Find E-mail Documents in a Snap

Do you ever feel frustrated or just plain angry at yourself because you spend too much time looking for things (often on you desk)? Do you have the same problem wit your stored e-mail? If so you’re not alone. In fact it’s one of the major pains expressed by my clients. Although computers are very good at finding things, the sheer volume of stored e-mail can make it difficult to find something important quickly.

This is further exacerbated when you have a large quantity of Outlook folders. The more places you have to put things the more places you have to look. If you have 50 folders (and I’ve seen people with hundreds) you may have to physically look in five or six related places to find something. You have a computer, let it do the work for a change.

Here’s what you do:

Use a bare minimum of Outlook folders. Ideally have just one folder called “Completed E-mail” or something similar (please don’t store your old e-mail in your Inbox). If you must have more try to limit them to four or five. If you already have multiple folders, keep them for now and crate a new one for your completed e-mail. I started doing this a few years ago out of sheer laziness. I created on folder titled “Customer Communications” and dragged all “processed” e-mails from customers (that I wanted to keep) into it. I thought that later I’d go back and create sub folders for each customer. I never did. Didn’t have to.

Outlook Folderr List Heading

When you need to find something in your folder you have two options; sort or search.

To sort your list simply click the appropriate column heading. The first time you click a heading the list will be sorted in ascending order, the next time descending and so on. You can sort by From, Subject or Date.

If your needs are more robust you can search within the folder. Type whatever text you want to find in the Look For box and click Find Now. By using the Options on the far right you can either search just the subject or the entire message. For really heavy lifting the Options box includes the Advanced Find tool that can really narrow it down. Also you have the ability to save a search as a pseudo folder if you do this search a lot.

I used Outlook 2003 as my example above. Outlook 2007 works exaclty the same when you sort. The search tool looks a little different. In the far right hand corner just above the e-mail messages is a small box that says Search (folder name). Just type your text in that box and Outlook will do work. The little down arrow to the right contains your search options.

Search Outlook 2007

Time for an apology. Earlier this week I said that I’d do a “How-to” about managing stored e-mails using Outlook categories. This requires creating a custom e-mail view. It’s something I often do in a few minutes at peoples’ desks. When I sat down to write it out I realized that it required a lengthy explanation with multiple screen shots which would take hours. Realizing that the vast majority of my readers probably wouldn’t take the time to do this I decided to hold off. If you were really counting on this please contact me directly.