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Outlook Tips: How to work effectively and save time with Outlook

Woman looking at Outlook Inbox on iPad

Raise your hand if you use Outlook everyday in your line of work and find yourself wasting tones of time searching for information and that never ending inbox gives you a headache?

Outlook is a necessary communication tool. It can also be a massive time-eater that swallows up hours that should be spent on impactful work. However, it is not that big of a baddie. Did you know that you can tailor Outlook to suit your job role, save time and work more effectively?

First, email management methods can be adopted to minimise the time spent in Outlook. Second, there are tools within the application designed to make you more efficient.

Let's take a look at four Outlook time-saving features you may have never heard off and that will make your life easier!

Outlook Tip #1 - Find Emails Quickly with Search Folders

Save time in Outlook by creating customised searches so you can instantly find often-searched-for terms. Sure, it does not take long to type out a term in the search bar. But this requires a few more steps than simply clicking the mouse once on a predefined search folder. There are three default Search Folders already set up in Outlook:

  • Unread Mail

  • Large Mail (>100k)

  • Categorised Mail (by colour)

You of course can use these pre-sets. The big secret time-saver is a personalised search folder.

To create one, simply select New Search Folder under the Search Folder in the ribbon tab. There are a few predefined Search Folders to get you started. These cannot be customised but may cover your needs or give you ideas for establishing a folder. If you are creating your own folder, you will then select the criteria for the folder, including the following options in any order:

  • Word or phrase

  • From

  • To

  • Time

In addition to saving time with searches, Search Folders also serve as a backstop in ensuring you respond to important emails. For example, messages from a major client or those flagged for follow-up can have their own Search Folders to decrease the likelihood that these correspondences fall through the cracks.

Alternatively, you can use the Advanced Search. Click on the Search bar and then on the down face chevron to expand the search options. Now you can search for emails that contain attachments, who they are from, what it is in the subject line, and much more!

Outlook email advanced search

Outlook Tip #2 - Stay on Top of your Tasks with the To-Do Bar

The To-Do bar is a convenient tool for tracking appointments, tasks and recent communications at a glance. The main components of the To-Do Bar are:

  • Date Navigator – a small monthly calendar

  • Appointments – upcoming appointments

  • Unified Task List – all tasks and flagged emails

  • Contact List – your most recent contacts

Many users ignore this bar or delete it, but they are missing out on one of the best Outlook time-saving features that streamline daily responsibilities.

Instead, rely on the To-Do bar as your hub for staying on-task and organized throughout the day - all without clicking out of Outlook. The To-Do bar is at its most advantageous when customised.

There are display options too; thus, To-Do Bar information can be arranged in a format that is easiest for you to glean. For example, you can display more than one month at a time or hide private tasks.

The Task List component can also be personalised according to your preferences. For instance, you can add icons or display additional information about each task to give you more context. There is also a filter option to view tasks that meet specific criteria.

To turn the To-Do bar on, on the ribbon click on View > To-Do Bar > select Calendar and Tasks.

Outlook Tip #3 - Streamline Your Response Process with Quick Steps

Responding to emails can be a several step process. The Quick Steps feature gives you the power to automate this routine. By setting up Quick Steps rules, you can quickly highlight, file, respond to, forward, delete emails and more - all with a single touch of the mouse. There are five default Quick Steps that need to be configured before you can use them:

  • Move To

  • To Manager

  • Team Email

  • Done

  • Reply & Delete

As with other Outlook features, Quick Steps is entirely customisable to enhance your workflow. Say you regularly receive emails from a top priority client. Whenever you receive an email from this person, it should be filed into a specific folder, forwarded to a colleague and flagged as important. Quick Steps enables all of these actions with one click.

To create a Quick Step, in the ribbon bar go to Home > Quick Steps > drop down arrow > New Quick Step

Outlook Tip #4 - Automate Email Responses with Quick Parts

Tired of typing the same long response to certain emails? Often wasting time sending out email requests with identical information? Quick Parts is your answer.

This is one of the key Outlook time-saving features that generates automated email responses. Create, store and insert boilerplate text. Frequently used phrases and blocks of text, such as directions to a specific location or the answer to an often asked question, are examples of text you can use over and again thanks to Quick Parts.

Additionally, Quick Parts gives you the ability to save email text in the Quick Part Gallery for use at a later time. This feature is especially helpful when sending emails with similar content on a regular basis, such as inviting people to an event or submitting reports.

Finally, Quick Part Gallery text can be designated as auto text. The next time you begin writing the same content, Outlook will suggest the remaining text. When the suggestion appears, simply hit Enter and the text is automatically inserted.

To setup Quick Parts, you first need to start a new email. Then draft the email or paragraph that you wish to save as a template. Then click on the Insert tab on the ribbon > Quick Parts > Save selection to quick part gallery

Outlook Time-Saving Features: It’s All About Efficiency

Learning about these Outlook time-saving features is one thing. Adopting them into your workflow is another.

Priority Management knows that line of business leads and other key departmental managers are constantly juggling competing requests and responsibilities. Their most prized commodity is time; their greatest asset is efficiency.

For over forty years Priority Management has been providing productivity insights to business leaders. We bridge the gap between theory and actuality. We are committed to guiding our clients toward measurable, real-world improvements in efficiencies, productivity and impact.

Did you like these four Outlook tips? If so, there are many more little things like these that can revolutionise they way you work for the better.

Interested in finding out how? Then click here to check our WorkingSmart with Outlook training course, rated five in Google Reviews.


Priority Management is a worldwide training company with 55 offices in 15 countries. We have successfully trained more than two million graduates in Priority workshops. Our programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline. Simply put - A Better Way To Work! Clients range from Fortune 500 companies, small-to-medium businesses and government/military employees.

Click Here to learn more about how Priority can help you and your team Work Smart, develop essential management skills and the competencies to....make life and work better and happier!

This blog has been sourced by Priority Management International and edited by Priority Management London.


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