13 August 2009

Armchair Lifehacker, Tip #2: Use Outlook like Gmail


So I had intended to make this "Armchair Lifehacker" thing a bit of a series, but then I forgot about it. Oh well, here's #2.

Perhaps, like me, you have no choice but to use Outlook for your work email communication. And perhaps, like me, you've been using Gmail for too long to go back to those old, clunky, self-defeating ways of filing and finding your email messages, like folder hierarchies.

So here's what I do: In Outlook, apart from the built-in ones (Inbox, Sent Mail, etc.), I have exactly one folder. I call it "Archive". (Yes, this is a bit confusing, becuase Outlook has its own, very different idea of "archive". So you might want to call it something else. "All Mail" would be a very Gmail-like choice.)

I practice, more or less, "Inbox Zero". I've been doing it for years, since long before it had a well-known name. So when I'm done with an email, I simply move it to my Archive folder, just like Gmail. Actually, before I do that, I might tag it with one or more Categories, which can be used in Outlook much like Labels in Gmail.

Then, when I want to find something, I never grope around in folders. Instead, I either look for it by Category (Outlook makes it easy to create Search Folders for Categories), or I use Google Desktop Search to find it instantly by typing in search terms. (I'm pretty sure that Windows Live Search, or whatever it's called, would suffice for this as well, but I've been using Google Desktop since long before MS came out with that, and haven't seen reason to switch. The built-in Outlook search capability is not useful, as anyone who's attempted to use it will attest.)

So anyway, that's my tip. Working this way makes me happy, and efficient. Possibly you'd like it too. Possibly not.

Now if only I had a way of getting the thing to properly thread conversations....

image by justingaynor (rights)

4 comments:

spankey said...

you know I practice inbox zero also, but use gmail like outlook - lots of folders in which to archive.

Mike Croghan said...

My brain doesn't jibe well with hierarchy. Hmm...

Anonymous said...

You could also forward all you outlook mail to a gmail account and then use gmail to send from your work smtp (so your work address is on all your email). I use it for my school mail, it's a breeze.

Jason said...

For conversation view. GROUP by 'Conversation' (ascending) and SORT by 'Received' (descending) and 'Conversation Index' (ascending)