Email. Email overload. Junk mail. Spam, spam and more spam. Organizing your life today requires at least an attempt at organizing your email. I’m a Certified Professional Organizer(R) who specializes in technology, and I still have to work hard at not letting email overwhelm me.
Recently I switched my whole company to the Microsoft 365 app suite, and I found an email feature that completely changed how I use and delete email every day.
You can use this extra email feature, too, on both the free and paid individual plans. If you are a business owner, you can do what I did, and switch your company-branded email (yourcompany.com) over to Microsoft 365 for just $5/month or the $12.50/mo plan that I use.
Still Using AOL.com?
But first, a word about those ancient email addresses you are using…if you use AOL, Yahoo, Comcast.net, or any other legacy email address, you’ve probably thought about moving to a better service with cooler features like I’m going to show you, but were afraid you’d lose your old emails or would get confused logging into multiple places. Or you want to keep using Gmail, and combine all of your other email addresses in one place without having to shut anything down. In both cases Microsoft 365 might be the answer you’ve been looking for.*(info at the bottom)
Note: Hotmail.com users, you lucked out because Microsoft bought your email service, so you are already have this stuff.
You probably know that Gmail offers free email accounts or all. You might not realize that anyone can have a Microsoft 365 free account, as well. In 2020, Microsoft finally got smart and put all their best stuff under the brand of Microsoft 365. (It’s understandable if you missed it due to other news in 2020.) If you’ve used Outlook or Exchange email at work, Microsoft365.com is related to the same software you’ve probably been using for decades and will feel familiar. Confusingly, you can also get there from Office.com and Outlook.com, but you end up at the same place.
To get started, go to Outlook.com:
Don’t enter an existing email address, but instead click on “Get a new email address.” (Business users have a slightly different process that I am not covering here. You can sign up using your existing company branded email, or you can set up a new one. You’ll need to purchase or point yourcompany.com domain over to the Microsoft email servers.)
Choose the front part of your new email address, and it will automatically be added to the back part, Outlook.com.
The OTHER Email Tab
So what’s the extra email feature that I didn’t know I needed to be more productive and finally tame my email inbox? You’re familiar with the junk email box and spam filters. Of course I was using both of those. What I needed was the OTHER section of my inbox. Microsoft 365 allows me to divide up my inbox into two sections called FOCUSED and OTHER, circled in red below.
The OTHER portion of my inbox is simply another tab accessed with a single click. Newsletters, retail emails, special offers, those all are filtered into the OTHER section of my inbox. They are not junk so they don’t belong in the junk mail. I want to see them but they are the lowest priority emails every day. (Google’s equivalent of this is the Primary and Promotions tabs; you can take control of what lands in these different tabs by clicking on the three dots for any given email.)
I can direct emails into one side of my inbox or the other based on the sender. It’s just a right click, then MOVE, then “Always Move to Other Inbox.” Client emails and other things that I want to read immediately end up in the FOCUSED inbox. Newsletters, retail emails, and Facebook notifications go to the OTHER side of my inbox. I only have to choose once, and new emails show up in one tab or the other from then on. Over time, my email program does a pretty good job of learning (using artificial intelligence) when individual emails should show up in my focused inbox.
How The OTHER Email Tab Improves Productivity
This OTHER email tab has completely changed my relationship with my email inbox. Instead of trying to wade through 300 plus emails a day, I still have quick access to all 300 emails but I’m only looking at the most important emails in my FOCUSED tab, which might be as few as 20. The other 280 emails are easy to scan and delete at the end of every day. It takes me less than 5 minutes, and I’m much more confident that important stuff didn’t end up in my junk mail.
Why don’t I just use my junk folder? I do! My brain says that the Junk folder is for spam from unknown people and lists I can’t get off of for some reason. It’s junk that I don’t want to look at. Outlook does a decent job of getting that into the right folder, and I rarely look at it. But the OTHER tab is stuff that I do want to very briefly review at the end of the day I receive it, then I hit the delete button on hundreds of emails at a time. Think of it as your “just in case” pile. You don’t want to look at your “just in case” emails during the busy part of your day, but you want to be able to see if you need to buy, sign up for, or respond to anything that clearly wasn’t your most important email…AND THEN DELETE.
After deleting, it’s still in my email deleted folder for 30 days, but then gone forever, automatically deleted by the system. Nicccccccceee.
On my mobile device, I stopped using the default email app that came loaded with my device, and I am now using the free Microsoft Outlook app, which is even better, because the Outlook calendar is also in that same app! Score!
If you are using the Microsoft365 subscription for which you pay a monthly subscription, ynd you don’t see he Other tab that I wrote about here, you just need to turn it on. In Outlook, click View>>Show Focused Inbox. Voila!
Recovering Email Addict
I’ve been pretty up front with you guys over the years about the fact that I’m an email addict. Wandering into my email box throughout the day to check to see if any really important emails have come in really wastes time. With this divided inbox, with MS365 dividing up incoming emails into the FOCUSED or the OTHER tabs, I don’t find myself wasting as much time refreshing my screen and looking for potential fire drill emails. I’m able to trust that all the “fun” emails are safely over on the OTHER side of the box, out of my way, until I want to look at them at the end of the day. It doesn’t take as much willpower to stay out of my email.
This one simple change really has freed up so much time in my day. I was already pretty organized. If it can help me so much, think about what it can do for those of you who struggle with email, and those of you who have already basically abandoned your email. Doh! You know who you are.
Is the OTHER Email Tab on Old Email Systems?
Some other email programs have similar management tools, but not all do. I find that a lot of my clients with the older email programs like AOL and Yahoo, and those with phone company emails like Verizon and Comcast, still have much more of a mess in their email boxes then other folks. Why? They are legacy email services, so you get fewer management tools with those email services. If you’re just using the standard email app on your iPhone or Android mobile device, you don’t have this advanced tool either.
Even if you decide this particular tip isn’t for you, be sure to read this article on organizing your email better in 30 minutes or less.
No More Excuses
If this is the year you want to try to reclaim your email boxes and change your relationship with email, if this is the year that you want to stop using the excuse, “I didn’t see it in my email,” please give me a call. My team and I will help you find the right app and organizing shortcuts so that you can finally stay on top of your email inbox.
I’m sure you still have some questions. You can get support on your Microsoft 365 account through your admin panel. I have been blown away how responsive the agents have been for my business account. Are you can book an appointment with HeartWork Organizing professional organizers to help you make the switch. You can do online searches to get the info you need. Just don’t suffer with poor email services one minute longer than you need to.
One More Email Organizing Tip
*By the way, did you know that you can check other non-Gmail email accounts from your Gmail account? You can do the same thing and use your Office.com (aka Microsoft365) accounts to send, receive, and organize all of your email accounts, no matter what brand. Yes, you can still tell which account you are in if you combine them together, but just like the “one ring to rule them all,” firing up just one app or logging into one browser window makes it so much easier to stay on top of all of your email. If you are looking to improve your email productivity, this might be what you need.
We organizing space, time, and information like email here at HeartWork Organizing. See all of my January 2021 organizing articles in one place.