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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!

    More by this author

    Piotr Nabielec

    Author, CEO, Consultant

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    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    Does it ever feel like the things you want to accomplish always end up on the back burner? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you’re not alone. Only about 33% of people consistently work toward their goals. In some cases, their goals may seem too lofty to accomplish, or else they aren’t sure how to make a plan for them.

    If you don’t come up with concrete steps to take toward your goals, they’ll remain dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but being able to turn your dreams into goals you can realize will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

    Luckily, you can realize almost any dream when you harness the right goal-setting methods.

    In this article, I’ll show you how to achieve goals and get closer you success.

    1. Break your dreams down into specific and measurable steps

    We couldn’t talk about goal-setting without mentioning SMART goals.

    SMART goals are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.

    Specific and measurable steps are so important because if we don’t know what our target it, how can we ever hit it?

    Take all those beautiful dreams you have for yourself and make them into things you can actually do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, a step toward realizing your dream might be researching what you’ll need to start your business.

    Find out more tips about utilizing SMART goals here:

    How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

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    2. Have at least one clearly defined goal for every interest and role in your life

    It’s so easy to become complacent or stagnate. We often think that our careers are the only places where we need to set goals, but we aren’t only what we do.

    To make the most of your life, take the approach that you’re always learning and growing in everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well after all.

    Set goals whether you’re sponsoring an activity for your child, taking up guitar lessons or trying to prove your worth at work.

    You’ll notice that this approach forces you to constantly develop new skills. It can also be fulfilling to put more focus and value into all areas of your life— not just the ones related to our careers.

    3. Align your goals with your life’s mission, purpose and passion

    Take the opportunity to do some soul-searching. What is it that you want to do with this precious life of yours?

    Anything that conflicts with your life’s purpose is bound to cause discontent. Staying in a bad relationship, doing a job that goes against your values, or maintaining the status quo just because it’s comfortable are not options for you.

    Thinking about your goals in this way can help you eliminate things in your life that don’t serve you. This frees up mental space that you can use to do the things you care about the most.

    Many of us struggle to find the time to work on our goals, but this strategy enables you to make more time.

    4. Create goals that ignite your spirit and inspire you to take action

    If you can’t be fired up about your goals from the start, they might not be good goals for you.

    The road to success is often tough. You’re going to have times when you might feel tired or discouraged.

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    You need to feel inspired enough that you’ll be able to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

    If what you’re doing motivates you to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll be much more resilient.

    5. Write down all your goals in specific, measurable detail

    This is your road map for what success will look like. The more you define what you want the finished product to be, the greater the chance that you’ll reach that vision.

    When you write down your goals, you’re creating a document that you can revisit to make sure you’re on track.

    When you’re in the middle of trying to achieve a big goal, it can be hard to see what’s working for you. The things you write in this step will help you stay on-message as you take your goals out of your mind and into the real world.

    Don’t just write down your goals and stash them away in a folder somewhere. Take the extra step to put them somewhere where you’ll see them.[1]

    If you have too many goals to post on your desk, write a summary or choose one or two steps to work on for the day. Just seeing them will keep them in the front of your mind.

    6. Commit to hitting each of your targets without exception

    You wouldn’t have created the target if you didn’t think it was necessary. Hold yourself accountable for taking the steps to succeed.

    You can always adapt your strategy or break your targets into smaller steps if you find that they aren’t attainable as you originally wrote them.

    Hitting even the smallest target is cause for a celebration. It’s a step in the positive direction. Your success will make you crave more success.

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    We often make excuses when we get tired or overwhelmed. Take away the option to make excuses. You will only be satisfied with the best effort from yourself.

    7. Share your goals with others to motivate each other

    There’s something so powerful about people sharing their goals and dreams with one another. Doing so gives voice to some part of us that could remain hidden (and therefore never be accomplished).

    When other people know about your goals, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable. When people share their vision with you, you can do the same for them.

    This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re trying to develop healthy habits. Post about your workout on social media, or do a healthy eating challenge with your best friend. You’ll be less likely to slack when temptation arises, and you’ll probably encourage someone else to reach for their goals too.

    8. Set a series of daily, weekly and long-term goals, complete with starting times and deadlines

    Many goals never reach realization simply because the goal-setter doesn’t check their progress. People tend to forget what they set out to do, or their goal gets crowded out by other obligations.

    Forcing yourself to revisit your goals at regular intervals breaks them into smaller steps and it reminds you to think about them.

    Giving yourself regular deadlines for smaller tasks related to your goals also helps you reflect on your strategy. You’ll figure out what works for you, whether your timeline is realistic, and whether or not you need additional help to stay on track.

    In addition, celebrating small wins helps you stay motivated. Here’s how:

    How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

    9. Take 10 minutes every day to imagine how great it will feel to achieve your goals

    Visualization is such a powerful tool. Some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and business people take time each day to think about how success looks and feels for them.[2] Imagining that feeling of satisfaction can be a great motivator.

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    When you do meet your goals, take some time to be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up and doing the work. Be grateful when the stars align properly to help you advance to the next step.

    It’s not just getting to the destination of your goals that matters. How you take the journey is important too.

    10. Take an action step toward reaching your goals every day

    Your goals can easily get buried in the hustle and the bustle. Even the smallest step in the right direction is still moving you forward.

    Keep chipping away at the work every day and before long, you’ll start to see those dreams come to life.

    Maybe you didn’t start your business today but you designed the logo that’s going to go on your website and business cards. Doing that task well is going to help you so much in the long run.

    Concrete actions day by day draw your dreams out of obscurity and into the realm of possibility.

    Change begins today

    Dreams can inspire and overwhelm us. By turning our dreams into goals that we can work toward, we increase our chances of success. Things that once seemed impossible are suddenly within reach.

    It’s time to start turning your dreams into goals and your goals into realities.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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