6 ways to streamline your tasks in Outlook
At the most basic level, the Tasks features of Microsoft Outlook help you create lists of task-related items. But dig a little deeper, and you will find they do much more for you than simply holding your to-do list. Following these six tips for using Outlook Tasks features will help you stay better organized and keep you steps ahead of your deadlines.
1. Customize your view
In Outlook Tasks, you can find your tasks and view their status at a glance. Choosing the appropriate view saves time. For example, you can prioritize the items that are most critical on your list without scrolling through all the other tasks that are still marked as incomplete. Or if you prefer to tackle the task that needs to be completed first or sort your tasks by project or client name, the options in Tasks can help you organize your tasks the way that works best for you and the project at hand.
To find the task view that works best for you, in Outlook 2010, in the Navigation pane, on the left side of the window, click Tasks. On the Ribbon, click the View tab, and then, in the Current View group, click Change View.
For a basic view of your tasks and main details, click Simple List. In this view, you see columns for Task Subject, Due Date, Categories, In Folder, and Sort by: Flag Status.
For a view of your tasks that shows more details, click the View tab, click Change View, and then click Detailed. Additional columns appear, including Status, Due Date, % Complete, and more.
In addition to changing the view, you can easily sort your task list in various ways. Here’s how:
On the View tab, in the Arrangement group, click the sorting method you want to use: Start Date, Due Date, Categories, Type, Importance, Assignment Folder, and Modified Date. When you click the method you want to use, your list of task items is automatically reorganized. Try different options until you find one that works best for your tasks.
You can further customize any of the views to suit your needs exactly. For example, open your task list in Detailed view, as described earlier in this article. In the Current View group, click View Settings. The Advanced View Settings: Detailed dialog box appears.
The Advanced View Settings dialog box is available for each view. You can use it to add or remove categories, set filtering parameters, and even adjust type size and font.
To reset a Tasks view that you’ve customized back to its original settings, click the View tab, click Reset View, and then, when the dialog box asks you if you’re sure you want to reset the view, click Yes.
Experiment with different options. If you don’t like the way your tasks appear, you can always reset the view to the default settings or choose a new one. The trick is to decide which view helps you streamline your tasks so that you aren’t digging for information. Create unique views that provide the information you need. This is your chance to personalize Outlook to meet your goals.
Outlook 2007 users: The processes for changing or customizing your tasks views vary slightly. To find out more about customizing views in Outlook 2007, go to Create, Change, or Customize a View.
2. Work with the To-Do Bar
Another handy Outlook feature is the To-Do Bar. You can set it up to display your calendar, appointment reminders, and list of tasks—even when you’re not using the Tasks features in Outlook. Here’s how:
- While in Mail, Calendar, Contacts or Tasks, click the View tab, and then, in the Layout group, click To-Do Bar to open a drop-down menu.
- If Normal is not already selected, click Normal to display the To-Do Bar on the right side of the window.
- To further customize what appears in the To-Do Bar, click To-Do Bar again to open the drop-down menu. Select one or more of the following options:
- Click Date Navigator to see a calendar page in the To-Do Bar.
- Click Appointments to see upcoming appointment in the To-Do Bar.
- Click Task List to see your list of tasks in the To-Do Bar.
If you selected Date Navigator, Appointments, and Task List, the To-Do Bar displays a calendar view, upcoming appointments, and your task list. The To-Do Bar remains visible even as you switch between Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, or Notes in Outlook.
To turn off or minimize the To-Do Bar, simply click To-Do Bar to open the drop-down menu, and then click Minimized or Off.
3. Detail your time, billing, or mileage
It’s not easy to remember the date you drove to an appointment with a client or how much time you spent completing a task in the office. Some people try to remember to bill the time or mileage later. Often, that means holding a jumble of details in your head, or trying to decipher multiple sticky notes or scraps of paper.
However, you can eliminate that hassle by storing all that information in a task. Then, when you need to bill the client, you can easily retrieve the details from your task.
Add details to a task
- Do one of the following:
- Open a new task: On the Home tab, click New Task.
- Open an existing task: In your Tasks list or To-Do List, double-click a task.
Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003
- Open a new task: On the File menu, point to New, and then click New Task.
- In Outlook 2003: In the task, click the Details tab.
- Next, do one of the following:
- In Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007: On the Task tab, in the Show group, click Details.
- In Outlook 2003: In the task, click the Details tab.
- Type the desired details:
- a.Total work — Enter the total number of hours you have spent for a given client. When you invoice the client, it will be easy to do a search by client and tasks and tally the number of hours.
- b.Actual work — Type the actual number of hours spent on the task.
