If you’ve had success with the previous Outlook tips and are interested in getting into more advanced email management, it’s time to take a look at Quick Steps. Quick Steps allow you to automatically perform long strings of actions based on a trigger. Say at the end of the month you receive a series of invoices from vendors or contractors. Your normal process is to review the invoices, forward the invoices to your accountant, and create a reminder to follow up with the accountant a week later to make sure the invoices were paid. Quick Steps can take care of the last two steps for you with fewer clicks than if you performed the tasks manually:
One of the major productivity killers is the distraction of constant interruptions: emails, phone calls, people appearing at your door… The technology that can (and should) make our lives easier and better also can make it virtually impossible to maintain the kind of focused attention that’s necessary to work efficiently and effectively. But here’s the thing: you can control that technology. When you’ve got an important task that requires attention and focus, create the space to give it your best. Whether it’s a meeting with a client or colleague, or an important letter that needs to get written, or a piece of art you want to create, schedule a block of time to focus on that commitment, and then turn off all distractions. Shut down your phone (or at least turn off the ringer). Silence your email alerts. Disconnect the internet (or at least Facebook and Twitter). Close your office door. Just for that hour (or thirty minutes, or half day), turn off all outside communications and give yourself the necessary luxury of undisturbed time to really focus on the matter at hand. Find out here more about How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done.
There’s a limit to how long anybody can devote deep focus to a task. No matter how busy you are, after a certain amount of time, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and fatigue—physical and/or mental—starts to impair your effectiveness. Schedule breaks periodically even during the busiest days. Take ten minutes to stand up, stretch, get a drink of water, walk around the block. You’ll return to your work refreshed, both mentally and physically, and ready to be even more productive. If you’re not convinced yet, read this article about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.
If you use the Office 365 Business or Office 365 Enterprise editions, you can connect Outlook to over 750 other apps and streamline even more email workflows. For example, you can send new emails you get from a specific sender to Slack or create a new Trello card for new emails sent to a specific Outlook folder. See all the Office 365 integrations available on Zapier or use one of the workflow templates ("Zaps") to get started right away:
If the demands of your day include routine tasks, try to group similar tasks and schedule certain times during the day to knock them out. Answering emails? Returning phone calls? Entering expenses into a spreadsheet? Instead of interrupting your other tasks to do these things piecemeal, batch them. Set two or three or five times a day to check and respond to emails. Return phone calls at 11:45 am and 4:45 pm (or, if you want to avoid getting sucked into long phone conversations, return them at 12:15 pm while folks are at lunch, and 5:15 pm after they’ve left for the day, and just leave a message!) By batching similar tasks, you save the time lost to ramping up multiple times a day and reap the benefits of momentum.
Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well. Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.
If you’re a solopreneur, you will want to skip to the next step. For those small business owners with one or more employees, you will want to consider which tasks can be delegated from your to-do list to your employees.’ If you have a few employees that love the idea of writing for your blog and they have some time to devote each week to the task, then they would be the perfect people to delegate the task to. On the other hand, if they are not good writers, or are fully consumed with other revenue generating activities, it might be better to go with the next step.
Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner. Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it. Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself
This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done. Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life
When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday. Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?