Improve Time Management using easy Microsoft Outlook Tricks

Emails, emails and more emails – we’re bombarded by them almost constantly! We waste so much effort in Outlook taking time to read, time to organise, time to process and time to action.

Follow the quick steps below to embrace some of the fantastic features of Microsoft Outlook and learn to manage your email time effectively!

Steps for outlook

Delete or Ignore It

If you don’t need it, delete it straight away. If you don’t want to receive emails that are part of the same thread, then Ignore It. This moves future emails of the exact same thread to Deleted Items.

Do It and then File/Delete

If you can action in a couple of minutes then do it.  Set a Quick Step to then move the email to a specified folder via a one click. Alternatively set a Quick Step to Reply & Delete, again via a one click.

Delegate It

If it’s not your area, forward to a colleague. Set a Quick Step that forwards the email to a colleague and then deletes it.

Defer It

If you can’t deal with it quickly, set a Follow Up flag for Today, Tomorrow, This Week etc and then find these quickly via a Search Folder.

Drag the email to the Tasks component on the navigation pane to create a task out of the email and set start and due dates. Alternatively, Quick Steps to create tasks from emails.

Create your own Categories and apply to messages which can be found quickly using Search Folders.

Get Organised and Clean Up

Reduce emails by Cleaning Up conversations – this keeps the latest email with the email thread but moves the individual replies to Deleted Items.

Create Search Folders by keywords, project names, for follow up, categories, colleague names and more which enables you to find emails in super quick time in your mail box.

Add folders or search folders to the Favourites area to access quickly.

Use Rules to automate actions when emails are received. For example, set a rule for Automatic Replies so that responses to meeting requests (that don’t have content) are moved to Deleted Items.

Manage Actions with Tasks

Use Tasks for things you need to do for single or recurring tasks and set reminders. In many cases emails are actions, so turn these into tasks and reduce down your email inbox.

Try not to enter tasks on your calendar as this becomes overrun with actions.

Using Microsoft OneNote? Flag notes in OneNote and they will be displayed in your Outlook task list.

Don’t forget the Calendar

Enter appointments and meetings only on the calendar. Attach files into your meetings so you have everything together ready.

Use natural language for entering meeting dates quickly. For example, in the Start Time box simply type ‘tomorrow’ or ‘first Monday next month’, or ‘last Thursday in January’ and Outlook does the rest!

You can also enter a number of days and Outlook will work out the date.

Use shortcuts to display your calendar days. For example, select day view and press ALT+2 for the next 2 days, ALT+3 for the next 3 days and so on to ALT+0 which displays the next 10 days.


Taking the time to learn some simple techniques in Microsoft Outlook can save you a huge amount of time in organising and processing your emails!

If reading this has made you feel totally out of your depth, you may be interested in attending one of our Outlook training courses. Alternatively, check out our Microsoft Applications training or Productivity Programs for more areas to improve your efficiency at work!

STL Skills Survey: UK Businesses Display IT Skills Gap

Employees in the UK are struggling to deal with a major IT skills gap, with the average UK office worker spending more than half an hour a day struggling to figure out how to work their tech or IT systems.

For most office workers in the United Kingdom, dealing with things like spreadsheets, presentations and word documents are considered normal, everyday tasks.

Yet, a new national survey by STL has found that a significant number of employees are seriously struggling with their IT systems.

What our survey revealed

In a survey* of 2,000 UK office workers, STL found that more than a third of respondents believe their lack of IT skills prevent them from doing their job effectively.

Half of UK office workers admit to being unable to fully understand tools like Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word, with spreadsheets and presentations cited as being the most problematic.

Excel training
Excel training

Astonishingly, office workers are losing over 10 hours per month struggling to operate their IT systems, meaning UK employees are losing over £1,600 per employee, per year, based on the average office worker salary.

With an estimated 10 million office workers in the United Kingdom, that means businesses are wasting a staggering £16 billion per year due to a basic IT skills gap.

Despite the clear gap in skills, our survey found that workers are reluctant to get help from their IT department.

42% of respondents said that embarrassment stops them asking for help, with many worrying that their query would be thought of as ‘basic’. Instead, many workers turn to colleagues:

For others, the Internet and even family and friends are a preferred option for getting assistance with basic IT tasks:

excel training courses

Excel frustration

When they do choose to ask for help, the most common source of frustration is Microsoft Excel:

A reluctance to admit to a gap in IT skills appears to be a common problem amongst UK employees.

With nearly one in five opting to ‘bluff’ their way through common tasks or questions from colleagues (including giving a colleague spreadsheet advice, hosting a meeting using documents and giving a PowerPoint presentation).

Employers can do more

Our research also found that office workers are aware of the IT skills gap, and that many feel that their employers need to improve their training to help address the problem.

A third of those polled directly blamed their employer for not offering them enough support in using computer applications, and more than half of UK office workers felt they would benefit from proper training in Microsoft Office.

Effective training would not only help to make office workers more productive and efficient, but 47% of respondents also felt it would improve their levels of motivation at work.

At STL we seek to provide an unrivalled value and quality service, enabled by our strong working culture. Our 500+ courses deliver learning solutions across leadership and management training and Microsoft Office applications (including Excel) .

We help our customers to address some of the most critical aspects of the real economy, by improving productivity and efficiency. We have instructor-led London training centres and also deliver across the UK, EEC/Abroad (95+ countries)

*Our data comes from an MRS-compliant, nationally representative survey of 2,000 UK office workers who regularly use a computer. The survey was carried out on behalf of STL in February 2020.