4 Starter Steps for Using Outlook Tasks to Give You More Control, More Freedom and Less Stress
If you’re holding a fire hose all the time, it means you’re being more reactive than proactive in your work day and you’re putting out fires way too often instead of using your time to get ahead, reach new heights or get on the golf course – or do whatever favorite hobby you like. And it also means your daily systems and processes could be lacking in efficiency or they simply aren’t working.
So what’s my favorite system? Microsoft Outlook . No surprise to you, my loyal readers, I’m sure.
And 90% of my clients don’t know how to maximize Outlook when we start working together to power up their productivity. Even the few who had dabbled with the Outlook Calendar or Task List were unclear about how to make it really work for them. Many of my clients told me that they tried using the Task list, but then abandoned it because “it just didn’t work” for them.
But it can work… and it does for so many people, including me and my clients. And the reason it works is because a clear connection has been made between the “stuff” of a typical work day (papers, post-its, e-mails, voice mails, files, to dos, etc…) and what they can DO with all of it in Outlook (along with a few other trusted systems in your office.) And then life and work are so much easier.
Why do I love Outlook so much? Because it’s one of the easiest, most familiar and most powerful tools out there. Plus, it’s commonly found in the majority of companies and corporations these days, as well as many of the offices of solo-preneurs. This makes it easy for us to work together because clients don’t have to run out and get new software. They already have the tools they need. Sadly, they’re just not using it to full capacity.
Here are my 4 favorite starter steps for how to use Outlook Tasks:
1. Entering tasks in Outlook is so simple.
The two most important questions you ever need to answer when creating your list are “what am I going to do?” and “when?” Get everything out of your head: reminders, tasks, to-dos, delegated tasks and potential ideas (although ideas that aren’t actionable can be separated out.) Document exactly what step you’re going to take next, start with a verb and type them all in. Yes, all of them.
2. You don’t have to over-complicate the use of the Task List.
Skip using “% Complete” and “Status” fields. Your tasks should be small actionable steps, not big projects, and you don’t need to micromanage these tiny tasks. For instance, you either you made a call or you didn’t. Marking it as 40% complete or “In progress” is not a good use of your time.
3. Think in terms of when you’ll do something, not when it’s due.
If you continuously use the Due Date field as if you’re tracking lots of projects, then you’ll never get a sense of what you’re doing each day. It’s important to know when big projects are due, but what’s more important is knowing when you’ll take action and do a task related to that project and how much time you have to do it in.
4. When they’re all in, you’re all set.
Once you have all your to dos, reminders and tasks listed, you’ll easily see where your priorities lie. Once you choose target dates to do them and group tasks by day, then you don’t have to look at all the future tasks and get overwhelmed. You can just focus on tasks targeted for today, easily and stress-free. From then on, you can just keep adding, changing and deleting from the list and you’ll always be on top of your day.