Inbox Un-Insanity – Follow Up and editing previous emails


I thought I’d share a “Pro Tip” today. Perhaps it doesn’t work for everyone but here’s the “Why” for me.

  1. I’m an “Inbox Zero” kind of guy and strive to get there every day. I do most days, so pat on the back to me 😉
  2. However, I don’t like the “weight” of tasks. Not everything needs a due date so much as they need a “follow-up or reminder” date. But I also don’t want clutter in my calendar. OneNote is great for the “details” but reminders are key to a guy in his 40’s who struggles to remember birthdays and names, much less the smaller details

So What

So in a moment (check out the Now What), I’ll remind folks about the “Follow Up” function in Outlook. However, there is another problem. Follow Up flags an email and pops it up for me in Outlook later – that’s useful. However, when this reminder pops up later (whether it be 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or even 1 year), I might forget “why” I flagged it or may have some other tidbit of information I want to keep track of.

Now What

1 of 2 – Use the “Follow Up” option in Outlook

First things first, I find many folks don’t seem to know about “Follow Up” in Outlook. It’s beautiful and it has been around a long while. Benefits include:

  1. Flagging a message for follow up so as to have it pop back up on your radar later, all with a simple click
  2. Cooler still, when sending or forwarding a message, if the other person has a supported mail system, I can flag a reminder for them too! AwesomeSauce. (off the top of my head, I believe this is primarily for other users in the same Exchange Organization but I’m too lazy to double check – and frankly, I don’t thing my customers want me having adding items to their calendars/reminders 😉

2 of 2 – Editing an existing message you have flagged

Ok, now you’ve flagged a message to be reminded. Cool, that’s useful. But I also care a great deal about “context”. When I flag something and want to be reminded in 6 weeks, it’s entirely possible by then that I have forgotten “why” I flagged it. Particularly if someone sent me an email I’ve chosen to flag, it is not unusual to get the most abrubt/terse of a reply to something important (certainly a pet peeve … if I send you some clear instructions, responding with “yep, done” ain’t cutting it as a respectful reply 😉

So I’d like to add some additional text to an existing email in my mailbox (by the way, when I flag a message for a reminder later, I don’t leave it in my Inbox – that kills my mission of Inbox Zero, I either file it, delete it, whatever… I still get reminders even if the item is in my deleted items … so long as I don’t empty that – if you are interested, I fry anything older than a year in my Deleted Items, but that’s just me).

The problem is, Outlook will protect the integrity of an email in your inbox. And so it should. However, once the email is in my inbox, frankly it is now “my content” and I’ll do what I need to do with it, to make it work for me. So I want to be able to edit *existing messages*.

Here’s how – You will want to turn on the “Edit Message” button in Outlook. (btw, Prior to Outlook 2016, it looked like a green ball – now it is even more subtle as a circle, in case you are interested).

  1. Customize the Quick Access Tool Bar
  2. Choose More Commands
  3. Make sure “All Commands” is available in the “Choose Commands From” dropdown
  4. Select “Edit Message” and Add it to the toolbar. That’s it!

Now we have an “Edit Message” option in emails. I can now flag the email for follow up AND leave a note to myself in the email (or sometimes I just add some text to the subject line) and when it pops up later, I have everything I need all in one place.

Bonus Tip

Okay, I said I would only share two things here. Edit Message and Follow Up. But I lied…

Here’s the other piece to tie this altogether. You might not “trust” that the reminder will appear later. It isn’t in your calendar officially, and it isn’t officially in your tasks list. However, it is “kind of” in your tasks list. You should need to see it in context. I recommend that you “Dock the Peek” from your Tasks. That’s done easily. Just check out the screen shot below.

And the result is the tasks pane now appears on the right hand side of your Inbox.