Last week I promised to talk about how I use the Tasks folder to help me achieve my goals. So here is my Outlook Task strategy…
Capture All To-dos with a Task Item
I capture all To Dos no matter how trivial or when I think I may actually have time to get to them with an Outlook task. When you have a lousy memory like me, it is important that you capture your ideas somewhere they can be reviewed and prioritized so what better place than the Outlook Tasks folder.
Make sure to properly prioritize tasks and assign a start and due date so that they come up on your radar when you need them to or stay innocuously in the low priority grouping until you are ready for them. Categorizing can really help you manage those low priority tasks e.g. “personal” versus “business”.
Be Judicious with Alarms
If the task is date dependent and critical then I sometimes even (brace yourself) set an alarm for it. But as always, be very careful about how you use alarms – if you set one for everything you will start ignoring them and they will become a worthless annoyance. Really the best practice is to get used to checking your Tasks folder daily and setting urgent tasks to “High” priority – that way, you really shouldn’t need to use alarms for tasks.
Years ago when I was a project engineer at ARCO Chemical, I received some of the best training I have ever had – Franklin Day Planner training. How the heck did I ever get everything done before that class?
However, when I first made the move from engineering to sales, I struggled for a while between my company’s killer CRM application and my old Franklin day planner. CRM and CMS (contact management software) are great for managing contacts and sales processes, but Franklin is great for managing your calendar and tasks thus my dilemma.
What I found was that I could get the main aspects of the Franklin methodology for tracking tasks in Outlook and it was a lot more efficient then constantly regenerating my task list by hand. I also found my calendar was a lot more readable and could be more easily shared in Outlook then in my day planner. On the other hand, I don’t really like to whip out my computer when I’m on an initial sales call or with a consulting client so I still use my trusty day planner to take notes and the notebook keeps them well organized until I can transcribe them into Outlook journal entries.
In order to use the Franklin methodology for task management in Outlook , I created a custom view in my Tasks folder called Today’s Task List that allows me to group my tasks by priority (A, B, C in Franklin). I also added a custom integer field called NP (numerical priority) to assign each of my high priority tasks a numerical priority which I use to sort my view. I’ve set a filter so that only tasks with start dates on or before the current day are visible. (see thumbnail below)
So how did I do last week with my goals. Not too bad – see the table below for my weekly progress report and tune in next week when I will discuss how my favorite Outlook plug-ins are really helping me stay productive.