Keeping Your Outlook Clean

Outlook Cleanup

With the introduction of Office 2010 came some added efficiencies in dealing with your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly accumulation of emails. Here is an article from Microsoft at Work ( and some personal My Settings/Tips that may help you better organize your day.


1. Sort Messages Quickly

Outlook 2010 has a great new feature for organizing messages by date and arranging them by Conversation. Using this feature, messages that share the same subject appear as Conversations that can be viewed and expanded or collapsed by clicking the icon to the left of the Subject line. The messages within each Conversation are sorted with the newest message on top. When a new message is received, the entire Conversation moves to the top of your message list, helping to make tracking email threads a snap.

To turn on Conversations, on the View tab, in the Conversations group, select the Show as Conversations check box. You can reduce the size of a conversation with the Clean Up feature, which deletes duplicate messages in the Conversation. On the Home tab, in the Delete group, click Clean Up, and then click Clean Up Conversation.

In all versions of Outlook, you can find messages in mailbox folders more quickly by changing how they’re sorted in your email folders. For example, you can arrange your email by date, sender, file size, or level of importance.

Change message sorting:

I first create a top level FOLDER (same level as INBOX) called ‘Cleanup’. I use this folder to MOVE my cleaned up conversations rather than the default ‘Deleted Folders’. Than using the Outlook on the Home tab, in the Delete group, click Clean Up, click Clean Up Folder, and then click Settings. Using the General Options section for Mail, and then the Conversation Clean Up Section. I select the following options:




2. Group similar messages in folders

By creating new mail folders, you can group messages related to each other. For example, you can group messages by topic, project, contact, or other categories that make sense to you. You can even create a folder for all the messages from your manager or one that include tasks that you have to complete.

  • To create a new folder in Outlook 2010, on the Folder tab, in the New group, click New Folder.
  • To create a new folder in Outlook 2007 or in Outlook 2003, on the File menu, point to New and then click Folder.


MY SETTINGS: I do use New Folders sparingly. Being that I receive many repetitive messages due to in place monitoring tools, I do create RULES to move most of those messages to folders. (see item 4 below)



3. Create Search Folders to find messages fast

Search Folders are a quick and convenient way to look at predefined collections of email messages. They don’t actually store any messages themselves but, instead, are virtual folders that offer a view of all the messages stored in your mailbox depending on the attributes you’ve defined. Outlook provides default Search Folders—such as Unread Mail—but you can also create your own. For instance, you can use Search Folders to help you find all the information related to a particular project, an important client, or an upcoming conference.

  • To create a Search Folder in Outlook 2010, in Mail, on the Folder tab, in the New group, click New Search Folder.

In all versions of Outlook, specify whether you want to use a predefined Search Folder or to create your own custom folder, and then follow the instructions on the screen.



4. Route mail efficiently using mailbox rules

By creating rules for Outlook, you can automatically perform actions on both incoming and outgoing messages based on criteria you establish. For instance, you can automatically forward to your manager all messages sent by a certain person as soon as they arrive, assign the category Sales to all messages you send that have the word “sales” in the Subject line, and more. Routing mail efficiently not only organizes your mail for you—but also frees up your time from performing routing tasks.

Create and manage rules:


MY SETTINGS: I do use this feature quite often to automate the moving of repetitive messages. Keep in mind though that these messages, while being moved to another location other than the inbox, do present a risk to messages being buried and not being read. Be mindful that ANY files moved from your INBOX will also be moved from your Inbox on your mobile devices. So unless you are viewing these OTHER folders on your mobile device, you would not see the message until to get to your Outlook client and view these other folders. TIP: Some Mobile devices do allow you to enable or show these OTHER Folders. It is also important that these OTHER folders get checked on a regular basis. TIP: (used frequently) One way to keep up with large email volume is to frequent visit the UNREAD Search Folder which is added to your Mail Favorites folder by default. This helps you to quickly focus on items that you have not yet dealt with and tag or categorize them for immediate action or future action.


5. Reduce unwanted email with junk filters

Keep distracting and unwanted messages out of your Inbox by using Outlook Junk Email filters. These filters send email flagged as junk to a separate mail folder in your Mailbox. You can review the contents of this folder to ensure that no legitimate messages have been sent there, and if they have, you can adjust the filter to avoid flagging such messages in the future.

Learn more about the Junk Email filters:


6. Assign a color category

Assign a color category to a group of interrelated email messages and to other items in Outlook, such as notes, contacts, and appointments, so that you can easily identify and organize them. For example, keep track of all the messages, meetings, and contacts for the Morris project by creating a category named Morris project and assigning items to it.

Create and assign color categories:


My Settings:
I also create SEARCH FOLDERS that I add to my favorites that show these categories (or flags). This reduces the amount of RULES and manual moving tasks. Search Folders views are another way to clean the clutter, but they too can become unruly if too many search folders are created. The key would be to balance all these features for certain efficiencies.


7. Flag for follow up

You can use the Flag for Follow Up feature to flag email messages and tasks to help categorize them or to mark them for action. Flags can remind you to follow up on an issue, indicate a request for someone else, or set a reminder for a message or contact. They can also make organizing your mail folders a breeze, because you know exactly what to do—and when to do it. Note that when you create a task and set a due date, the task is automatically flagged so that you don’t let that due date slip past you.

Flag messages:


My Settings:
This beneficial feature, IMHO, works best when combined with SEARCH FOLDERS added to my favorites. Set up these Search Folders for the flags you are using. (i.e. Next Week Flags) help to quickly identify items you have flagged for action.



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5 Comments to “Keeping Your Outlook Clean”

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