Master Your Inbox: 12 Essential Email Efficiency Tips for Outlook Users



There are many different techniques for staying on top of your emails. However many of these are way too complex and involve many different steps that are too much for most of us, average humans.

Here are my 12 tips to stay on top of emails, these tips and tricks are for Outlook on Windows and iPhone. If you are using a different email service or platform, the instructions might vary. The point of these tips is to clear your inbox in the fastest and most efficient way on both your phone and your PC.

Information Architecture

  1. Inbox is your to-do
    Treat your Inbox as a to-do list. Everything that is in the Inbox needs to be resolved in the foreseeable future, but limit yourself to a reasonable number of items to keep here. This is not a full-blown to-do list/project management and it should only be used for stuff you receive via email or that requires.
  2. Archive
    Once an email is “read” or you have done whatever you had to do, goes to Archive. There is no need to have special subfolders here, search in Outlook can find anything everywhere.
  3. Subfolders
    For automated emails, create subfolders where these will reside. Unless you are searching for something specific, there is no need to open these folders.
    If you are dealing with someone really obnoxious, create a subfolder for them too, and just open this folder when necessary.

    Sample folders in Outlook.

  4. Set automated rules for subfolders
    Learn how to define and use rules. This will help you move all the automated notifications to a designated subfolder. Make sure you are defining these rules as server rules, and you will never have to see these emails ever again.
  5. Flags and Categories
    Flags and Categories are a useful mechanism to further identify emails that are important for you. We already said Inbox is your to-do, so flagging something might help distinguish a more important email from the other.


  1. Live in your Inbox
    Given that Inbox is your to-do you live here all day, but at minimum make sure you clear as much stuff as possible when you begin your day or once a day but ideally you would make sure it stays as clean as possible throughout the entire day.
  2. Archive on your phone
    We use our phones all day long. Read and then archive or flag all emails on your phone while you are at it. Achieving stuff when you are on the phone helps clear your inbox and stay on top of important things faster.
  3. [Optional] Report Junk
    This is an optional step, but it is really helpful if you are using “Report Junk” functionality in Outlook to report real spam and help train the algorithm. The automated junk detection has improved over the years and I rarely see genuine spam in my inbox anymore.

Tech Tips

  1. Archive efficiently
    This is by far the biggest time saver, learn how to archive most efficiently:

    • On your PC, press Backspace to archive.
    • On your phone, swipe left

      Swipe left on Outlook for iPhone to archive an email.

      If you are going to implement one change in your email routine, this is the one!

  2. Learn other keyboard shortcuts to be more efficient in Outlook (there are more but these are important)
    • Backspace to archive an email
    • Ctrl+R to Reply
    • Ctrl+F to forward
    • Ctrl+N to write a new email
    • Alt+S to send
    • Ins to flag or clear flag on an email
  3. Leverage Viva Insights to send emails with a delay
    Instead of using the Send Later feature which requires you to have your Outlook running, if you delay scheduling with Viva Insights you can be a sleep and it will still send an email to you. You can use this to either impress your boss or not to pester your employees in the middle of the night.
  4. Master the search syntax
    Search can be a really powerful assistant when looking for something, make sure you know some basic search syntax e.g. “from:”, “to:”, “hastttachments:yes”, and similar will make your experience with search more pleasant.

These are the techniques I use, they don’t require you to to many changes in your work routine and can help you get more efficient with your email.

Hey there! I’m Toni, the Co-Founder and CEO of Syskit, creators of Syskit Point and SPDocKit. Welcome to Toni on Tech, where we explore the ever-evolving world of software, technology, and business.