A big thank you to the ladies of the Professional Women’s Network of Houston for inviting me to speak with them about tips for using Microsoft Outlook to work more efficiently. I thoroughly enjoyed this group and have posted my presentation to them on slide share. I have also summarzied some highlights from my presentation below.
Use your inbox to facilitate communication – not to manage your tasks or store contact information (see Arrow-Tip #1 Don’t Use Your Inbox as a Data Repository Part I and Arrow-Tip #4 Don’t Use Your Inbox as a Data Repository Part II). Dragging emails from the inbox and dropping them into the Tasks folder will create tasks for those messages requiring follow-up and dropping them on the Contacts folder will create a contact record to store contact information. We also discussed having a good sub folder system set up to help file emails for reference and how important it is to manage your Outlook archive. And of course, we talked about the benefits of Inbox Zero – see Arrow-Tip #54 Top 5 Benefits of Reaching Inbox Zero
Color coding your calendar by type of activity (e.g. sales vs billable, etc.) will give you a good feel for where you are spending most of your time in retrospect or allow you to adjust your schedule to better meet your goals when planning (see Arrow-Tip #27 Using Outlook to Help Achieve Your Business and Personal Goals Part II). You can also use your calendar to track billable hours (see Arrow-Tip #13 Can Outlook Help Me Track Billable Hours) and mileage (see Arrow-Tip #30 Using the Outlook Calendar to Record Mileage) in a table view. Don’t use your calendar to schedule individual follow-ups with contacts since you may end up constantly moving a lot of those appointments – use the Contacts folder instead.
Your tasks folder can be customized to work similar to the Franklin Day Planner system by using the priorities field (High, Normal, Low) and a custom field to allow numerical priorities for each individual task (see Arrow-Tip #28 Using Outlook to Achieve Your Business and Personal Goals Part III). Try not to use the alarm feature for tasks, but instead get in the habit of checking your task list daily.
Categorize contacts to allow you to group, filter and sort them for things like mail merges, staying in touch and call back lists. While most people view their contacts in the business card view for quick access to contact information, consider using the table views for tasks like your call list (see Arrow-Tip #50 Keep-in-Touch with Your Contacts). You can right click on a contact to create any Outlook item such as an email, appointment, task or journal entry. Use journal entries to help track activity with your contacts and get a feel for how much time you spend with prospects in order to close a sale.
We didn’t have time to cover the Journal folder or some of the great Outlook Add-ins that I like to use, but I will leave slides for those topics in the presentation.
Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed this group and look forward to staying in touch with many of the members. If you have a group that you think might benefit from a similar presentation, please leave me a comment and I’ll follow up with you to get something on our Calendars.
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