Whether you are using Microsoft Outlook 2003 or 2007, the concepts behind these tips will work with both versions of the software.
Try these tips at the office or at home to help you save time each day—a few minutes here and there all add up.
1. Make a Decision. Inbox clutter is no different than the clutter on your desk or in your office. Lack of decisions about what to do with the email in your inbox increases the volume of email you look at each day. Instead of using your inbox as the one location to store all email, think of it as the place to store email that still requires “action.” Just as you would not leave mail in a physical inbox that needed to be shred, recycled, filed or forwarded on; practice the same habits with the email inbox. If you can quickly make a decision to delete or forward on to someone; do so. If it requires no action on your behalf, but you need to keep the information, file it in an email folder. If it requires “action”—be sure you are planning enough time in your day/week to complete the action items.
2. Flag a Contact for Follow Up. When you need to follow up with someone, rather than create a “task” for this action, use the follow up flag on the contact to set a follow up date. Use the “notes” section of the contact to make a note about why you are following up and any relevant information from your conversations. A reminder will be displayed for this action in the reminder box so you don’t forget.
3. Color Your Calendar. When scheduling an appointment, use the “Show Time As” field to show whether your appointment is “Out of the Office,” “Busy,” “Tentative,” or “Free.” Others that have access to your calendar or wish to schedule a meeting with you—will be thankful to know if you are really in the office or out of the office. Another benefit is that if you are using Windows Mobile on your PDA, you can view your calendar by the week and see your times that you are in the office vs. out of the office, just by looking at the colors.
4. Write it Down. So much to do and so little time … how do you track everything you want to get done now and in the future? The “Tasks” component of Outlook is perfect for tracking those “to-do” that you don’t want to escape you. The Task List may not be the perfect solution for every little task, and we certainly don’t want it to become a data-entry exercise just so you can cross things off your list. Instead, set some guidelines for yourself. If the activity is going to take longer than 20–30 minutes or is not a task that needs to be completed now, create a task for it so you can come back to it later. The Task List is the perfect tool for logging “future” projects or goals that you don’t want to forget about, but need to get out of your head. Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of “to-dos” on your task list. No one wins a prize for the shortest list. Rather, use it as your tool to empty your brain, manage and priorities your activities. Using the “Categories” field and creating custom categories for your tasks will help you view your tasks by project, by person, goals, ideas and so much more—since you can customize your own master category list.
5. Take Note. The “Notes” component of Outlook is one of the most underutilized areas. Think of it as “sticky notes” for your computer that you currently have plastered around the perimeter of your monitor. Notes are great for writing down ideas, shopping lists, measurements for things to purchase, books you want to read, and so much more. It’s especially useful if you synch Outlook to Windows Mobile so you have this information at your finger tips when you are out.
Want more great tips and helpful step-by-step time-saving organizing ideas? Organizing & Customizing with Microsoft Outlook 2003 is just the book you are looking for. This 130+ page book is filled with practical tips to organize and customize Outlook for the way you work.
© 2007 Eliminate Chaos, LLC