Basketball season is back. Players have been in pre-season action, working on both team chemistry and individual skills. One of the keys to a player’s success in basketball is having a quick first step. The first step is often critical in the player’s ability to score or make a play. Basketball is a game of almost constant motion, which makes it a good analogy for dealing with email in the law office. Emails are received and sent at a frenetic pace in today’s law office. To handle the pressure, utilize Outlook’s Quick Steps.
Use what you have
By default, there are several Quick Steps defined for you. On the ribbon in Outlook, find the area that says “Quick Steps.” In the lower right-hand corner of that box, click the arrow that points down and to the right. A box titled “Manage Quick Steps” appears.
On the left of that box are the default Quick Steps. These can be moved up or down for easier access in the menu bar. The default options provide ideas on the actions possible with a Quick Step.
Let’s start with the “Move to:” Quick Step. This action “[m]oves the selected message to a mail folder that you specify and marks the message as read.” Note that this step performs two actions on the message: moving the message to a folder and marking the message as read. (It might be called “Mark & Move” in your version of Outlook).
Click on Mark & Move or Move to: and then click Duplicate. Type a name that describes the Quick Step (for this example, use “Indiana Lawyer”). Next, proceed to the actions. By default, you will see two actions: 1) Mark as read and 2) Move to folder. The Move to folder action allows you to select a specific folder each time you use the Quick Step. Alternatively, Outlook can “always ask for folder,” allowing you to choose a folder each time the Quick Step is used. For now, leave the “Move to” folder set to “always ask for folder” to see how the Quick Steps feature works. Click Finish.
Give it a shot
To use your Quick Step, return to your inbox. Select a message that you want to put in a subfolder. For this example, right click on the message and choose Mark as Unread. Next, in the Quick Steps area of the tool bar, find the Indiana Lawyer Quick Step you created. Click the name of the Quick Step or type the keyboard shortcut you assigned. You should be prompted to select a subfolder. Click OK and the message should be removed from your inbox.
Navigate to the subfolder chosen above. You should see the message, now marked as unread.
Practice makes perfect
Here are some Quick Steps to create to help manage the flow of email.
First, “To My Assistant.” Open Manage Quick Steps. Click New | Forward to. Click Options and name the Quick Step. Select the recipient(s) from your Outlook contacts or type the email address. Click Show Options and set the subject and other options as appropriate. The “Text” option can contain standard instructions for handling specific tasks (e.g., please file this; please respond; please set a meeting; please add to calendar; etc.) You can choose to automatically send the message or have Outlook prepare an email for you to send. Add the same “mark as read” and “move to” actions as above, and you’ve just handled multiple steps with one click.
Second, “To Read.” How many email newsletters do you receive that don’t require immediate action, but stay in your inbox because you want to get back to them? For this action, create a subfolder called “To Read.” Then, create a Quick Step to “Flag and Move.” Choose an appropriate flag and subfolder. Now, you can mark any message you want to read later in one click. If you change the “View” of Outlook to include your To-Do bar, messages marked for later reading appear for easy access.
Third, “Follow Up.” Many lawyers keep emails as a list of follow-up actions. Instead, use a Quick Step to file the message and apply a follow-up flag as a reminder. Select the first Quick Step you created and duplicate that Quick Step. Then, add a flag message action, choosing your preferred follow-up period. The messages for follow up appear in your To-Do pane.
Take a few minutes to review your sent items folder. See if you can identify a pattern of forwards and/or standard response type emails that can be automated using Quick Steps. Create one to three Quick Steps that you will commit to using for the next week. Then, practice those quick first steps.•
Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Tesnar & Whalin in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. Seth writes about legal technology at sethrwilson.com and is a frequent speaker on the subject. The opinions expressed are those of the author.