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Articles to Help You Be More Productive

Enjoy these articles? There are many more available:
  • Time Management Article Collection
  • Microsoft Outlook and Email Article Collection
  • Managing Paper Article Collection
  • Computer Tips Article Collection
  • Less-Paper Office Article Collection
  • Computer & Email
  • Get the Most from Microsoft Outlook

  • Beware the Empty Inbox

  • Get the Most from Your Handheld

  • Do Digital Organizers Save Time - Or Waste It?

  • Efficient E-mail Habits

  • Transitioning from Paper to Digital Information Storage

  • Faxing Without a Fax Machine

  • Getting Your Files When You're On The Go

  • Business & the Office
  • Time Tactics for the Office

  • Keeping Track of Delegated Tasks

  • Controlling Interruptions

  • Keeping Track of Your Customers & Prospects

  • Do Your Employees Really Need Customer Service Training?

  • Paper Management
  • Action Files Prevent Desk Clutter

  • Reclaim Your Desktop with a Tickler File

  • What To Do With All Those Business Cards?

  • Managing Project Folders - A Surprising Tip that Works

  • Time Management & Organizing
  • The Power of Planning Ahead

  • Words of Wisdom You Should Ignore

  • Coping with Information Overload

  • Thirteen No-Tech Time Management Tips

  • Get the Most from Microsoft Outlook
    © Jan Jasper; 2001-2012

    Here's an assortment of tips for Microsoft Outlook and managing email.

    Conceal Completed Tasks From View

    You may not need to see tasks you've marked "Complete" - you only need to see what lies ahead. Here's how to hide completed tasks: Make sure you're in the Tasks folder, then click the View tab at the top of the screen, then the Change View icon in the corner. From here you can select Active tasks. You can also select Category enabling you to only see tasks in a certain Category, or you can select Prioritized, Next 7 days, Overdue, or Assigned.

    Create a New Contact Record From an Email

    When you get an email from someone who's not listed in your contacts but they should be: In the open email, right-click on the sender's email address. Then click on "Add to Outlook Contacts." A new Contact record will open with the person's name and email already filled in. Copy and paste their address and phone number from their SIG file. Add your own notes in the comment box if you wish.

    Look Up a Contact Fast From an Email Message

    If someone is already in your contacts, you can easily get there from their email message. Right-click on their email addresss, then click on "Look Up Outlook Contact" - you'll be there in a flash.

    Get Rid of Those Annoying Task Reminders

    Often clients tell me they they don't use the task feature because they don't want all those reminders popping up. Actually, the task and its reminder are two different things - the reminder is optional. When you create an individual task, you can un-check the reminder. You can even change Outlook's default setting so it does not automatically assign reminders to all tasks. Go to the File tab on the top, click Options on the left, click Task Options on the left, and uncheck "Set reminders on tasks with due dates." This changes the default, but if you occasionally want a reminder for a task, you can check that box on the individual task.

    Making Outlook Windows 'Stick'

    Isn't it annoying? You're looking at next month's calendar to schedule a meeting with a client, you go to their contact record for their phone number, and when you go back to the calendar, it's re-set to today's date. You have to do extra clicks to get back to the date you were looking at. A similar thing happens if you pull up a contact, then go to your calendar, tasks, or email. When you return to contacts it re-sets to the beginning of the alphabet, and you have to hunt again for the correct contact.

    Here's the solution. In the navigation pane on the far left, right-click on the new folder you want to go to, then left-click on "Open in New Window" in the submenu that appears. It opens a new window on top of the existing one which remains open underneath. Drag one window over, and you can view both contacts and the calendar (or the taskpad, or whatever) side-by-side. If you want to view multiple contacts and dates you can keeping opening new windows - your only limit is the size of your monitor.

    See the Entire Day and Evening at a Glance

    Your day doesn't end at 500 pm. Would you like to see all your day and evening hours on the calendar without scrolling up and down? Here's how: Right-click on calendar background. (You can be either in the daily, weekly, or monthly view, just so you click on the background and not on an appointment.) In the submenu that appears, click on View Settings, then in the box that appears click Other, then you'll see a pull-down list called Time Scale. Set the Time Scale field to "60 minutes." Now you can see all the day & evening hours without having to scroll up and down.

