Before we start: No, this blog post is NOT sponsored by Microsoft to talk about Office 365! In fact, I never got any sponsoring offers so far….(ok, not entirely true, I actually got some 1 or 2…but those were more of the category “you better don´t do this”).
When you hear the word “Microsoft Office” I guess most people in business relate this to:
Some may have already heard about Power BI…but I guess most of you don´t know what it does and what YOU can do with it. At the end of this article, there´s a survey because I´m pretty interested in what you are familiar with when it comes to Microsoft Office 365.
So why write an article about Software that basically everyone working in an office job knows about? Basically, you may know only 10-20% of its capability. When I started using Microsoft Office, it really was based on
But today’s Office Suite is way more than that. But still, most people don´t know. So I thought I just may introduce ALL parts I´m familiar with and that I use. AND I only focus on stuff that should be included in your Microsoft Office 365 as well or can be installed via Browser so that you don´t need to worry about having discussions with your IT to get them.
And if you are at the end of this article you may see “Microsoft Office 365” with some different points of view and start using its potential quite more effectively in your daily work.
All right, I start this series with one of the most used tools within the Microsoft Office 365 environment: Outlook. I guess the majority of people use Outlook for their e-Mail communication. We all use Outlook, but most people I know use some rules to sort unnecessary mail out and to schedule their meetings. That´s what the most common people do. I benefit from some features that Outlook offers in today’s version that help me organize my tasks, meetings, and ToDos.
MyWorkday – Dashboard
The first thing that shows up in the morning when I start my browser is the “MyWorkday”-Dashboard. It´s a really useful feature that Microsoft implemented over the years since this customizable dashboard holds all major information for me ready that I need to start the day. I know:
- What´s my meeting schedule for the day?
- What are the e-Mails I flagged that I need to work on?
- What are my tasks?
As soon as I get an overview of all of that, I prepare “My Day”…the list of things I need to work on for the day. Depending on what kind of working style you prefer you can move on from here. Since I like “Zero Inboxing” I have all e-mails flagged that I put more than 2 minutes of attention and I have my tasks that are listed in the column next to it. From this bucket, I prepare “My Day”. And then I start working. The Timezone widget is (at least to me) useful since organizing meetings in different time zones can sometimes be challenging. Ok, the weather widget is more or less useless, but it can be a nice “ice-breaker” to start a conversation about the local weather is good for some Smalltalk.
Using color codes for different categories
Another thing that can be useful is using different colors within your calendar and your mail is the usage of colors for different types of meetings. I personally use colors to highlight my clients within my calendar to get a sense of how much time I spend on what client and try to balance it as well as possible. Some weeks it works out, in some, it doesn´t.
Usage of rules
Rules are a very effective way to keep my inbox organized. Since I have several types of e-mails that pop in regularly (e.G. Newsletters) I create rules to get them straight out of my inbox. I assume most ppl use this feature.
In addition to that, I use rules to mark my emails according to the domains they were sent from (mostly to mark emails that come from my clients). This makes it easier for me to search for things that I’m not quite sure who was the sender.
I know this is something that might take a while to set up, but since online stuff won´t get deleted, you can build your rule directory slowly at the speed you like.
Add-In time – Increase your productivity with some useful add-ins for Outlook 365
But did you know that with Outlook 365 there come multiple add-ins that can help you ease your working? Actually, at the moment I use only 3 add-ins at the moment. But they work out pretty good for me.
One really pleasant add-in is “FindTime”. Especially when you have to schedule a meeting with multiple people and you don´t know what time for all participants fits best, you can easily start a poll with all people invited based on your own availability. Now you can easily let the participants check their calendars and the time that suits them best will be the one to go. This saves you a ton of back and forward communication.
Another add-in that I personally really like is Grammarly, since I´m not a native English-speaking person I prefer to have my emails checked before sending them into the world. Grammarly helps me correct at least most of the common typos I usually do and in some cases, it recommends some adjustments to my writing (because I use the free version of Grammarly). But I highly recommend this nice add-in.
Actually, I know Boomerang from the start but haven´t used it until I started to realize the potential of this add-in. Mostly the features of this tool are that you are able to send out emails at a specific time, ask for availability for meetings, or share your own availability. But the feature I like most is the “get it later back to my inbox”-feature. With this feature, I´m able to get emails I just want to get out of sight away from my inbox and return them later to my inbox to decide what to do with them.
I´m aware that there are tons of more add-ins out there that might be useful as well, no doubt, but to more stuff, you use…the more complicated it gets. So I pick those that suit my workflow best (at the moment).
Conclusion – Outlook can be more, you just have to dig a little bit
Outlook is from a business perspective THE tool for email handling at the moment, although there are a lot of alternatives out there, and as long as Microsoft is that strong in the business, I doubt that this will change in the near future. And since the number of emails that we receive will grow by the day (McKinsey estimated in 2020 that the avg. US Office worker receives 120 emails per day…by the way, that s an insane number!), it´s good to have a strategy to deal with those. The good news is that Microsoft seems at least to understand and provides some “on board” features that can help you out handling these.