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Change Your Outlook and Achieve Inbox Zero Using OneNote

Want to change your outlook on email and achieve inbox zero in Microsoft Outlook?

Nothing makes me crankier than an inbox full of emails sitting there nagging at me to attend to them. The desire to achieve inbox zero is a fantastic notion for many people who choose to put off wrapping up loose ends in their inbox for another day.  I can say stuff like this because I was stuck in that delay tactic rut for many years.

I had a bad case of analysis paralysis and if I wasn’t absolutely sure that I’d never need to see that email again, there was no way I would consider it an unnecessary item deemed ready for removal.

This year I finally took control of my inbox. It was a time-consuming undertaking. Once the hard work was done, the feeling was zen. Web-based Outlook email does the best job of making you feel like a winner, displaying the following image in place of the typical flood of emails when you get down to the big ZERO:

So how do you get started?

Getting a handle on managing and organizing your inbox requires you to accept two key things:

  1. You don’t have to delete an email to do away with it.
  2. Using the Archive folder in Outlook 2016 is a quick and simple place to store emails you don’t need to see anymore.

But what about those emails that sit in your inbox for days or weeks; the ones that are not urgent or do not have a clear course of action, but are still relevant enough to be unsuitable for storage in the Archive folder?

The answer is: OneNote

Moving emails to OneNote is the perfect answer if you need to:

  • Refer to part of an email in the future.
  • File a piece of information inside an email in a logical spot so you can quickly find it when it is needed.
  • Copy a chunk of text or images to use in a document.
  • Create a place to gather more information to complete the task.
  • Quickly link notes in the email to a task.


So how do you move an email out of Outlook and into OneNote? The answer is the “Send to OneNote” command button.

Located on the Home Tab in Outlook 2016 in the Move Group, the Send to OneNote button is a beautiful time-saving secret.

To learn how to use the Send to OneNote button, check out this detailed screenshot-rich step-by-step blog post that includes three handy Pro Tips for users that want to amp up their inbox decluttering skills.

If you want the 1-second overview: Select Email > Click Button > Select Location > Press OK. (Yep, that easy.)

The technique I prefer to use when dealing with a massive migration of emails is to use (or create if you don’t have one) a Quick Notes section tab in my primary Notebook as a dumping ground. The Select Location in OneNote dialog box remembers the last location you moved an email so you can skip a step and save yourself a click. When you’re done, you can easily drag and drop or right click > move or copy pages to the correct location they should reside. The powerful search in OneNote makes tracking down misfiled pages a breeze. The more you use the Send to OneNote button to file information now the less work you have to do later.

This post is part of the “Get Stuff Done” blog post series using Business Tricks and Microsoft Office Tips.

-Kelly Marshall,
Microsoft Instructor and Microsoft OneNote MVP


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