    Outlook Tracks Your Activities, Past and Future

    Unfortunately, only those of you still using Outlook 2007 can use this wonderful feature. While this feature still exists in Outlook 2010, it has been sadly truncated - the Activities button will now reliably display emails, but as for other items such as appointments & tasks, it sometimes displays them and other times it does not, in my experience. But if you still use 2007, read on - you're in for a treat! An excellent, litle-known feature in Microsoft Outlook 2007 is the Activities button. Open any contact and you'll see the Activities button, located on the ribbon. (If you are in the Contacts folder but do not have a specific contact open, you won't have access to this.) The Activities button lets you display, in one place, a comprehensive list of every meeting, task, and email related to every contact in your Outlook database. If you use the journal to make notes of important phone calls, they're listed here too.

    You must remember, though, to link meetings, tasks, and journal entries to the appropriate contact - unlike emails, they're not linked by default. Try it - you'll spend far less time looking for information in Outlook once you get into the habit of using the Activities tab.

    Sorting Your Contacts

    Want to sort contacts by criteria such as their industry, or where you met them? Or perhaps you need to sort tasks or appointments by project or client? Sorting this way is a huge time-saver, but you first have to label the contacts, appointments, and tasks. The best way is by use custom fields, which is easy to do in Act!* or Goldmine.* But unfortunately, in Outlook, if you want much more than name, address, phone number, department, you'll need to have a programmer create custom fields for you.

    A no-cost workaround is to use Outlook categories. Categories are accessed by clicking on the icon on the right side of the Ribbon. On the submenu that appears, click All Categories. You can create categories for clients, projects, referral sources, industries, or anything you wish. Here you can also rename, delete, and assign colors to categories.(You can also delete any default categories you don't need.) Once you've created your categories, it's easy to assign contacts, tasks, appointments, journal notes, and emails to categories - the category button is available no matter where you are in Outlook. Admittedly, there are situations where forcing categories to do the work of fields can cause problems down the line, but for many situations it's adequate.

    If you use a smartphone, be aware that some Outlook/handheld sync programs will only sync a limited number of categories. So if you rely on custom categories, you'll need to buy a robust sync program. Companionlink* makes sync software for Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and Google. I've used these successfully over the years. (No, I don't get paid to say this!)

    Use Your Inbox as a To-Do List

    Many people, once they've deleted unneeded emails, simply leave the 'keepers' in their Inbox. This can lead to serious email overload. One of my students at New York University had over 8,000 emails in her Inbox!

    Instead, create folders to store emails you must keep. The result - your Inbox only holds new messages and those you still need to act on; everything else has been filed away. Your Inbox actually becomes an extension of your To-Do list. This reduces the risk of things "falling through the cracks" - an ever-present problem because so many emails require us to act in some way. Some people create email folders for time periods (July 2012, August 2012 and so on), or for projects or clients.

    The drawback is you'll have an ever-growing number of folders to search. (You can set your search for All Folders, but still...) And what to do with email that could be filed in more than one folder? That's why I have come to prefer having only one huge folder for older email and organizing emails within by color categories. This not only speeds searching, it enables you to assign an email to more than one category.

    For more email tips see Efficient E-mail Habits.

    Backing Up ALL Your Microsoft Outlook Data and Views

    There are 2 kinds of people - those who have lost their database and those who will. If you're in a corporate environment you may trust that backups are stored on the server. But many of us need to create our own backups. If you've customized your Outlook and then tried to restore it from the pst back-up, you've learned the hard way that it doesn't come out like it's supposed to. Microsoft's website explains how to do a complete back up, but the instructions are so complicated that I doubt anyone has understood them, much less gone through the whole process. A great alternative is Eazy-Backup* software - check it out!

    *The usual disclaimers apply. My mentioning these products is not a guarantee of any sort. Obviously, you should not change anything until you've completely backed up your files. You already do that, right?

    This article is available for a one-time reprint or one-time internet posting if you include my copyright notice, provide a link to www.janjasper.com and identify me as follows: "Jan Jasper, a productivity expert in the New York City area, is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press)." Read Terms and Conditions for details.
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    About the Author:
    Productivity coach Jan Jasper has been helping busy people work smarter, not harder since 1988. Her customized approach guides clients to manage time, tasks, and information more effectively. She also provides Microsoft Outlook customization for clients. Jan is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press). She recently completed a North American media tour as the national efficiency spokesperson for IKON Office Solutions, Inc. She has appeared on radio and TV all over North America and is quoted regularly in print. Jan is an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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