Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Productivity with Outlook's Favourite Folders List

Outlook 2003 and 2007 have a handy Favorite Folders list that can be a major productivity booster when used properly. It can even be used as a project management tool to remind you of what YOU WANT to work on.

When should you use Favorite Folders and how?

I haven't really used Favorite Folders until recently. I use QuickFile 4Outlook to manage my emails. Dragging and dropping can be a nuisance when you have many nested folders and QuickFile lets me file both incoming and outgoing emails (Send&File in one step) at the click of a button. It also has a "Find&Goto Folders" button that lets me open any Outlook folder simply by typing a few characters from the name of the folder.

So there was little use for Favorite Folders … or so I thought. I recently updated my productivity tool set to include it. Here's why …

What is the Favorite Folders List?

Favorite Folders provide users with quick access to mail folders that are used often. They are located at the top of the Navigation Pane on the left side of the Outlook window.

You can add any email folders that you want to this list. The folders physically still stay wherever they were but the Favorite Folders list puts them one click away, and not buried at the end of the folder list.

What Should You Use it For?

Any folders that you use often … but this is what I use it for …

I add my CURRENT PROJECT folders to the Favourite Folders list. This serves two purposes:

1. It provides me with quick access to a folder when I need it.
2. Looking at the list reminds me of what MY current projects are. This way I don’t get as distracted working on other people's priorities because they are making the most noise (via email).

In order to keep the list effective, I maintain it by adding new folders when I start new projects and removing folders once projects are completed.

How to Add Folders to the List?

To add a folder to the Favorite Folders, right-click over the folder and click Add to Favorite Folders. You can also drag folders from the Folder list to the Favorite Folders list.

How to Remove Folders to the List?
To remove folders from the Favorite Folders list, right-click the folder and click Remove from Favorite Folders.

Should you use Favorite Folders?
Definitely YES if you have many folders to organize your email.

For me, Favorite Folders is NOT a replacement for a tool such as QuickFile. You wouldn't want to add too many folders to the Favorite Folders list and it isn't going to Send&File for you.

However it is a handy (free) tool as it is built right into Outlook that can greatly boost your productivity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Displaying your FULL Work Week in Outlook

By default Outlook displays the working week with 5 days only. Most Professionals and Small Business Owners don't have a normal 5 day working week. We often have appointments in the weekends as well.

Here's how you can change the 5 day view to show the full 7 days ...

If you are using Outlook 2000/2002 or 2003, there are two buttons on the Calendar toolbar that displays weekly views.

Clicking the Work Week button displays 5 days. This shows you the whole day (for each day) including empty time slots. It is easy to add a new appointment by clicking on the calendar in the appropriate time slot.

Clicking the Week button shows all 7 days in a condensed view that only shows appointments for each day. Empty time slots for the days are not shown and it takes more steps to add a new appointment.

Here's how you can change the Work Week to show all 7 days.

Click Tools-Options.
Select the Preferences Tab (should be selected by default anyway)
Click the Calendar Options button.
Tick Sat and Sun under Calendar Work Week.

Now when you click the Work Week button at the top of the screen, all 7 days will be displayed.

(Outlook 2007 users don't need to do this as Outlook 2007 displays the 7 day view with all time slots.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Productivity Tip: Do a POOR Job!

My favorite productivity tip: If it's worth doing, then its worth doing Poorly!

If you are running your own business, there are probably a hundred different things that you want to do in order to grow and improve your business.

I keep a list of these things and until 6 months ago, most of these things just stayed in the list. Until I realised that ….

Most things don't need to be done perfectly in order for your business to gain from them.

Get enough information to (almost) convince yourself that the idea will work. Get information to implement the idea and then GET STARTED!

Implement the first version of that idea.

If it works, then improve it.

If it doesn't work, move on to the next idea. At least you haven't wasted your valuable time gathering information on something that wasn't going to work in the first place.

You win either way!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don’t Look at Your Inbox First Thing in the Morning

Look at your Calendar BEFORE your look at your Inbox in the morning. Why?

Because email first thing in the morning can lead to a very “unproductive day”. It can easily put you into fire-fighting mode instead of strategic mode for most of your day.

The emails in your Inbox often represent the priorities of others. This may be very different from your own priorities.

Start the day by looking at your Calendar and seeing what you have already scheduled for the day. Schedule any new things that you want to do today that are important to you and your business. Then look at your Inbox.

I have setup my own Outlook to open up displaying the Calendar instead of the Outbox. Here’s how you can do the same.

Click Tools-Options.
Select the Others tab.
Click Advanced Options. The startup folder is displayed at the top of the screen.
Click the Browse button to select the Calendar.

The next time your open Outlook, you’ll be looking at your Calendar.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Comments on this Blog are now open to All

I received emails from several people who wanted to post comments on our blog but didn’t want to go to the trouble of having to open a Gmail account.

Thanks for those who wrote requesting for comment-ability. To be absolutely honest I had not even realised that I had accidentally blocked you out.

As of today we have removed this restriction … anyone can now enter comments on the blog - No Gmail account required. (I do reserve the right to take out anything obscene etc.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Emailing Links to files on your Network

Do you share files with other users on your network? Here’s a way to email CLICKABLE links even if the file name or path has spaces in it.

We often share files with other users in our company by putting them in shared folders either on our computer or on the server. We then email the relevant people with a link to the file e.g.