- c.Company (or Companies) — Type the company involved. Sometimes a task will not specifically name the client, so this information is key to helping you track which tasks were performed for each client.
- d.Mileage — Type the relevant date, mileage, and purpose of the trip.
- e.Billing information — Type the billing information related to the specific task. Perhaps you charged this task at the full rate, but if not, this is a good place to remind yourself of the rate charge. You can add a note to yourself about why the full rate was not charged, for example.
- Do one of the following:
In Outlook 2010, on the Task tab click Save & Close.
In Outlook 2007, in the Actions group, click Save & Close.
In Outlook 2003, click Save and Close.
4. Create Outlook tasks from OneNote
If you use Microsoft OneNote, you already know how it gives you one convenient place to keep meeting notes, make sketches, capture text, save images, and more—in one easily accessible place. And OneNote integrates seamlessly with Outlook Tasks to give you some quick shortcuts to save you time and increase your productivity. It just takes a couple of clicks, for example, to create an Outlook task from within OneNote—and keep that task synced automatically between the two programs.
Note: If your installation of Outlook is configured for multiple email profiles, you must first start Outlook before you can successfully create and save Outlook tasks in OneNote. To check the email profiles on your computer, in Control Panel, in category view, click User Accounts, and then click Mail. If you are using Control Panel classic view, double-click the Mail icon.
In Microsoft OneNote, create a page with notes, drawings, or any information you want to include in your task. On the Ribbon, click the Home tab, and then click the red flag icon in the Outlook group. The task appears in your Outlook Tasks list when you open or return to Outlook.
By default, the due date for the task you created in OneNote is Today. To set a different due date, click the Home tab, click Outlook Tasks in the Outlook group to display the dropdown menu, and then click another due date.
- In any part of your notes in OneNote, type a description for the task that you want to create. For example, type Send out notes from the meeting.
- On the Insert menu, point to Outlook Task, and then click the due date for the new task.
A task flag appears next to the description when the task has been created. To view details about the task, move the pointer over the task icon until a tooltip appears.
Note: The task flag may appear dimmed until Outlook recognizes the new task and the task is synchronized between Outlook and OneNote. When this is the case, the task tooltip also displays synchronization status.
- On the Tools menu, point to Create Outlook Item, and then click Create Outlook Task.
- In the Outlook Task window, enter the information you want, and then, on the Standard toolbar, click Save and Close.
Note: The functionality described here is available only if you have installed OneNote 2003 Service Pack 1. To learn more about the service pack and how to download it, see Service pack features in OneNote 2003.
5. Create and track assigned tasks
When you collaborate on a team or manage the work of others, you may want to delegate a task to someone else and keep track of its progress. Outlook makes it nice and easy to create and track a task that you assign. Here’s how:
- To create a new task, on the Home tab, in the New section, select New Items, select Tasks, and in the Manage Task section, select Assign Task. To assign an existing task, in the task list, open the task you want to assign, and click Assign Task.
- In the To box, enter the name or email address of the person you want to assign the task to. To select the name from a list, click the To button.
- For a new task, in the Subject box, type a task name. (In an existing task, the Subject box is already filled in.)
- Select the due date and status options you want.
- Select or clear the Keep an updated copy of this task on my task list check box and the Send me a status report when this task is complete check box.
Note: If you select the Send me a status report when this task is complete check box, you will receive a status report for each completed occurrence of the task
- If you want the task to recur:
- If you’re using Outlook 2010, click Recurrence.
- If you’re using Outlook 2007, click the Options group, and then click Recurrence.
- If you’re using Outlook 2003, click the Actions menu, and then click Recurrence.
Select the options you want, and then click OK.
Note: If you assign a recurring task, a copy of the task remains in your task list, but it won’t be updated.
- In the body of the task, type instructions or information about the task.
- Click Send .
Learn more about creating and tracking assigned tasks.
6. Send status reports for tasks from Outlook
If you ever have a client or task that is of utmost importance to your boss, this tip will become a favorite. In Outlook, you can send a periodic status report. It’s a great way to communicate that you’re managing things efficiently and remind your boss how well organized you are.
The report is automatically generated from Outlook to an email message that you send.
Here’s how to do it:
- In Outlook, open the task for which you want to send a status report.
- Do one of the following:
- In Outlook 2010 and in Outlook 2007, on the Task tab, in the Manage Task group, click Send Status Report.
- In Outlook 2003, on the Actions menu, click Send Status Report. Outlook opens an email window with your task status automatically added at the bottom of the message window.
- Enter recipient names in the To, Cc, and Bcc boxes. If the task was assigned to you, the names of people on the update list are automatically added.
- Add any other information you want in the email message.
- Click Send.