A question I am asked and a training course I provide regularly is “I have too many emails, how do I control and organise them?”.  Here are the features available within Microsoft Outlook that you can use to assist with the storage of email.  Unfortunately, as in the day when all our communication was in paper form and we had to spend a small amount of time each day keeping on top of our filing, we have to do the same with our emails, Outlook can’t do this for you, but the following will help you to keep a proper filing system.  These instructions have been written using Outlook 2013 & Windows 10 but are relevant in all versions of Outlook and Windows.

Delete your emails

I have to start with this.  Seems obvious but we are all guilty of not doing this.  As soon as you have read an email and you no longer need it – delete it!  Ensure your Deleted Items folder is set to permanently delete these emails when you exit Outlook or when you run Archive that emails 1 month or 2 months or 6 months…. old are permanently deleted.  Do not use your Deleted Items folder as storage for emails that you might want to refer to again.

Outlook Folders

You can create folders within your mailbox to store emails that you want to refer to again.  However, I would recommend that you only use these to keep emails that you are going to refer to again in the near future.  Do not use these to store emails that you want to keep permanently, file these as explained in the next sections of this article.

To create a folder right click on your mailbox and select New Folder. Enter the name you wish to give the folder and press Enter.

You could create folders such “Action”, “To be read”, “To follow up” and so on. Once you have looked at an email in your Inbox, move it to one of these folders.  If you are working on a project you could create a folder for this project and move emails to this folder to refer to again.

Storing emails permanently

If you need to keep an email permanently I would highly recommend that you do not keep these within your mailbox.  If you work for a company with an Exchange server you will no doubt be aware that you have a limited size to your mailbox so you cannot keep every email here.  Or if you have a personal email account your Outlook Data File will become huge and this will be an issue when you wish to back up this file.

Therefore you have the choice to either save the email to your hard drive or network drive and keep it with all the other documents relating to that particular subject/project, or create a Personal Folder that is stored on your hard drive or network folder and is used just to store email.

Please note that if you read and view your email via other devices, such as a smart phone, you will not be able to access these emails via your email account.  So only use these methods if you have finished dealing with an email and want to keep it for future reference.

Save the email to your hard drive or network drive

Open the email and from the File tab select Save As.  Within the Save As dialogue box select the folder where you wish to store this email, and then give the email a name.  Note that the email will be saved in an Outlook Message Format.  Finish by selecting Save.

You can now access this email via File Explorer or via your PC’s search facilities as you would any other file.

Save an email to a Personal Folder

Firstly, you need to create the Personal Folder.  From the Ribbon select the Home tab, then New Items.  From the list displayed select More Items then Outlook Data File.  The Create or Open Outlook Data File dialogue box will open.  The new file will be automatically created in an Outlook folder on your PC or network but you can at this stage choose where you wish to store your Personal Folder.  Give your Personal Folder a name, eg Personal Folder, project name, business name etc, and select OK.  This folder will be accessible in the Navigation Pane when in Mail or Folders view.

You can now create folders and sub-folders to suit your filing system.  To save an email to this Personal Folder, drag the relevant email either directly into the Personal Folder or into one of the sub-folders you have created.

Remember to keep a note of where your Personal Folder is stored so that you can regularly back up this file to another location.

Get filing!

Don’t delay any further, plan your filing system and get filing!  Your challenge is to clear out your Inbox so that only the emails received today are stored there. Have fun!





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