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Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #30

The Top Ten Outlook tips to save 40 hours (that's a WHOLE week!) every year ...

Occasionally (as I will do this week), I add an efficiency element to the CORE Bites TIPS to acknowledge that the more efficient you are in the 'other' parts of your job, the more time you'll have to expand your leadership skills and enhance the relationships you have with your people. So, ready to embrace some new efficiencies?

While we couldn't possibly get along without emails in our contemporary workplace, that doesn't diminish the fact that emails are consuming an enormous amount of our time. And, no one is immune to this phenomenon. Some of this email time – obviously – is productive. However, a (surprising) amount of the time we're spending on emails is filled with inefficiencies. Obscure and (mostly) inconspicuous, these inefficiencies add up to less productivity and – for many of us – result in an extended day clearing out our Inbox. (If you're resonating with this, read on ...)

I hope the Subject Line for this email got your attention so let me expand on how I did the math. The HVAs listed below will save the average Outlook user approximately 10 minutes per day. Based on the number of working days in a year, that equates to a whole week of productivity every year. Yes, I2 (Incremental Improvement) can make a huge difference.

Before I provide the HVA suggested time-savers, let me first acknowledge the fact that you're probably very aware there are hundreds of keyboard shortcuts available. But many are so convoluted in their design, they're difficult to remember (are we really expected to remember commands like CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+S???). My favorite Top Ten picks use advanced mnemonics to help us remember, and I guarantee their routine use will make them second nature. Plus, while completing repetitive tasks more quickly is appealing, it's also safer because reducing your hand/mouse movements is a known way to reduce Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

While the efficiencies listed below are for Outlook, if you use another email system, simply search for its respective shortcut using the information below. [Note: If you're using a Mac, replace COMMAND for CTRL for most of the shortcut commands].

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The consistent use of the following shortcuts will speed up your Outlook utilization. Try out these HVA shortcuts and start saving time:

  • The 1-2-3-4 Time Saver: If you're like most Outlook Users, you're interacting with emails, the calendar, the contact list, and the task list all day long. Try this approach to navigate instantly between the various panes: Mail: CTRL+1; Calendar: CTRL+2; People: CTRL+3; and Tasks: CTRL+4.
  • 'O'pen/Close an Item (email, appointment, contact, task): CTRL+O to Open an item; ESC to close the item.
  • Reply/Forward Shortcuts: 'R'eply to Sender (only): CTRL+R; 'R'eply to All: CTRL+SHIFT+R; 'F'orward: CTRL+F.
  • 'S'ave Draft or 'S'end Email: If you're not quite ready to send an email and need to save it for later: CTRL+S; when you're ready to send the email simply change the CTRL to an ALT: ALT+S.
  • Copy/Paste: Occasionally, you'll need to copy and paste text into an email from various sources. By default, Outlook keeps the formatting of whatever you've copied instead of adopting the formatting of the email you're composing (I find this very annoying in most cases). To change this behavior, go to the Advanced settings; scroll down to 'Cut, copy, and paste' and set your desired defaults. [Note: This is not possible on the Mac (as of this writing) so to do something similar open Mac Preferences and add a new App Shortcut with the desired paste settings.]
  • Search/Find Functionality: F3 will open the Search box in any list; F4 will open the Search box in any opened item.
  • Select 'A'll: CTRL+A.
  • Undo: CTRL+Z (this one has saved me a lot of grief over the years!).
  • Create a Bulleted 'L'ist: CTRL+SHIFT+L.
  • [Bonus] Expand/Collapse Subfolders: If you followed the email setup suggestion in CORE Bites Issue 21, then this shortcut will save you time. Expand all groups: CTRL++ (on numeric keypad); Collapse all groups: CTRL+- (on numeric keypad); Expand one group:+ (on numeric keypad); Collapse one group: - (on numeric keypad).

I hope these HVA shortcuts save you some valuable time. Let me know how they work for you! Also, if you have any shortcuts not listed that you find helpful, please share! Thank you!

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing."

— Miles Davis —