So what is all that stuff in Outlook? I'll lay odds most of you only use Outlook for email. Some of you will venture into the calendar. But how many of you knew that you have a great ToDo list, as well as post-it notes? Those of us who live in Outlook know that it can be a terrific tool to keep us on target with all our appointments, tasks, and reminders...as well as email.
In this article, I'll give you a brief overview of these features. And then we'll take a closer look at Outlook Tasks.
Above is a view of Outlook 2003 open to Outlook Today.
Outlook Today provides the user with a “day-at-a-glance” view. This view includes your current email count, tasks and any appointments listed in your calendar. To access it, click on the main folder (topmost) in your email tree. Note that you can also have this view become your default when Outlook is open by clicking Tools > Options > Other > Advanced. Then under General Settings, click Browse and choose the Top Level folder.
Through the Email feature you can send and receive email. Email messages can have other files attached to them, such as a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.
The Contacts section of Outlook is your address book. You can add, delete and modify details related to your contacts, such as coworkers, family or clients.
Your Calendar will show you any appointments that have been added either by you or by someone authorized to access your Calendar.
You have several options regarding how you view your calendar. It can be used as a daily listing of your appointments, or—with a click of the mouse—you can switch to a weekly or monthly view. You can also set reminders in your Calendar that will popup on your screen, which can be set to specific intervals.
Those of you who need to track your time might want to add a second calendar. There you can list what projects you work on each day to help you track how many hours you spend on each project.
Consider Tasks as your To-Do list. As you work on Tasks in your list, you can update the percentage of work done on each project. Various views will help you see which items are on schedule and which need attention.
You can assign tasks to others or have others assign them to you. Once the recipient accepts responsibility for a specified task, you will no longer be able to modify that task. You can, however, view its progress as the owner of the task updates it through their own Task view.
And for those of you who need to keep more detailed records of hours spend, the Task List provides you with more items you can track.
Notes are your electronic Post-its! When those brainstorms hit and your mind is rolling with brilliant ideas, you can jot them down in Notes before you forget them. Add different colors to help you easily keep them organized...from tips and tricks and PC shortcut reminders to shopping lists.
Now let's take a closer look at the Tasks feature in Outlook.
The Tasks feature allows you to keep your own To-Do list. You can also create individual project To-Do lists to help you keep up with all the demands of various projects. To access the Tasks segment of Outlook, just click on the Tasks bar or icon (depending on your view) or click Go > Tasks.
How to Create a New Task
Once you move into the Task feature, you can simply begin typing a new Task into the Subject line for the task. Hit enter and that item will be added to your list.
The Current View settings along the left allows you to quickly click to sort your tasks to more easily see what's overdue, what's active and so on.
Although you can click in any of the columns to add more details, it's easier to use the full Task dialog box to see all the fields you need to adjust. To access a new Task dialog box, double click on the task input area at the top of your list or click File > New > Task. Or, you can just hit Ctrl + N for a new item in any of the Outlook feature areas.
Once in the Task dialog box, you can add several details, including setting alarms to remind you to work on this item, as well as showing how much work has already been completed.
Notice the tiny Private checkbox at the bottom of the dialog box. If you are connected to a network that might allow other team members to view your task list, you can check that box and this item will not be displayed to anyone but you while on your own computer.
How to Assign a Task to Someone Else
If you are a supervisor, you can assign Tasks to users and then monitor their progress.
To assign a Task, open a new task dialog box. Then you need only click the Assign Task button on the Task dialog toolbar (which doesn't show in the image below because it goes away when you click it, which I did to get this image). The Task will be converted, somewhat, into an email message.
Address the message to the person you want to complete this task and add any details, such as the due date. You can also attach files into the message are near the bottom, just as you would for an email message. Then click Send. The Task will be sent to the recipient.
Be sure to note the options that will allow you to monitor the progress of the project and select those options. When you select these monitoring options, whenever the owner of this task updates any information in the Task dialog box on their system, an email will be sent to your Task List with details that will automatically update that Task.
You can add a category designation to any task. This will allow you to sort by various projects or personal categories. Just click the Category button at the bottom of the Task dialog to designate which category this task belongs to. If the item you want isn't in the list, you can add a new category. You can also manage the master list by clicking that bottom along the bottom of the categories dialog box as shown below.
For those of you who need to track project details, you can log items such as hours, mileage, and billing info to the project.
How to Set Recurring Tasks
Whether you are creating a Task for your own information or assigning one to another user, you can customize the original Task to become a Recurring Task by clicking the Recurring toolbar button. Set dates and reminder options. This is a great way to send a task item to all your team members to make sure they make it to every weekly meeting on time!
Note! You can also use the Recurring feature to set repeat appointments when in your calendar.
A cool feature is the Timeline view. Click that view from your view list and you can easily see timelines to help you check how many projects have been assigned during any time period.
In fact, if you see that some tasks are overlapping too closely, you can double click that task to adjust the schedule for that item. Also, you can click in the date along the top to choose that date, then double click in the blank area below to open a new task automatically set to that date. Great for planning schedules and assigning tasks within specific project timelines.
You also have a small set of default options from which to choose in the main Outlook Options setting (Tools > Options > Preferences > Tasks).
This is a great tool for helping you manage your business projects or managing your life.