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My Email Inbox Is Causing Me A Nightmare!
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My Email Inbox Is Causing Me A Nightmare!

"My emails are causing me a nightmare." I often hear this while I am training our delegates. The next question usually moves to, "what can I do to organise the folders better or get rid of the one's I don't really need?"

These are both very good questions. I know the feeling myself. One of my email accounts has over 1,700 emails in the inbox alone. And, this is not counting my Sent box, which is about equal in number. About the only one that gets any regular clearance is usually the junk mail; that’s the easy one to sort; it comes in and it goes out; easy peasy.

Nonetheless, what about the emails we really need, especially the ones with our important document attachments? If we move these items to a standard file on our computer or place them on a disc, we cannot reach them easily, especially when the phone rings and we need to answer a client’s question. We could be fumbling around for a good, while we keep them busy talking about the latest move by Manchester United or Chelsea.

One of our delegates put it more succinctly, "the company will not let us remove any of them as we never know when there will be issues with clients, which could go back 5 or 7 years sometimes." As many of us know, this is not uncommon, and we do need to have the emails right where we can find them at a touch.

The issue from the IT side is that more emails means more storage being used. This effects not only the storage on the computer, but also the RAM storage. For those people not familiar with RAM storage, this is the virtual storage we use while we are working, often 100 times less the size of the computers hard drive storage unit. Once this RAM storage is used the computer, I mean all the programmes, will slow to a crawl.

This article will not deal with the IT problem, as there are more qualified people in the industry to answer email and storage issues. In fact, I am sure my kids know more about this than I ever will. My oldest Michael will soon be the hardware computer whizz, while I am still located in computer hardware Jurassic Park! (Speaking of Jurassic Park, I wonder if any of those dinosaurs would have been happy to send an email. Probably not because they were too busy roaming! Lol)

For those of us using Microsoft Outlook and not hardware gurus, I do have a suggestion. We need to turn our use of the programme upside down. What do I mean by this? I remember when I was younger my Da used to have one of those rolodex units with all the contacts he needed listed. I was amased at the number of people one could keep in there; I imagine thousands of people had their own wee card for his reference. And, now a days, we just take social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn for granted but back then business operated on those contact spinners.

Microsoft Outlook is meant to be a Contact Management programme and it seems that we have forgotten this. Instead, we patiently wait for emails to pop into our box wondering what missives might lay behind them. I have no doubt the majority of the delegates I see do the same, myself included. Everyday it all begins, on goes the computer and its straight to the email box to find out who has been writing us.

I think we have this procedure incorrect. In fact, Microsoft has already thought ahead about this very problem. What we might do instead is go directly to our contacts box, just like the old rolodex.

Why should we do this? Because, the whole Outlook system is based on the use of the personal contacts area. Let me explain.

For example, when we have our company or organisations contacts in our address book, they are loaded from the server. Double click any of these contacts and we see the individual’s information. However, this information is non-retrievable. The items in it are static. An IT individual and the server adds the information in, which only covers the basics of the individual contact mentioned. If I want to know more about activities this person, you guessed it, you return straight to the email box or the calendar area.

Here is what you want to do instead. You need to add the company’s contacts from the global address book to your personal contacts folder. By simply right clicking on the contact in the address book, you may add that person right into the personal contacts area and then add your own information to the resulting form.

Not only that, once they are now in the personal contacts folder, you can connect to all their emails, calendar items and tasks by simply going to the Activities area. The item which shows these activities is located on the third tab for older 2003 users and in 2010 it should be there right on the ribbon, listed as ‘Activities’.

This tool brings to the end user all of the correspondence you have had with this contact and you may use the filter in the same window to see only what interests you. So, if I am in this Activities window and I only wish to see the calendar items and tasks associated with that contact, it will filter this for me. This is very handy when you are on the phone and looking for a specific item related to that particular contact. No searching through endless emails any longer, and no stories about Arsenal's lack of player movement.

One caveat, though, if you permanently delete any of the emails, calendar items or tasks pertaining to that contact, the activities area will be of no use, as it can only find an item currently in any folder. I hope this will help many of you that feel overwhelmed by the number of emails in your inbox.

So just like my Da's generation, a contact management unit is what it sounds like, contact management. And, it really is about the contacts we have in our business or organisation anyway, isn’t it now? Happy contacting!

Street Talk

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