How to Use Follow-Up Flags and Color Categories in Outlook

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Creating follow-up flags and color categories

It's easy to get an email that requires an action on our part and then completely forget to do that action. For this case, Outlook gives us something called the Follow Up Flag. It can give you two benefits. The first is a visual reminder, the second is that we can put an actual pop-up reminder on the Flag, this way we'll never forget to handle an email. It's important to note that Follow Up Flags are for actionable items only. It's one thing to put a classification on emails in a visual way and we're going to talk about that right after.

So here's an email that contains an actionable item. I have to follow up whether I want to go to this meeting to discuss the Chameleon Product Line or not. So I'm going to set a quick Flag on it, I can hover over this Flag and click on it to actually turn the Flag on and off. If I want to see all my Follow Up Flags, I can see them on the right here in this To Do List. If I want to completely get rid of this view, I can go up here to View, go to my To Do Bar and Uncheck Tasks, it's a toggle.

If I want to put it back, I can click To Do Bar, Tasks, once these follow up item is done, I can hover my mouse over it and place a check mark and the check mark stays next to the name and it removes itself from the Task List. There's a couple of other ways that I can add Follow Up Flags. I can do it right from the Ribbon, by going to Home, Follow Up and choosing when I actually want to follow up on this item. For example, I can put up a Follow Up flag for Next Week on it.

The other way that I can do it is to let Outlook decide what actually contains actionable items for me. Here's an email I got that contains a few questions. Outlook actually sees that there are some action items in this email. If I click on it, it's going to highlight the things that it things are actionable. It's pulled up the two questions that are in this email and it's asking me if I want to set a follow up on them. I can. So I'm going to place a check mark here and put a Follow Up Flag on these items.

In just a couple of seconds, it's going to show up on my right-hand side in my To Do List, as an actionable item. One thing that I want to do is actually put a reminder pop-up alarm on this item. I don't want to forget to do this. So I'm going to come over here and right-click on this Follow Up Item, go down to the Follow Up Section, and choose Add Reminder. So here's where I can put my reminder on it. I want the reminder to go off in just a few days.

I can also change the time by clicking the pull down menu. When I'm all done, I click on OK and now the Little Alarm Bell tells me that there's a reminder associated with that actionable item. When I'm all done, I can either mark it Complete from here or I can right-click on it, go down to Follow Up and choose Mark Complete. What about when there's no action required, but you want a visual means to file or classify the email? Why clutter up tasks when you can assign it to a color category.

So before we begin assigning things to categories, let's go in and give them names that are meaningful to us, instead of the color names that come as default with Outlook. I'm going to go with my Home Tab, go to Categorize and go down to All Categories. Here is where I can rename the categories or change the color if I wanted to. I'm going to highlight a category and choose Rename and give it a name that's meaningful to me, I can press the Enter Key when I'm done and I can Rename as many as I want.

I can also create any new items I want. If I want to create a new one, I can simply create this New button and give it a new category name. I can choose the color to go along with it and any shortcut key I want to associate with it. I can click on OK and my new Category appears. When I'm all done getting my categories exactly how I want them, I can click OK.

In doing so, I've set this category to red and as you can in the Preview pane, it's taken my category and classified it in my email in a way that's visual to me. If I want to see more catgories, I can also slide over my Inbox so that all the catgories are showing. It's important to note also that I can assign multiple categories to an email. If I want to Categorize this further, I can select another category. I can set what's called a Quick Click Category.

That means, I can come down here and mark anything as I want. I'm going to come down here to Categorize and choose Set Quick Click. This means that if I click on that Category Column in any email, it will instantly set it to whatever Category I specify. I'm going to choose Good Ideas. I click on OK and now any email I click will get the Good Idea Category. The last thing I want to show you is that I can actually Sort my Inbox by Category.

I can go to the View Tab and change to the Categories View. Now I can quickly see all my Good Articles and all my Good Ideas in one go. So remember, a Follow Up Flag is for an actionable reminder, a Category is for a visual classification. Categories can be assigned to anything, Contacts, Calendar Items and Mail Items.

Creating follow-up flags and color categories
Video duration: 5m 49s 3h 6m Appropriate for all


Creating follow-up flags and color categories provides you with in-depth training on Business. Taught by Jess Stratton as part of the Outlook 2013 Essential Training

Business Education + Elearning
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