I just returned from a couple weeks of vacation. The sun was great and the rest was even better. But like all vacations, it came to an end and I returned to work on Monday. Waiting for me were hundreds of e-mails. And with meetings and all the work I had to finish, I didn’t have a lot of time to read it. Instead of going through each message, I used a sorting technique in Outlook to save time.

Once I started reading all my e-mail, I realized that nearly all of it was part of conversations that included two or more e-mails. Instead of reading each e-mail, I sorted everything by conversation. Then, I just opened the most recent e-mail, read the entire conversation, and deleted the rest. I didn’t have to open or preview each e-mail and reduced my e-mail from hundreds to—well just over a hundred. I was through all my e-mail by noon.

I did worry that I may have inadvertently deleted a message that was part of long conversation but addressed just to me. Colleagues may take everyone except me off the To: and Cc: lines to make comments on what is being discussed. I may have, but I’ve found that most colleagues wait until I return to send me e-mails like that. I double-checked though, and it turns out I didn’t miss anything.

You can sort your e-mail by conversation in Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007—if you’re running it.

Outlook 2003

In Outlook 2003, click Arranged by and choose Conversation.

 Image of sorting by conversation in Outlook 2003

Outlook 2007

In Outlook 2007, right-click one of the fields you use to sort messages, point to Arrange by, and click Conversation.

Image of sorting by conversation in Outlook 2007

If you have other tips for sorting your e-mail or ways to get though loads of e-mail in less time, let us know.

--Jason Kozleski