How to Organize Your Outlook Inbox: Student Edition

Student managing their email

Learning to organize your Outlook inbox is an important skill that every student should learn. A tidy inbox makes it easy to reference the countless emails students send and receive when earning their degree.

Outlook provides users tools like folders, rules, and categories to organize their inbox. The tools are flexible and easy to use, but the way people use them will depend on their needs. For students, these tools are perfect for organizing emails by semester and course.

How to Set up Folders

Organizing your inbox begins with creating folders for each semester. “Spring 2019,” “Summer 2019” (if taking summer courses) and “Fall 2019” are examples of simple folder names and students can plan as far ahead as they please.

Organizing by semester helps students clean up their inbox after each semester and provides a clean system to use when deciding what’s worth archiving and what should be deleted. Students wanting to go the extra mile should make Subfolders for each different class for the semester.

How to Direct Emails

Directing emails requires rules. Setting these rules up takes several steps, but it saves a lot of trouble. The simplest way to organize is by date. All you need to know is the dates in which a semester will take place. At Grand Canyon University, students can check the Academic Calendar for information about what dates to use when following these steps.

  1. Access rules and alerts by going to Home > Rules > Manage Rules & Alerts at the top of the page when using outlook. Click on “New Rule.”
  2. Under the “Start from a blank rule” section, choose between making a rule for sent and received emails. Click “Next.”
  3. When you see the prompt reading “which condition(s) do you want to check,” select “received in a specific date span.” Choose which dates fall into your semester. For example, the Fall 2019 semester will be from 8/26/2019 and 12/15/2019. Click “Next.”
  4. When you see a prompt reading, “what do you want to do with the message?” select “move it to the specified folder.” Choose the folder you want.
  5. Finish going through the Rules Wizard, then select “Turn on this rule” and “Run this rule now on messages already in inbox.” This will direct all of your emails into the Fall 2019 folder.

Essentially, this process breaks down the inbox into several smaller inboxes. This is something students can do before the semester begins, and the shift is automatic. Simply set rules for the dates in each semester for a seamless seamlessly shift from one folder to the next as each semester passes. This will help prevent clutter and make it easy to reference emails.

Unfortunately, students will have to design their own tailored systems if they want to store their emails by class since each class in a semester follows the same schedule. Students are free to set up the rules that work best for their needs, but the simplest way is to categorize emails and move them into course folders manually.


Categories are one of the simplest ways to organize emails, but it is also the least specific. Students wanting to avoid an excess of small folders can simply go into their semester folder, select an email and assign it a specific colored category. A blue-colored square marking “HIS-144” appears next to the email, and students can even sort their view by category to separate semesters or classes. Likewise, students can mark all emails with a yellow “Fall 2019” category.

Outlook Users can assign any number of these colored categories, which means that you can avoid the file system altogether if desired. The most accessible way to use categories is as visual support in an organizational system. For example, an email from the “HIS-144” folder should be marked blue and yellow, which makes for a quick visual reference.

Grand Canyon University places an emphasis on personal and academic enrichment. If you are interested in learning more about all GCU’s campus has to offer, visit our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.