Knowledge Pack: Outlook

Outlook is great. But our outlook towards Outlook is not! That is why we waste lot of our precious time in doing the wrong things in and around Outlook. I have covered many aspects of effective Outlook usage. Here is a comprehensive list, in recommended order of reading.

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Photo credit: simondavies57 / Foter / CC BY-SA

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How to combine multiple calendars in Outlook

Primary calendar is your personal calendar. But in addition you may have additional calendars for specific teams. Usually there is also a Company Calendar and / or Training Calendar. How do we keep track of multiple calendars? Because time is common. No problem. It is a ONE CLICK solution!

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Arrange meetings with yourself = Time Management

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Thank you all for your support.

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This article is a part of a series about proactive work management. Please read the following articles before reading this article so that you understand the context clearly.

  1. The Outlook paradox: Are you helping others at the cost of your own work?
  2. Tasks folder is your best friend!
  3. Never delegate work using email: Use Outlook Tasks
  4. DO NOT flag mails for follow up. There is a better way…

Recap

  • You must proactively plan and execute your own work
  • The best way to keep track of your work is to create tasks in Outlook
  • Delegation and monitoring is best performed using Assigned Tasks
  • Work sent to you by others by mail should also be converted to Tasks
  • Finally, we have a long list of tasks which is clearly demarcated

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Now you clearly KNOW what is the pending work. This is a great start.

The next step is to ensure that the work is done on time. Let us see how…

The problem: lot of work but no time to do it!

Time is already blocked in meetings – most of them called for by others Steaming mad

Solution? Find time to do the work.

Exactly how?

Tasks + Calendar = Execution

Very easy…

Open Calendar – ideally weekly or work week view

Right click on Task folder and choose Open in New Window. Change the view to Active Tasks.

Make the Tasks window smaller so that you can see the tasks and the calendar together.

Drag a task and drop it on the calendar. Choose the date and time which you feel is convenient.

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We know the expected duration of each task (we created a special column for it). Adjust the duration accordingly in the calendar. If you do not see the Duration column in this view, go to Field Chooser and drag-drop the column once. See this article for details.

Good news: Now everyone knows that you are busy Smile

Do this for as many tasks as you can…

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This is called Time Management!

Few more things

When you drag and drop the task to calendar, there is NO linkage between them.

Just creating a meeting request does NOT mean that you have finished the task in the allocated time.

When you finish the task, you must mark it as complete MANUALLY.

This method works! Try it! Share it
Let me know your thoughts…

How to select (and delete) all old appointments in Calendar

Calendar view shows only Day, Week, Work Week and Month views. You can only select all appoints within a month. Even in the month view, CTRL A does NOT select all appointments.

In short, any bulk operation you want to do for appointments is a pain.

Solution is simple. Just change the view in Outlook.

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Now all the appointments and meetings are shows as a simple list – like Inbox or Tasks..

Now you can sort, filter, multi-select any number of items and perform any operation you like – for example, Delete 0ld appointments or archive to another folder or PST.

AutoArchive does this automatically

Most of us don’t want old appointments to waste space in the mailbox – because the space is limited. The smartest way to clean this up is to run AutoArchive. We will cover this in the next article.

Share your calendar in few clicks

Often we need to arrange a meeting with some external party. Both are busy people. How do you share your free time with the other person?

Within the company, if you are using Exchange and Outlook, you can see each other’s Free / Busy time. But for external parties, this facility is not available.

Trying to make a list of free slots in next few weeks manually is obviously a lengthy process…

That is why there is an elegant way available.. in few clicks…

  1. Go to the Calendar… let us say it looks like this for next two weeks.image
  2. Now right click on the calendar and choose Share – Email CalendarSNAGHTML4b0c21f8[6]
  3. Choose the duration and level of detail you want to show. Usually there is no point in showing more than couple of weeks because the schedule is bound to change.image
  4. Click OK. Now a new email message is created with a calendar showing free and busy dates. Ctrl Click on each date to see the availability.
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  5. Clicking on the hyperlink jumps to the details for that day.image
  6. This way the other party can find mutually convenient time without trial and error!

Key Learning: Right Click > Read Each Option >Learn!

Take an appointment with yourself!

Please read the previous article before you read this one.

Remember. Your work is higher priority than work with others want you to do.

Where is your pending work listed?

Usually scattered across multiple locations : Mind, Notepads, Tissue papers, Mobile notes, mails, minutes of meetings, etc.

That is not a good idea because you can’t see all the pending work in one place. If you don’t see something you don’t end up doing it.

Step 1: Create Tasks

Go back to your core job description or KRAs or organizational commitments sheet – whatever you have signed up for. Take each item from there and break it down into smaller pieces of work and add them to tasks. Using color categories mark them as Core work.

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Think of all the other pending tasks and add the to task folder as well.

Anything in this color is additional information and optional reading. You can move to the black area ahead without losing context.

Common mistake: Adding work to Calendar

Calendar and Task are two different things. If you are blocking specific time for whatever reason, put it in the calendar.

Work is different. We decide What to do and When it should be completed (the deadline). However, we don’t specify when exactly it will be done. That is called a TASK.

Calendar is for meetings, events, leave , seminars, off-sites, fieldwork, training programs, etc. Here we block time to say EXACTLY WHEN something is going to happen. If it does not happen, it may be rescheduled but that is not very important.

Step 2: block YOUR time to do YOUR work

This is a genuine problem. We simply don’t have time to handle all the mails, attend all meetings and handle all tasks. But now that we know that tasks are the priority, we must focus on them.

If others see that your calendar is free, they are bound to send meeting requests. So before that happens, make sure that you block your time for your work.

  1. Open the calendar. Better to be in the Work Week View
  2. Right click on Tasks folder and choose Open in New Window
  3. Make the tasks window smaller so that you can float it above the calendar window and see both
  4. Look a the tasks. Choose which ones are important
  5. Decide which date and time you want to do that work
  6. Drag the task and drop it on that date
  7. Adjust the time based upon your estimate of how long the task will require

Now think what you just did.

Remember, dragging the task to calendar is just a convenience. It DOES NOT mark the task as complete. When you finish the task, you must go and mark it as complete in the task folder.

“I took an appointment with myself to do my own work” = Time Management

Sounds funny. But this is the simplest form of time management.

Homework

Start creating the task list and drag the tasks to calendar to block time. Start it immediately.

Creating tasks is your first task Smile

Next article

In the next article we will understand how you can refine your work in Outlook using custom fields.