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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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  2. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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  4. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  5. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

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