Outlook for time management

posted: 16 Oct 2007

I have long thought that Outlook, with its various abilities for flagging and categorisation, would make a good time management tool, but I have never arrived at a good solution...until now.

Following a discussion with a friend and colleague about a system that he uses and some new found features of Outlook, namely 'search folders' I have arrived at something that is working very well for me.

The basic premise lies in the realisation that my performance is not just reliant on the tasks I have to do, but in keeping an eye on those tasks that other people are doing, that effect my critical path. So my method is built to separate these two things.

The basic methodology is siple, flag everything that is a task for me with a red flag and flag any input that I am waiting on with a blue flag. I then set a due by date for all flagged items and move the item to a local folder where I file these correspondences.

But in older Outlook editions (pre 2003) once the item was moved, the flag became pretty useless, however, with more recent versions a feature known as 'search folders' was introduced. These allow you to build a folder based on the results of a structured query, and man these can be very powerful. I essentially build a folder of all items that have a flag set, in fact, I believe this is default Outlook search folder.

Customising the display to give just the info you need is down to you, but in a matter of minutes, you have a task list of everything you need to do and everything you need to chase.

PS Once you have the red and blue flags working for you, you can invent uses for the other flags. I, for example, use purple for long term tracking issues and yellow for ideas yet to become projects.