Before delving into Outlook 12’s task management system, I want to describe my three tenets: reduce your To-Do lists to one; keep your personal and business tasks together in one place; and get your tasks out of your head. (These are not to unique to me, but come from nearly all of the task management strategies that were studied as part of creating Outlook 12's time and task management system.)
1. Reduce your To-Do lists to one (as best you can.)
First off, reduce the number of places you store tasks. Most people “receive” tasks and keep tasks in a multitude of places, including: e-mail, snail mail, hallway conversations, phone, meetings, your spouse, on your refrigerator, and the list goes on. The worst part is that many of us try to keep our list of things to do in our heads, and that is really no good.
Since I use Outlook 12, I keep everything in the To-Do Bar in Outlook and I use a SmartPhone with Oxios To-Do List to view my tasks when I am away from my desk. I find that this system works better than scraps of paper that can’t be up to date, can’t be rearranged, and are easily lost.
Here is how I get all of my tasks into Outlook. When I am in a meeting, I use OneNote to take notes, and I use the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-K (works in Outlook too) to make tasks out of my Action Items - and now with OneNote 12, I can also flag my notes with the same result. When I am driving in the car, and something I need to do pops into my head, I follow Sally McGhee’s approach and I make a voice memo on my cell phone. When I get a chance, I transcribe my recordings into the task list on my phone or into my To-Do Bar. When I am in my office, I either type directly into the To-Do Bar or I hit Ctrl-Shift-K and enter the task into Outlook. Snail Mail? I turn them into tasks. Oh, and e-mail, well I flag it in Outlook of course!
2. If you can, keep your personal and business tasks together in one place.
Often I am sitting at work and I remember something I need to get at the grocery store, and just as often, I am at home when I remember something I have to tell my boss. By keeping one list of all of my tasks in one place, I know that I will always have my grocery list (currently the task is titled: Store) with me at the grocery and my list of topics for my boss in my weekly meeting with her. For me, trying to keep business and personal life separate is too much work, and it breaks rule number 1 – one list. Keeping one list that has both my work and my personal tasks helps me to keep a better work-life balance by forcing me to be more realistic with my time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t distinguish between personal and work tasks – I use categories to accomplish this.
3. Get it out of your head!
Keeping tasks in your head doesn’t work!! It is really liberating to depend on Outlook instead of your overtaxed brain for keeping track of your tasks. You can stop spending brain power thinking to yourself “Ok, remember to get Aluminum Foil at the grocery store, Aluminum Foil…” and instead you can focus on the activity at hand. And if you must, write down your tasks on a piece of paper, but copy into Outlook later: when you wake up in the middle of the night, with a burning idea in your head, write it down on a piece of paper and then copy it into Outlook in the morning, but don’t keep it in your head!
No scraps of paper to-do lists. No keeping lists in your head. Keep it all in one place – Outlook!