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How to Start an Effective Email Search

How to Start an Effective Email Search

How many times have you searched for an email for a really long time saying, “I had it somewhere?” Or perhaps you have asked your colleague to send a message once again, and now another person must find the message because you couldn’t. Now is the right time to learn the basics of an effective email search.

Effective Email Search

Imagine you search for 10 emails a day and you could save 30 seconds each time. During the whole calendar year you could save more than sixteen hours, which means two working days off!

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What I have found is that most people put just one word in the search bar and play with sorting by different columns to find the desired message. Sometimes it’s even worse: two words are entered with the expectation that the search will find the messages containing BOTH of them, not ANY of them, or the opposite.

Let’s see if we can learn the basics of email search in just five minutes! There are two help pages that you definitely should read. And then practice. And read once again: Learn to narrow your search criteria for better searches in Outlook and Gmail advanced search. You may be surprised how similar these engines are for the end user. If you use Outlook at work, it will raise your email search skills and at the same time you will be able to use most of the knowledge when using Gmail and vice versa.

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Have you ever noticed that Outlook has a search bar available with just one click?

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email search in outlook

    There are just few keywords and operators you need to learn and if you use them effectively, you can build some more skills on top of that. I will focus on Outlook and if you want to learn the basics for gmail, you will quickly notice few simple differences.

    Examples

    There will be just one example that we will be using to build queries to narrow down our search and find just one message among thousands of others. You remember that last week “Nabielec” sent you the presentation you need. Let us start with the simplest case.

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    • Emails from “Nabielec”
      Many times I’ve seen people putting “Nabielec” and then sorting by sender to quickly find the right one. However, you can simply use the operator (sometimes called keyword) “from:”. There are just few operators (usually logical operators) that do not require parameters, but for the rest, the standard usage is “operator: parameter”. In this case we may simply use:
    from: Nabielec
    • Emails from “Nabielec” received last week
      Unfortunatelly “Nabielec” sends tons of emails, so you found few hundreds with this search. We have to improve the expression. This time we will simply use two keywords: “from” and “received” with no magic. Just try this:
    from: Nabielec received: last week
    • Emails from “Nabielec” with an attachment, received last week
      Now we got down to some reasonable amount, but still most of the messages found are without attachment and that makes the picture blurry. One more keyword will let you find messages that contain the attachment (or not): “hasattachment”.
    from: Nabielec received: last week hasattachment: yes
    • Emails with both “Project” and “Next steps”
      In the previous step five emails were found and you got the presentation you wanted. However, you recall the fact that there was another great presentation someone has sent that had “Project” and “Next steps” in it. For that purpose we will use logical operator AND (yes, use uppercase) and “Next steps” need to be taken into quotes, otherwise “next” and “steps” could be in a different parts of the e-mail. The great thing about this search is that not only it will search in the email body, but also in the email subject and attachments.
    Project AND "Next steps"
    • Emails with “Meeting minutes” and “Connect” in the subject
      Your previous search reminded you the project called “Connect” and you are pretty sure that the presentation was sent in the meeting minutes. You could simply try “Meeting minutes” AND “Connect”, however that could find unwanted messages with “Connect” in the email body or attachments. Key of effective email search is to find exactly what you want. This time we introduce the operator “subject:”.
    subject: Connect AND "Meeting minutes"

    Conclusion

    I found that just these basic operators give many people dramatic improvement of their productivity when using email. Many people are using large set of folders and remembers complex categorization rules, however when they think about the message they want to find, they most often think something like “email from Paul with the attachment”. This should be immediately turned into search criteria, rather than transforming it into a set of complex rules like “it was about project X, so it could be in folder X. No, wait, it was urgent, so it will be in the Urgent folder. No, wait. It was sent by my boss, I have specific folder for that”. Skip the middle step and tell what you need by a nice search expression.

    I hope you can save at least 30 seconds with every email search and you will get your two days off at the end of the year!

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    Piotr Nabielec

    Author, CEO, Consultant

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

    How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

    Knowledge is essential to become successful in life, your career and your business. Without learning new concepts and becoming proficient in our craft, we cannot excel in our chosen careers or archive knowledge to pass down to the next generation.

    But content comes in various forms, and because how we learn influences how much we know, we need to talk about learning styles. This article will focus on how to utilize visual learning to boost your career or business.

    The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style

    Knowing your learning style enables you to process new information to the best of your ability. Not only does it reduce your learning curve, you’re able to communicate these same concepts to others effectively.

    But it all starts when you’re able to first identify the best way you learn.

    As a college student, I soon figured out that taking online courses without visual aids or having an instructor in front of me led to poor retention of concepts.

    Sure, I got good grades and performed excellently in my online exams. However. I discovered that I couldn’t maintain this performance level because I forgot 80 percent of the course content by the end of the semester.

