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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. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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