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Finney: Overwhelmed by email? Try changing your outlook!

November 7, 2012
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FinneyJust as many offices overflow with piles of paper, the Information Age has caused email inboxes to burst at the seams. It is easy to quickly feel overwhelmed by the amount of information piling up around us with listservs and emails from clients, courts, and colleagues because everyone feels compelled to keep us “in the loop.” Data retention policies often require us to keep these items, frequently leading to electronic hoarding tendencies. Overcoming this dilemma typically requires time and money, both of which are hard to part with on such a seemingly trivial issue. In reality, mastering email overload is a necessity and can begin with some simple Outlook changes.

The first step to regaining control over your inbox is to implement structure rather than allowing it to continue in an amoeba-like state. While most people are familiar with the concept of folders, they struggle with devoting the time to maintain such an organizational system on their own. So why not let technology do the work for us?

Many of us belong to listservs, receive court alerts, or are part of some mass email distribution, which results in an abundance of emails every day. An easy solution to organize this chaos is to establish rules which automatically group and deliver similar items into folders so new emails completely bypass the inbox. Beginning in Outlook 2010, rules are as simple as a right click. For example, right clicking on a court alert allows you to create a rule to automatically deliver messages from that court into a folder labeled “Court.” Now you can easily see an organized filing cabinet of messages and the number of new emails within each folder.

Some emails require immediate attention and therefore delivery to the inbox is necessary. Often the culprit of inbox congestion is messages we do not want to lose or delete, but rarely have time to appropriately file, so they continue lurking in our inbox. A quick remedy is a feature called Quick Steps which allows you to create custom buttons to automatically file reviewed messages from your inbox to a specific folder. By creating a Quick Step for each matter, you can properly file messages in a single click. This is a great method both for cleaning and maintaining an organized inbox.

Another offender of inbox overcrowding is unwanted junk mail. While some emails contain an “unsubscribe” link eliminating future communications, it is important to note this process only works with legitimate senders. In fact, spammers use it to confirm an email address is valid. An alternate option for handling unwanted messages is to classify them as junk mail and block future delivery, which can be done with a right click on an offending message.

Even with a tidy inbox, locating the exact message you are looking for can be difficult, as searching could lead to hundreds or more messages with no quick way to sift through the results. Outlook 2010 has not only improved the speed of searching, but also the ability to maximize search criteria limiting the number of matching results.

Search results can be frustrating, especially when nothing is found in the folder you know the message was filed in, until we realize it was somehow misfiled. Luckily it no longer matters where the message is stored, by simply clicking Search All Mail Items you can instantly search across all folders. While this makes location irrelevant, too many results can still be overwhelming.

The Search tab is a great way to quickly filter such results; adding criteria like sender, subject, date or even attachment. No special query language is needed; simply click the criteria type from the Search tab and type the word(s) you desire to find. This will allow you to find the needle in the haystack in record time.

Finding past messages in a conversation is a cinch with the ability to Show as Conversation in the View tab. This groups all messages within a conversation together allowing you to quickly “drill down” further into a conversation. If you prefer not to group your emails, you can still right click on a message to see related messages. This is priceless when trying to remember what was previously stated or attached earlier in an email chain.

In this world of continual multitasking it is easy to forget to follow up on items that don’t require immediate action. By right clicking the flag icon at the end of any message, you can add a reminder to appear on a specified date and time, which then allows you to view the email and refresh your memory on what you were supposed to do.

Technology is all around us. We can allow it to overwhelm us in a positive or negative manner. Change your outlook, change your life.•

__________

Deanna Finney (deanna.finney@miscindiana.com) is a co-owner of the Indianapolis-based legal technology company, Modern Information Solutions LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training and litigation support including trial presentation services. The opinions expressed are the author’s.
 

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  1. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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