font for emails “To Me“. I highly recommend doing this…and spreading the word throughout your organization to increase the likelihood of people responding to your emails, as well.
Keeping Everything Organized
I also highly recommend the use of categories. Categories allow you to easily sort your emails (and other things, but we’ll get to that in later tips) based on client, project, department, etc. (more details here). I recommend displaying the Category column in your Inbox and I suggest you consider grouping your emails by category if it helps you better manage your Inbox.
Avoid the Urge to Auto-File
It is common practice to set up rules that automatically file emails to certain folders, bypassing the Inbox entirely. I’ve always seen this as reckless because until you open the target folder, you will never see any important emails that were auto-filed. Need another reason? How often do you check subfolders when you check your email on your smartphone?
Instead, try automatically assigning a category to all emails that come into your Inbox and using those categories to strategically review the emails in your Inbox in a focused and efficient manner (see example of a rule here, but chose ‘assign it to the category category’ option instead of ‘move it to the specified folder’ option).
Important Email Responses
The final way we often miss emails that I’ll address is when the email was never sent in the first place. It’s happened to everyone: you send an email to someone expecting a response but one never comes and, eventually, you forgot you were waiting for it…until someone asks you about it. Everyone is busy, sure, but it never hurts to send out friendly reminders if you need information or approval. I recommend creating a Follow-Up folder in your Inbox and saving it as a Favorite folder (more information on Favorite folders here). Anytime you send out an email from which you require a response, BCC yourself and drag the email that comes back to you into that folder. Include both the From and To columns to account for emails from others for which you’re waiting for a response. Check it every day for messages that may need a follow-up reminder.
Of course, the best way to never miss an important email is to Dominate Your Inbox…