    There are several types of learning styles known to mankind. To give an idea of how visual learning stacks up against other learning styles, here’s a brief mention of some of the different types of learning styles we have.

    The four most popular types of learning styles are:

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    • Visual learning style (what this article talks about).
    • Aural or auditory learning style (learning by listening to information presented).
    • Verbal or linguistic learning style (learning that involves speech and writing).
    • Tactile learning style (learning by touching and doing)

    But for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on using visual learning to boost your career or business.

    How to Know If You’re a Visual Learner?

    When it comes to boosting your career, business (or education), a visual learner is one who would most definitely choose shapes, images, symbols, or reading over auditory messages.

    I’m talking about preferring to read an actual map when navigating to a new place over listening to verbal directions. I’m talking about discovering that you actually have trouble remembering what your manager said at the meeting because there were no graphs or illustrations to support the points raised.

    Most people who struggle with learning probably aren’t leveraging their best learning styles. The earlier you identify how your learning style can boost your success, the less struggle you will encounter with processing new information throughout your career.

    However, visual learning in particular CAN 10x your career or business whether it is your preferred learning style or not. And here’s why:

    Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that the brain retains more information with the help of visual aids. In other words, images are directly processed by our long-term memory which helps us store information for longer periods of time.[1]

    While some lessons can be performed orally, several concepts can only make sense if you have an image with an explanation of sequences (i.e learning about the human DNA).

    Visual learning does use a different part of the brain and visual cues are processed by the part of the brain known as the occipital lobe.

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    By engaging more parts of the brain during learning, you’re able to have a fuller understanding of concepts and facilitate better interaction with your immediate environment.

    How to Use Visual Learning for Success

    Here’re 4 ways to use visual learning to boost your career or business:

    1. Bring back the to-do list. Then add shapes and colors to boost productivity.

    We live in an age where computers have taken over virtually every aspect of productivity and most human functions. But written lists are making a comeback, and with an endless number of important tasks to complete, having a to-do list of tasks in order of importance can improve your productivity.

    While coming up with a list is initially challenging, adding colors and shapes to written lists that you personally write and manage gives you an extra layer of assurance and boosts aids recall so that you actually get stuff done.

    I have tried this technique in my work as a registered nurse and discovered that adding shapes and colors to to-do lists helps me delegate tasks, recognize where more work is needed, and makes it easy to cross off completed tasks at the end of the day.

    2. Add graphs, charts and symbols to your reports.

    Yes, it seems like more work cut out for you. However, graphs enable you monitor the heartbeat of your business.

    Graphs and charts help you trend your finances, budget, and pretty much any data overtime. With the help of free and premium software available on the market, it has become easier to take plain data and in a matter of seconds, have relevant information displayed in different shapes and images.

    As an entrepreneur, you can make predictions and allocate funds wisely when you’re able to see whether your efforts are rewarded. You can use colors and charts to delegate actions to members of your team and track performance at the same time.

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    And when broken down into monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual goals, graphs and charts communicate what ordinary text cannot.

    3. Effectively brainstorm with mind-mapping.

    Mind-mapping is not new but I don’t think it’s been talked about as often as we do to-do lists.

    With mind mapping, you’re organizing information accurately and drawing relationships between concepts and pieces from a whole.

    Think of a mind map as a tree with several branches. For example, the tree can symbolize healthcare while each branch stands for nursing, medicine, laboratory science, and so on. When you look at nursing, you can further branch out into types of nursing; pediatric, women’s health, critical care, and so on.

    It’s an interesting relationship; the more ideas you’re able to come up with for your chosen subject, the deeper you get and the stronger the association.

    Mind maps really show you relationships between subjects and topics, and simplifies processes that might seem complicated at first glance. In a way, it is like a graphical representation of facts presented in a simple, visual format.

    Mind mapping isn’t only limited to career professionals; business owners can benefit from mind mapping by organizing their online learning activities and breaking down complex tasks into simple actions so that you can accurately measure productivity.

    4. Add video streaming to meetings.

    What if you could double the productivity of your team members by video streaming your meetings or adding flash animation to your presentation at the same time?

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    When you offer video as an alternative method of processing information to colleagues, there is a greater chance of retaining information because we recreate these stories into images in our minds.

    For organizations that hold virtual meetings, it can also be an effective way to enhance performance during if people can see their colleagues in addition to flash animation or whatever form of video is provided during the meeting.

    Is Visual Learning Better Than Other Learning Styles?

    No, that is not the point. The goal here is to supplement your existing dominant learning style with visual learning so that you can experience a significant boost in how you process and use everyday information.

    You might discover that understanding scientific concepts are much easier after incorporating visual learning or that you’re able to understand your organization’s value when projected on a visual screen with charts and graphs.

    The overall goal is to always be learning and to continue to leverage visual learning style in your career and business.

    More About Learning Styles

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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