In Part 1, I discussed the five most important things a first-time Outlook user should be aware of, in order to get cracking with their email accounts. In Part 2, I continue (and conclude) my list of 10 by speaking about the next five things you must know about your Outlook ID, before you sink into the depths of your project-work routine.
I touched upon the topic of archiving earlier. Most organizations now provide a liberal amount of space on the outlook server, enabling a high volume of archives. Don’t be surprised to see almost ALL of your deleted messages in the Archive Folders.
One of the best ways to deal with archiving is to be deliberate. If you feel a mail or set of mails on a related subject, are no longer current (say, your previous project which was long ago wrapped-up or an initiative you undertook ages back), feel free to drag and drop the folder containing such mails into the Archive folder. Keep in mind these things:
- That the mail has some significance and is worth preserving. If it isn’t, delete.
- That the topic which the mail relates to is not current, i.e. you are not working on anything related to what the email contains.
- You won’t be needing to refer to the mail as far as you know (but you know where to find it, just in case)
Honestly, you can archive anything. You will hear people say “archive everything”. But I’m of the opinion that since almost all our deleted mails are archived, let us just sort through the most important ones and keep them where we can find them. I know organizing an Archive folder does not sound fancy, but think about it – we will be accessing the Archive folder only when we are looking for something specific. And in such a case, it’s best if we know where to find it. If you trashed an email long ago, chances of finding it in 10,000+ emails is rather remote (unless you possess a remarkable memory and remember the sender AND subject of the email – if yes, then ask yourself, did you really need to read through this blog?! 😉 )
7. Reply/Reply to All
Always, always be conscious of your recipient list. I do not wish to add another section here on “Reviewing your email before you send it, including the “To”, “CC” and “BCC” section” so I shall only say this: Just because you have received a mail which requires your reply and has incidentally been addressed to a lot of other people, does not mean they all need to hear your reply. Be very sure that everyone on your “to/cc/bcc” list needs your input. Trust me, you don’t want a cheesy reply by some senior who was also a part of the mailing list asking you not to reply to all.
For some reason (which I am yet to figure out and I wish you the best as you try to decode this mystery too), people get very put-off if they receive a mail that is of no relevance to them. Perhaps this is because of the sheer number of emails people receive or maybe it relates to the psychological need to see everything in their inbox being related to them– I don’t know. But what I do know is that people are very quick in labeling mails as “junk” and they aren’t pleased when you drop them anything remotely resembling the same.
So once again, do not to hit “Reply to all” unless you are absolutely sure. One way to reduce your chances of committing this blunder is to force yourself to hit “Reply” most of the times. I know it is hard, especially when working in teams. But try getting used to hitting “Reply” and then adding recipients to your email one at a time. This way, you will ensure that the mail goes out only the relevant parties and help avoid embarrassing moments.
8. Out of Office
It’s a best practice to leave an Out Of Office message for your colleagues and people outside your organization. Your message should be crisp and succinct. Don’t know about you but I prefer not to see elaborate stories around weddings or dental appointments in Out of Office messages. After writing an Out of Office message, look at it from the recipients’ point of view. It should answer the following questions and these questions alone:
- You are out of office (so that the person should not expect an immediate reply)
- You are out of office till (so that the person knows when to expect a reply and/or when he can contact you again)
- Alternate contact (so that they can contact someone else in your absence)
- Your mobile number (in case of an emergency) [Optional – depends on your seniority]
Take your call on the 4th point. If you are planning to go MIA and don’t want people pestering you with phone calls, then don’t mention your mobile number. However, be sure to mention someone else’s name/contact ID so that you don’t leave the recipient on a treasure hunt to locate your teammate. Most teams leave someone in-charge of your work when you are absent; you must mention their full name and/or email ID here.
Just to re-iterate, and out of office message should not answer the following:
- Why you are out of office (I don’t need to know! And in most cases, I am not interested – even if you are at a conference receiving a Nobel prize – if you leave it in your message, I’ll label you a show-off.)
You can always leave a fun message that brings a smile on the reader’s face. But be careful not to overdo it.
9. “My Calendar is up-to-date”
It took me a while to get a hang of this phrase. It just means that you have made a note of all your appointments/meetings in your calendar and that anyone who wishes to schedule a meeting with you can do so, with minimal chances of conflict.
Here is a thing about meeting requests, don’t accept just so it shows up on your calendar. I know this relates more to “etiquettes” than “Outlook basics” but it’s important. You have four options when you receive a meeting invite – use them properly. Even tentative accepts show up on your calendar.
Also, making a note of meeting requests that you may have received/provided verbally is a good practice too. True to keeping your calendar updated.
It seems funny just to mention it here, but yes, despite numerous revisions, we do goof-up at times, especially in our initial days at a new workplace. To avoid an embarrassing moment, we do have a last resort. I present this only with one caveat: don’t depend on this, it does not always work (don’t ask me why – I have suffered a handful of disappointments).
You have an option of recalling a message after you have sent it. You will also have an option of replacing your old message with a new one.
I shall say this again: given my experience with this, I place your chances of recalling a message at 40% (within your organization). It might not even work outside your organization – you can always try though. I will still recommend getting it right the first time.
With this I wrap up this two-part blog on Outlook for beginners. As I said in the beginning, the world of Outlook is vast and you shall discover many interesting (and some annoying) features on your journey – mailing lists, on-behalf mails, signatures, voting buttons, follow-up, high/low importance, mail merge, they all await your discovery. Have fun learning and using Outlook…. I mean, given how much you have to use it, you might as well, right? 🙂