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Outlook Folder Organization

As a professional who uses Microsoft Outlook on a daily basis, I go into details on how I keep my Outlook inbox clean and organized.

Image of Microsoft Outlook  Source: The Verge

Image of Microsoft Outlook Source: The Verge

Keeping Outlook Organized

Utilizing Microsoft Outlook to it's fullest potential takes time and practice. To stay on top of your emails and keep it organized is a task many seem to put off. To make it easier this post will discuss the folder feature that allows users to create inbox folders and how I utilize this system to keep up to date and stay on top of every email. This is good for recent college grads moving on to career that is behind a desk, or anyone looking to keep a personal email clean. This is even more important now with more people working from home during the Pandemic and not being able to run over to a coworkers desk this will allow you to stay on top of every important email.

Outlook Inbox and Folders Feature

This article will break down the three areas of how I utilize Microsoft Outlook, it's inbox and the folder feature. I have not tried this in other email programs or browsers such as Gmail, Comcast, or Yahoo ect. But I do believe this methodology will apply to any email program. The three areas I will break down and discuss are, the main inbox, main folders and subfolders " the Folder Hierarchy".

Setting Up Inbox Folders

Setting up your Inbox with folders is the first place to begin in Outlook. I utilize my main inbox as a holding point and my folders as the storing location of emails I have already addressed. To create an organized Outlook first you must create a solid foundation, ie a great folder hierarchy. I can give you tips but I am unable to give you the best fitting folder hierarchy for your job as jobs will all require a different folder hierarchy. But I can give you a basic heirarchy that you can see and then modify it to fit your career.

Folder Hierarchy

Cornell University Example of Folder Hierarchy

Cornell University Example of Folder Hierarchy

As you can see from above the way the folder hierarchy works allows us to reduce the size of the inbox to what we need at the time we need it. This makes our inbox easy on the eyes and easy to quickly navigate and organize our emails.

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Utilizing Folder Hierarchy

Now to make this folder system work the most effectively. Use your main inbox as a bay for unaddressed and pending to-do emails. After you respond or complete the email task move them to their corresponding folder. A quick tip to make this easier and allow you to quickly identify emails is utilize your folder heading as part of your email's subject title that way you don't have to think about where it needs to go. Just drag and drop. Another tip as many of you may be curious about is the Rules feature, this allows Outlook to automatically send an email to a folder of your choice. Do not utilize this for emails you actually use and need. The hierarchy when minimized will not show which folders have unread emails. You will begin looking in to many places for your emails and will start to miss things. Utilize your main inbox and manually address all emails. This way of operating your inbox will make you not miss a thing. I do want to say that the Rule feature can be used effectively. I utilize it for spammy emails or stuff I don't need to see I auto send it to the delete folder or another folder for review at a later time when I have some time. Quick reminder Rule feature is for spammy email, not real emails.

Email Chain

This is a given but never break an email chain. For example I send you an email, do not respond to me with a new email. Reply to keep that chain going. If you break the email chain you break the chain of communication. Reply and it provides you with all the previous replies of everyone and you can easily catch yourself up or see what needs to be addressed.


In summary this is my method of handling emails in Outlook for my profession. I created a solid folder hierarchy and then moved my emails individually to the spot they belonged as I addressed them. I have to do this as I work with multiple clients on multiple projects daily my inbox in the beginning was a nightmare. I tried multiple methods and ideas and came to this easy to use method. This foundation for my Outlook has allowed me to work on multiple things at once and never get lost. I hope it helps you too. Make sure to follow me as I will add another article about the Task Feature and how I utilize it to remind me of tasks that are due and upcoming.


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