If you've ever worked for an enterprise-size organization or an established business, you've likely encountered Microsoft Outlook.
This quintessential email experience has been king in the business world for a long time, especially since it's typically bundled with other Microsoft Office applications.
While it is a robust solution, it isn't always the easiest to navigate quickly and efficiently. And, if you rely on Outlook for the majority of your business communications, wasted time can cost you big.
Luckily, there are ways to make Outlook work for you. Here are 11 productivity hacks you may not know about that can get you started.
1. Recover Deleted Items
Have you ever experienced the terror associated with permanently deleting an Outlook item that you didn't mean to send into the abyss?
Now, most users know how to recover an email or appointment that has just been transferred to the trash folder, but did you know you can recover messages that have been truly deleted too?
If you have a Microsoft Exchange account, there is still hope; it is possible to get these emails back, as they often still reside on the server.
See how it's done here: Recover Deleted Items
2. Recall an Email
At some point in your professional life, you're probably going to send an email to someone you didn't intend, for example, if you hit the Reply All button instead of Reply by mistake.
When (not if) this happens, it's easy to panic. But all is not lost! You can pull the email back from the ether before the person has a chance to read it.
You can learn more about how to recall an email in Outlook here: Recall an Email
3. Delayed Email Delivery
Sometimes, you need an email to be delivered at just the right moment. You have two choices: Set a reminder or try to remember to send it at the right time; or let Delay Delivery save the day.
Delay Delivery allows you to select a time in the future for the message to actually arrive in the other person's inbox, so you can send it now and know it will show up when the time is right.
You can learn more about delayed email delivery in Outlook here: Delay or Schedule Sending Email Messages
4. Track Public Holidays
Trying to remember when public holidays occur isn't always easy. (What? You don't have Columbus Day memorized?) Luckily, Microsoft Outlook can help you out.
The software has holiday calendars for dozens of countries, letting you track your own as well as those of your international clients. Now you don't have to worry about forgetting you have a day off, that your children won't be in school, or that your worldly business partners won't be available.
Adding this information is easy. Check out the instructions here: Add Holidays to Calendars
5. Multiple Time Zones
Another feature that works great for distributed teams and anyone who does business with people in other areas is the ability to see multiple time zones on your calendar. This makes scheduling mutual appointments a breeze and helps to ensure you aren't inadvertently interrupting someone's dinner (or sleep) with a surprise conference call or meeting.
For simple instructions, look here: Add, Change or Remove Time Zones
6. Color Coding
Let's face facts; it's nice when emails from your boss or an important client stand out from the rows of digital newsletters and basic communications.
While you do have the option to flag these items manually, you can save yourself a lot of time by setting up Conditional Formatting that does the work for you. Simply define the rules and let your email and calendar items shine like a majestic rainbow-colored unicorn all on their own.
You can change the font, too. So, if seeing your manager's messages in Comic Sans tickles your funny bone, you might be able to do just that.
Learn how to get it done here: Conditional Formatting
7. Delay Marking Emails as Read
While some people think the way Outlook marks emails as read is convenient, it can actually be a pain in the you-know-what if you're going through your messages quickly.
Just clicking through an email marks it as having been read, and that isn't ideal if you opened it by accident or need to remember to get back to it later.
Luckily, there is an option to stop Outlook from assuming you want the message marked as read so quickly. You can set a delay so that only messages that are viewed for a specific amount of time (like 30 seconds) automatically get marked.
You can learn how to do it here: Delay Marking as Read
8. Ignore Conversation
Have you ever ended up in an email string that had nothing to do with you? Maybe someone mistyped the email address of someone who really needed to be involved or just assumed you wanted to take part.
Regardless of the reason, you may soon be bombarded again, thanks to the handy-dandy Reply All option, and getting everyone to remove your name might not be plausible.
But there's no need to fret! You aren't doomed to have to deal with the messages. Instead, you can ignore the conversation, keeping the messages out of your inbox and safely transferred to your Deleted Items folder.
Look here to see how to make this a reality: Ignore Conversation
9. Keyboard Shortcuts
All Microsoft Office programs have a substantial list of keyboard shortcuts. Learning these can save you a lot of time, especially since you won't have to switch between the keyboard and mouse/touchscreen/touchpad to get common tasks done.
You can see a full list of available keyboard shortcuts here: Keyboard Shortcuts
10. Quick Steps
If the standard keyboard shortcuts don't meet all of your needs, you can turn to Quick Steps to help you work more efficiently. These customizable actions allow you to perform multiple actions with a single button click, making repetitive tasks a breeze.
Get started with Quick Steps here: Quick Steps
11. Quick Parts
For Outlook users who frequently type certain phrases (think marketing and sale pitch lines or reminding employees to clean out the fridge on Fridays), rekeying them again and again can be frustrating.
Quick Parts lets you skip the tedium by creating saved files that store the text and then can be called on whenever you need them. Whenever you start to type one of the phrases, Outlook will automatically offer to fill in the rest for you. You can also access it on demand through the Quick Parts drop-down menu.
Learn how to get started with Quick Parts here: Quick Parts