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Effectively Tracking Your Tasks in Outlook

I’d love it if Microsoft Outlook could read my mind and record each task that I remember during the middle of the night, while I’m in the shower, and while I’m driving. Voice-recognition Outlook… with classification of A, B, C priority codes depending on the stress level of my voice – wouldn’t that be a great invention? An even better invention would be for someone else to complete these tasks with just my mere thinking about them.

But alas, my Outlook Tasks are mine to record, and mine to accomplish (or at least be responsible for). I’d give myself a grade of ‘C’ for how I manage my tasks in Outlook. I know there are better methods for ensuring that tasks have realistic due dates and over-commitment is avoided on most days.

Here is the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of my tasks.

What I record a task for:

  • Work items
    • Papers to write
    • Meetings to schedule
    • Travel to book
    • …anything that I cannot do immediately within the next few minutes
  • Career Advancement items
    • Training class to take
    • Web tools to learn
  • Home
    • Maid or other resource to schedule
    • Gifts to buy
    • Date-night or vacation planning
  • Personal
    • Call for a doctor’s appointment
    • Contact a friend
    • Pick up a book or movie
  • Giving Back
    • Volunteer with an organization

How I record a task:

  • Work items
    • Precede each task with my company name (example: ABCo: Submit topic for conference presentation)
    • Category: Work (I usually have several categories for each client or each major segment of work-related tasks for better tracking)
  • Home
    • Precede each task with HM (example: HM: Buy birthday gift for husband)
    • Category: Home
  • Personal
    • Precede each task with my initials (example: CM: Call doctor)
    • Category: Personal
  • Giving Back
    • Precede each task with the volunteer organization I’m working with
    • Category: Volunteer

For all tasks:

  • Reminder: Checked to On if I want a continual knock-on-the-head to work on this task (I use the Postpone button as much as I use my snooze button on my alarm clock!).
  • Due Date: I enter a date when it must be done by… but if I want it to show up on my task list a few days earlier, then I move the Due Date up.
  • Status and Percent Complete: I do not use these fields today. I’d like your ideas on how to use these fields to better my efficiency.

By preceding each task with a code, it helps me to focus solely on the work items during the day without even reading the other tasks that are on the list. Or on the weekend I can more easily focus on the Home, Personal and Giving Back codes (yes, I print my task lists for the home days also!)

I’ve taken Franklin Covey’s course on how to use their Franklin Covey Planner effectively, and I do use a lot of their ideas. However, when it comes to my tasks, I really struggle with appointing them to a day when they’ll actually get done. I just list them all, leave the default due date unless I truly have a good date, and then I put ratings of A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, etc. to each item. But of course I end up with too many things all being ‘A’ codes, and virtually nothing down in the ‘C’ category.

I have been using Franklin Covey’s PlanPlus software for a few years. This sits on top of Outlook and easily lets me prioritize my tasks in the above ratings. PlanPlus does a whole lot more, but the task prioritization is what I use the most. If you do not have PlanPlus, then you can rank your tasks yourself and begin each task name with its designated rank. Remember to update the ranks each day as some items do get off the list. Check out PlanPlus at Franklin Covey.

I have a long way to go to give myself an ‘A’ grade on my task effectiveness, but I’m always trying! Please provide your ideas on how you best track your tasks, as most all women travelers have a very full task list and organization is something we all strive for.

Hooray! One more task I can now mark as ‘Complete.’

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