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Email efficiency: Declutter your Outlook inbox

The newest version of Microsoft's email program -- Outlook 2010 -- makes Conversation mode the default way to read messages in your inbox. It takes a little getting used to, but after using it a short while, you'll probably agree it's a dramatic improvement over the old way of reading your mail. In a nutshell, Conversations clump all the related messages together under a common subject line. You no longer need to search all through your older mail to follow a conversation thread.

That's a great improvement, and one you've probably already internalized as an Outlook user. But there are a pair of additional Outlook tools you can use to dramatically improve the way you consume your daily mail.

Clean up your conversations

I'm not talking about not safe for work content. A long conversation can span a dozen emails or more, and scrolling through them all to read them or to find a specific piece of information can be challenging. There's a better way -- choose the conversation and then click Clean Up in the Ribbon. Outlook will eliminate the redundant messages in the thread and only keep the most recent message that contains all of the previous replies. Now you can scan a single message and see everything that transpired.

Ignore a conversation

All of those email threads you get added to -- stuff that's not work related, has nothing to do with any of your projects, or is just plain annoying -- you no longer need to tolerate or delete manually anymore. Once you identify an email thread as uninteresting or unimportant, just select it and choose Ignore in the Ribbon. The result? As new replies to the conversation arrive, they're immediately shunted off to the trash. You'll never have to see them or deal with them again. [via Outlook blog]

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