When used to its full potential, Microsoft Outlook is a powerful tool for productivity! However it can quickly become a source of stress and frustration for those who aren’t sure how to use it. This series of articles will help you increase your productivity by teaching you about organizing Microsoft Outlook.

Microsoft Outlook categories allow you to group contacts, making it easier to find, sort and filter your contacts. If all you are doing at this point is adding contacts to your list without organizing them, I suggest taking it a step further by using categories to make Microsoft Outlook work harder for you. Some recommended Contact Categories are Vendor, Client, Prospect, Advertising, Resource, Family, Personal, etc., of course you should tailor your categories to your needs. It is easy to add, delete, and change categories as your needs change.

Why it’s important to organize Microsoft Outlook Contacts

Organizing your Microsoft Outlook Contacts is an important key in making Microsoft Oulook work for you. Using categories makes easy work of sending emails to defined groups of people – just drag and drop an entire category and email addresses automatically appear in the To field of your message. Quick tip: make sure you cut and past the email addresses into the BCC field before sending, it’s common courtesy and you may run into privacy law issues if you don’t. Using categories also makes it easy to view and analyze your contact list, or export your contacts to another program.

The most important reason to use contact categories is streamline your marketing and follow up efforts. Remember: the fortune is in the follow up! For example, you could create a category labeled “Prospect” and flag it for a specific day to remind yourself to follow up. You can alternatively create an appointment from the contact selecting the date you want to follow up. Another tip is to create a category for specific events (e.g. fundraising event, Christmas party, product launch). After the event, sort your contacts by category and send a follow up thank you card to each person who attended that event.

How to set up and use Microsoft Outlook Contact Categories:

The following is a suggested three step process to get you started.

1. Plan out the categories you think you will use on paper first.

2. Set up your new categories in the Master Category List.

3. Assign your contacts to the category or categories that they belong in.

Creating categories:

1. Select Categories from the Edit menu

2. Click Master Category List

3. Type a category name in the new category box

4. Click Add

5. Follow steps 3 and 4 to create additional categories

6. Click OK two times

Assigning a category when creating an item:

1. With the item open, click on Categories (if you are already in an email click Options, then Categories)

2. Click on the boxes next to the applicable category or categories in the available categories list.

3. Click on OK

Assigning a category to an existing item:

1. Select the item you want to assign a category to.

2. Click on Categories on the Edit menu

3. Click on the boxes next to the applicable category or categories in the Available categories list

4. Click on OK

A few quick Time-Saving Tips

1. Microsoft Outlook allows you to assign several categories to a single Contact. For example, you can have a vendor who is in your “Vendor” category, as well as you “Fundraiser 2010” category.

2. When exporting your Contacts to another database program, make sure you export the Category field. This way the Category will transfer over into the new database saving you data entry time.

3. Categories and follow-up is critical to an effective Contact list, whatever your situation. When you receive emails from new leads it is important that you create a system to follow-up!

Take some time to organize Microsoft Outlook by planning and creating your categories today it is sure to save you time and money in the future!

Author's Bio: 

Sherry Borsheim has been creating business organizing systems to help businesses and individuals get organized for over 23 years. She specializes in organizing Microsoft Outlook, and streamlining paper, email, time and space workflow issues. She recognizes that each client’s situation is unique and works with them to create custom, effective organizing systems. Get your free e-kit "7 Ways to Organize Your Workspace" by visiting www.bizorganizing.com now.