I met with Terry to assess his use of Outlook and offer suggestions to improve his use of it. We met in a conference room – presumably to project the screen so we didn't have to crowd around a smaller screen. After a while it became clear that we weren't in Terry's office because he has so many post-its on his monitor and desk that the clear slate of the conference room table was the environment he wanted to show me. Does this remind you of anyone?
A simple solution to all sorts of post-it clutter is to use the task list in Outlook. Studies show about 10% of us do use tasks in Outlook which gives 90% of users the chance to make a productivity leap by using the task list. Ah, I hear some of you saying, "Out of sight, out of mind. I need those reminders." The good news is that you can keep your task list right on your screen so it is always in sight. Additionally, you can set reminders on tasks so you don't have read, re-read, and continually re-read your post-its so you don't miss any.
Let's cover that step by step.
First is the creation of a task. The fastest way to do that is in Outlook type ctrl-shift-k. A new task window like the one below opens. (or click on File, New, Task). Complete the tasks information. In the sample you'll see a task of revamping a business card in the subject line. It's advisable to be complete and make the first 3 or 4 words the summary of the task because those are the words that show on your task list.
Step 2: Set up your task list to be open all the time.
In Outlook 2007 you can show it on the right side of every window (called the todo bar). To show it click on View, To-Do Bar and check Normal & Task List. In Outlook 2003 simply open your Task List in a new window. To open your Task List in a separate window, right click on the Task List Icon and select Open in New Window.
And finally, set reminders for things that are time-sensitive. A reminder pops on screen at the designated time - the perfrect sticky note replacement. For example, refer to the image above. There is a check in the reminder box and the date that this should be done. Another example could be to pick up your clothes at the cleaners. When you drop it off they tell you it will be ready in 4 days. Simply put a task with reminder 4 days in the future near the end of the day to remind you to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home.
Try it now and let us know how it works.