I have put the latest copy of the software on the server at the following location:


If the file name and path have no spaces in it then you end up with a link that the recipient can click on to open the file.

The problem is that since Windows allows spaces in file names, many folder names and file names now contain spaces. If your path/folder name has spaces in it, then the link in not correct e.g. in the same example link above if there was a space in the word SoftwarePrograms:

\\Server\Software Programs\filename.exe

Here’s an easy trick to get around it. Start your link with a “<” and finish with a “>” i.e if you type

<\\Server\Software Programs\filename.exe>

Outlook will change it to:

\\Server\Software Programs\filename.exe

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Email Overload is NOT Your Real Problem!

For many small business owners and professionals, email overload is not the real problem. It's the sign of a much bigger problem ... it's a form of ESCAPE … it allows us to avoid the boring work that our businesses demand of us ... work that we didn't actually sign up for in the first place.

Most professionals and small business owners got into business because they were really good at something …. maybe you were a great lawyer or architect or engineer or software designer or …

After gaining some experience working for someone else, you branched out on your own and in the beginning it was fantastic. The enthusiasm of doing something new gave you the energy to do everything that needed to be done.

But after a while, you had less and less time to do what you originally wanted to do … now you have to do what the business DEMANDS. Sales calls need to be made, invoices need to be raised …. Even after you hire and delegate, you still find yourself doing many things that you don't want to do.

Soon you find that you no longer enjoy what you originally meant to do with your life … because of the continual (silent) thought that "those boring tasks still need to be done".


So email becomes your escape … you spend your time answering emails and reading newsletters … because it makes you feel busy … and helps you NOT do the work someone in your business still needs to do.

Email overload is NOT your problem. The real problem is that you no longer have the time to do the WORK that you WANT to do.

The Solution is Easy!


That doesn’t mean that you start bossing the rest of your team around. They're the ones who have been doing most of the real work while you were checking your email.

It's time to be the BOSS OF YOUR OWN TIME. Give yourself time to do the work you enjoy.

SCHEDULE time in your calendar to do the type of work your enjoy and STICK TO IT.

If it's work that you need to do on your own, then make sure that you are not interrupted during this time. Don't check your emails and don't take any calls.

You are NOT that important. Nobody's world is coming to an end because you didn't respond for a few hours.


Once the scheduled time is up, go back to the tasks that need to be done, answer your emails etc. Guess what … it's still there waiting for you.

Except now you may actually enjoy doing some of it. Or maybe you'll look for creative ways of delegating or outsourcing because today YOU DID YOUR WORK.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

See More of Your Email when using the Reading Pane

Outlook Tip: Click Alt-F1 on your keyboard to hide (or Show) the Folder list.

The Reading Pane is a fantastic tool for reading emails. However you may find there isn't much space left on your screen when you display the folder list, the list of emails and the reading pane. Here's a keyboard shortcut to turn the folder list on and off to greatly simplify the reading of emails.

I provide a fuller explanation (for those that need it further down).

However for Power Users ...

Go to your Inbox and make sure that your Reading Pane is displayed (I personally like it on the Right and not the Bottom).
Click Alt-F1 on your keyboard to hide the Folder list. Your Reading Pane will automatically become bigger so that you can see more of the email.
Click Alt-F1 again when you want to see the folder list. (In Outlook 2007 you may need to press ALT-F1 twice)

For not-so-Power-Users who are not sure what the Reading Pane is …

If you use Outlook 2003 or 2007, you are probably using the Reading Pane (even if you did not know that it was called the Reading Pane.

The Reading Pane allows you to read/view and email while still in the Inbox i.e. you can see the email without needing to open the email separately.

The Reading Pane can either be displayed at the right hand or at the bottom.

If the Reading Pane is not visible on your Outlook, click View-Reading Pane and then select either Right or Bottom.

I like displaying the email on the Right because it lets me see more of the email without needing to scroll up or down. However some emails are also wide (because of graphics etc) and that combined with the space taken by the Folder list limits how much I can see.

The Solution …

Click Alt-F1 on your keyboard to hide the Folder list. Your Reading Pane will automatically become bigger so that you can see more of the email.

Click Alt-F1 again when you want to see the folder list again. (In Outlook 2007 you may need to press ALT-F1 twice)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Deleted Items Folder is a Rubbish Bin and Not a Filing Cabinet

In my last post I wrote about a very simple email stress management technique … move emails out of your Inbox once you have finished with them. But where should the emails be moved to?

I'll discuss a few ideas during the week but for starters …


The Deleted Items folder is your electronic rubbish bin … do you file your important papers in your physical rubbish bins.

I have actually had customers who (used to) delete emails to remove them from their Inbox …. and later look in the Deleted Items folder when they needed to find an important email.

The Deleted Items folder is your electronic rubbish bin! Like it’s physical counterpart, the Deleted Items folder can be emptied very easily causing permanent loss of your “filed” emails.

If you're not going to refer to the email again and do not need to keep it (for legal reasons etc) then DELETE IT!

Otherwise you need to move it out of the Inbox and into either:

1. One folder in which you file all your emails. (Give this email a generic name like Filing or Old Emails) or
2. Individual folders dedicated to projects, cases, clients, topics etc.

I'll talk more about each of these two methods later this week.