Many of us use Microsoft Outlook every day to manage our email and calendars at work. That’s no surprise given that Office is the world’s most popular collaboration platform but how many of us know how make full use Outlook features?

Learning a few simple tricks can save you time, help you work more effectively and collaborate better with colleagues and customers. So here are five to take your Microsoft Outlook productivity to the next level:

  1. Limit desktop notifications to only the most important emails.

How often do you click into your inbox the moments you see one of those notifications in the bottom of the screen of a new mail? It’s terribly distracting, and can be a big drain your time.

Did you know that you can set desktop notifications within Outlook features – just for those important messages? First you’ll need to turn off all desktop alerts under the Mail Options, then create an Outlook rule to display alerts for messages from specific people sent only to you.

  1. Use Post It Notes in Outlook

If you have a collage of many coloured post it notes around your screen to remind you of important dates, numbers etc., then this one’s for you. Did you know that Outlook features includes a built-in sticky notes feature?

Press Ctrl+Shift+N from anywhere in the Outlook interface to create a new note, which can be dragged and positioned anywhere on screen.

By default, notes appear in pale yellow, but if you want to get creative with colour, you can assign them to categories, which causes them to switch colour.

  1. Schedule “No Meeting” Time Blocks

They say that 15% of an organisation’s collective time is spent in meetings.

Although meetings are an important part of how businesses and teams develop and make decisions, we should all be aware of how they can take us away from tasks that may be a greater priority for the business.

So, instead of multitasking, or cramming in your work between meetings, why not set aside some time without interruptions. Just add blocks of time in your calendar when you want to have time to focus on what you need to.

  1. Keep emails that aren’t sent directly to you out of your inbox.

It can be annoying when you get cc’d into an email chain that continues for some time. As a result, your inbox some gets weighed down by the mass of messages.

So how about using a special “Inbox – CC” folder to gather all the emails that aren’t sent directly to you? That way, the inbox is focused on only the most important emails.

To set this up, go to Rules > Create Rule…. Then click the “Advanced Options” button. In the Rules Wizard, select “where my name is not in the To box” and then in the next screen, “move it to the specified folder.”

  1. Create search folders for your most important emails.

What are your most frequently accessed emails? Maybe they’re emails from your boss, or reports from team members.

Save yourself scrolling to find the email every time you need it by saving the search terms for quick access. Right click on Search Folders in the left navigation menu, select “New Search Folder,” and then either use the wizards or manually customise the search to your specifications.