• Go Ask Debbie

Outlook for Time Management?

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Many people struggle each day with managing their time. Your ability to effectively manage your time is directly related to your ability to discipline yourself to follow your time management plan and take the required action to complete daily tasks.

Outlook has many features that will allow you to manage your time effectively and efficiently.

Follow these 7 Steps to increase your daily productivity – sometimes even doubling or tripling your productivity!

1. Multi-Tasking - Numerous studies prove that multi-tasking negatively effects personal productivity. When interrupted it takes humans up to 20 minutes to return to the state of focus held prior to be interrupted. People erroneously think that they are switching from task to task and paying attention to everything around them, but the human brain cannot operate that way. What really happens is that the brain is switching back and forth with astonishing speed.

2. Blocks of Time - Schedule your time in 50 to 100 minute blocks with breaks of 10 or 20 minutes between each block. Block out quiet blocks to due tasks that require concentration and focus. Be diligent in protecting that time. The proverbial open door is a real drag on executive productivity.

3. Scheduling - Arrange your schedule to complement your lifestyle. If you do your best analytical work early in the day, be sure to schedule it early. Analyze you personal preferences and schedule appropriately.

4. 80/20 Rule - Clearly understand the 20% of things you do that generate 80% of your results. The key point is that most things in life (effort, reward, output) are not distributed evenly - some contribute more than others. But remember that it may be true that 80% of the bridge got build in 20% of the time, but you still need the rest of the bridge in order for it to work.

5. Segment the Activity or Tasks - Analyze what needs to be completed and break them into logical segments for efficiency. Do not try to do everything at once.

6. Plan Ahead - Busy people have a plan. They have a To Do List with tasks broken into manageable segments. They work the list, avoid procrastinating and understand that they must factor flexibility into their day. They confirm all out of office appointments, they prioritize accordingly and respect their plan and they delegate effectively.

7. Control Meetings - Avoid all meetings if at all possible. If you have to attend, keep the meeting to ONE hour maximum and have exit strategy ready if the meeting will run over an hour. Also have an agenda for the meeting and stick to it.

Item 6 “Plan Ahead” can easily be done using Microsoft Outlook. (And I have many training classes on how to use these in Outlook.)

  • e-Mail Filters

  • Calendars with Reminders

  • Color Code e-Mails

  • Organize & Views & Arrange By

  • Flags

  • e-Mail - Add Reminders & Follow Up

  • Search Folders

  • Folders

For a long time, I believed Microsoft Outlook to be a powerful yet highly underutilized time management tool, but was frustrated because the courses I took covered only the basics, and none of the books I read went sufficiently in depth to satisfy my desire to use this program to its full capacity. Then I discovered Sally McGhee's book, Take Back Your Life! which outlines steps for creating a system to help you to maximize productivity and take control of your personal and professional life.

Some of the techniques I use include:

  • Implement personal boundaries to allow scheduled, uninterrupted work time.

  • You can't create more time; you can only make the most of the time you have by setting priorities.

  • Process and organize my e-mail (and paper mail) by following the four D's for decision making (Delete/Do/Delegate/Defer)

For me, the most valuable part of the book explains that to effectively use the Outlook Task list, it is helpful to create planning categories to keep track of objectives and supporting projects, and action categories to keep track of the individual tasks to be completed. Instead of using Outlook's default categories such as "Client" and "Personal," McGhee suggests placing all telephone calls in one category so you can quickly and easily make those calls when you have time between appointments. Similarly, having all errands in one category will make it easier to keep track of them and reduce the number of trips you have to make.

Ms. McGhee understands that technology facilitates increased productivity only when users know how to use its features to full advantage, and are willing to let go of ineffective habits. Willingness to make behavior changes is a key component of her system, as some of the strategies she describes will be quite foreign to many, particularly those who struggle with structure and details.

One drawback is that to rely fully on Outlook for time management requires the integration of your desktop pc or laptop with your smart phone, and I have met many people who are not prepared to give up their paper planners or who fully integrate work and personal life into their planners. Nonetheless, although Take Back Your Life! is primarily about using Outlook, it offers many helpful time management tips that may be adopted even by non-Outlook users.

I've used and taught how to use Outlook for Time & Task Management with hundreds, if not thousands, of people thanking me for helping them get more out of their day. We all have 24 hours in each day; it's how productive are with those hours that makes us successful and sane! People constantly ask me to show them how I use Outlook to be so efficient, and how I can setup reminders to get others to get things done on time!

If you're interested in learning how to use Outlook for Time & Task Management, download my FREE 65 Ways to Use MS Office to be More Productive! eBook.

Here's to a productive and prosperous 2021!


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