Use What You’ve Got – To Do the To Do List

Use What You’ve Got – To Do the To Do List! 

What does that mean?  It means automating your to do list

 I’m continuing what I started Monday about Outlook.  There is a section in Outlook which is called Tasks and it is really one of the greatest ways to keep track of your “To Do” list while adding a little time management in there.  

 The To Do List generally never gets done.  Why?  Because most of the time it’s way too long and no one thinks of what else they could be doing with the to dos on their to do list.   

 Start here:  

  •  Initially, write everything down on one long list.  
  • Then start sorting this list into the following:  to delegate, to eliminate, to actually do myself – just add a D beside the item for delegate, E for eliminate and M for actually do myself  
  • Now you have a manageable list in the “to actually do myself” portion   

 What do you do with these lists?  The D tasks and the M tasks will be entered into Tasks in Outlook.  One of the most wonderful things you’ll notice about Tasks is that you don’t have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite the tasks over and over again each day.   

 Immediately when you open the Task screen, Tasks gives you a simple list of all the tasks.  Of course, if you haven’t used it before, you won’t have tasks in there.  Take a minute to look at the left hand side of the page and notice the options available – simple list, detailed list, active tasks, next seven days, overdue tasks, by category, assignment, by person responsible, completed tasks, task timeline and another two underneath those – open shared tasks and customize current view.  Quite an array, right?  How useful do you think these lists will be? 

 There are as many ways to set up your system the way you like as you can think.  Check out the Customize Current View – pick what you want and also Tools, Options – you’ll be amazed how much you can customize Tasks including adding Notes to individual tasks.   

Adding tasks is easy – Click on New in the Toolbar and a screen will open.  Put in the task in the subject line, the due date, the start date, status, priority and reminder.  Notice at the bottom, you can also associate it with a contact and/or with a category.  Notice too there is another tab – Details where you can estimate how long that task will take to complete. 

You’re not finished yet – on the top toolbar there are even more options – a file can be attached to this task,  Recurrence feature is available if this task will happen regularly, Assign Task – remember that part of your list which was D for delegate – and each task can be made private too if  others share this Tasks panel.  

Play with the options – you can’t break anything – and you’ll discover some amazing “secrets” in the Tasks area of Outlook.

Now here is how you connect your calendar and your task list.  Take each one of tasks, hold left click button down on the task and drag the task to the Calendar tab on Outlook – and voila!  the task appears in your Calendar – and if you had set the length of time in the New Task screen in Details, that time will be blocked in your Calendar – isn’t that great!  What a way to get through a to do list using time management!   

All those pieces of paper with the “to do list” on them are now in your computer and in your calendar – you’ll never forget anything again and you’ll be able to manage your time much better and easily

You can change dates, times, length of time, etc. and not lose track of something you need to get done.  This comes in handy when you’re surfing the net – you see a site, don’t want to forget it but you haven’t got the time to look at it very well.  Copy the URL and paste it in your tasks.   

Some people don’t like setting Tasks like this but if you can get used to it, it’s the best way to track your tasks and book them into your calendar efficiently and effectively especially if you have a PDA or a phone which syncs with Outlook.   

When should you use the Calendar and when should you use Tasks?  Think of tasks as all the things you need to do – everything.  It would be impossible to put everything into one big calendar day – you’d run out of hours!  Think of the calendar as a place to set appointments, in other words, plan your day, your week, your month or your year. 

And using the Tasks list will make you think of the length of time it will take to complete any one thing – often, that’s why our time management goes out the window – we don’t allocate the appropriate amount of time to each thing we are planning to do.   

Are there other pieces of software which can do these and do them better?  Yes.  However, it’s another expense, another learning curve and another way to chew up time you may not have.  And another icon to click!  

For all of you who still like a piece of paper in your hand, the Tasks can be printed  as can your Calendar for the day, the week, the month – so it’s the best of all worlds!   

Use what you’ve got – to do the to do list with Tasks in Outlook – it’s usually enough for most people!  

 Lorraine Arams
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