Why is Outlook broken?

A coworker asked me, “Outlook is broken – can you fix it?”

I go to her office, asking them to reproduce the problem. So, they use the “Find” feature to try and find an email, types in one search term, then clicks “Go” (or whatever it was). Then, Outlook froze. Okay, so she ends the process and restarts Outlook. A couple minutes later, I walk out of their office, problem “solved”.

What happened?

She was searching 6,000+ emails! Those aren’t stored locally, either; we have an Exchange server. So, I explained that the server probably got overloaded and didn’t respond to her client computer, which led to Outlook freezing up.

My suggestion? Move the emails around (into sub folders, since their inbox contained all those emails). Then, you could narrow down the search more easily. I saw a bunch from 2004 and 2005, so those probably need to be purged and/or archived. My other tip, put the email from 2004 and 2005 into their own folders, labeled respectively. A few minutes at a time, they could go through them and just delete the ones they don’t need anymore.

From what I’ve learned with GTD, I went a bit further to explain that the inbox should just be used as a collection box, and they needed to sort the email into other folders to make it easier to take next actions.

So, what are my current email folders?

  • @Action
  • @Public Counsel
  • @Read Only
  • @Waiting For
  • Archive
  • Finances
  • Public Counsel Reference
  • Purchases
  • To Nuke

I have folders which help me narrow down where an email from my inbox should be relocated to (if needed). That allows me to find emails more easily. However, you should definitely tweak the system to suit your needs.

My secret: the “To Nuke” folder. When I get an email, and I’ve already replied to it or took action with it, I’ll move it to my “To Nuke” folder immediately. Every week, I’ll sift through it to see if any email won’t be needed any longer. Most times, it’s usually safe to clear it out.

Remember, this is what works for me. You need to figure out a system that’ll help you manage your email much more efficiently, even if it only saves you a few seconds. It’ll add up. Hopefully you can take my fairly broad folder system and adapt it to your usage. (No, it isn’t a new idea – I’m just stating it my own way. Inbox Zero is much more detailed…you don’t even know!)

Oh yeah, if you slack off for awhile, don’t worry about it. Just get back on track, m’kay? If it makes you feel any better, I’m slackin’ right now, and today would be perfect to get things back in order.

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. He's also a cat whisperer. Sometimes…a photographer, and card magician.

3 thoughts on “Why is Outlook broken?”

  1. I used to use a folders approach. However, sorting 100+ emails a day into folders is a big time suck. With the introduction of Google Desktop, I no longer feel the need to do this. All mail goes into an “Mail – Old” folder. I find that 99.9% of the time I can quickly find what I am looking for using Google Desktop search.


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