Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #3 Limit Your Inbox to 15 Items or Less

So how many emails are currently residing in your Inbox? Not in a sub folder mind you, I’m talking in your main Outlook Inbox. If you are a typical email user, chances are that you have way more than you should. Want to get a feel for where you stand on the email management scale? If you are brave you can try our Expert Emailer Survey and see how you rate. Don’t feel bad if you don’t come out on the Expert end of the spectrum – you are in very good company.

The first step in becoming a master of your email (instead of a slave to it) is to keep the number of emails in your main Inbox to a minimum – preferably less than 15 at any given time and closer to zero by the end of the day. Yes, I said ZERO by the end of the day. Your email Inbox is no different than your paper Inbox – if you don’t keep it under control, it can get overwhelming pretty quickly and that is when things start falling through the cracks. So, how can you get your Inbox down in the manageable realm? FARD – File Assign Respond or Delete as described below:

  • File– If the email contains information that you need for reference purposes, but does not necessarily require a response or action, it’s the easiest kind to handle because all you have to do is file it in a sub folder. To file your email, drag it to the sub folder or right click and select Move to Folder from the pop up menu. Note, be careful about filing emails with large attachments – often you are better off saving the attachment out in your file system and freeing up that space in your Outlook mailbox.
  • Assign – If the email requires a follow up action or task, drag the e-mail over the task folder and drop it to create a new task. The task can either be for you or assigned to someone else. Either way, the email is out of your inbox and in your Tasks folder where you’ve got better tools to properly manage tasks.
  • Respond – Answer the email as quickly as you can – if the email requires some follow up action before you can answer it, chances are it belongs in a task. If the email involves someone else asking to meet with you – answer it with a meeting request. Now the communication has been moved to your calendar where it belongs and can be better coordinated (especially if the sender is on your Exchange server).
  • Delete – Try it – it’s addictive. For some of us pack rats deleting an email can be pretty difficult, but if you are having a hard time deciding where to file a note or what to do with it, chances are it belongs in the recycle bin. Also, don’t forget the “Add Sender to Blocked Sender List” feature if your spam filter is letting a few of those charming ads through – to access this feature, right click on your email message go to the Junk email>Add Sender to Blocked Sender List option on the pop up menu.

Give FARD a fair shot and please let me know how it works for you after a week or so.

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on September 26, 2007 in the following categories: Arrow Tips, Calendar, Front Page, Inbox, Inbox Zero, Tasks. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


That is a good tip and one that I am trying to implement. I tend to save ongoing projects in my inbox and they get stuck in between lots of messages that I either haven’t gotten to, haven’t read yet…etc.

It is a work in process but not only have I deleted a lot of old messages, I added a few folders to hold those items that really don’t need to pop up every time I open my inbox. I know this works on my physical desk top so I am confident it will on my virtual one as well.

Thanks for the gentle reminder!


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