While most people see Microsoft Outlook as just an email client, the software can be effective as a tool to manage tasks and projects.
This article highlights how you can use Outlook to track tasks, due dates, reminders, and to-dos to improve your overall efficiency and organization.
It doesn’t matter if you are working as a freelancer on a small project or employed in a small company, your Outlook account can assist you in managing your active tasks and projects without requiring cumbersome software.
Thanks to customizations on the task list section, you can easily create due dates and reminders, track time seamlessly, and assign to-dos.
Why Tasks in Outlooks is Great for Tasks and Projects
Large companies working on big projects use professional project management software, like Basecamp or Microsoft Project. These tools have extensive features that help organize and successfully manage projects.
However, for smaller projects with two-person teams, small teams, or freelancers, Microsoft Outlook has all the features needed to succeed in managing tasks and projects.
Tasks in Outlooks provide the following features:
- Assignable to-dos
- Time tracking
- Customizable task fields
- Helpful reminders
- Categorization and prioritization
- Export function
- Status updates
How Can These Features Be Utilized?
You can customize the fields you need
With Tasks in Outlook, you can seamlessly remove and add fields within the task section. For example, you can add total work and actual work to track time.
For status tracking, it is seamless to add custom status and percent completed. To select your fields, right-click on a column and select Field Chooser. Next, drag the fields and drop them into any columns you want.
You can export your data
If you prefer to export your projects to a spreadsheet, you can do so quite easily with Outlook. To do so:
- Navigate to the File menu and select the Open & Export option
- Next, click on the Import/Export
- In the window that pops up, select the Export menu in the file type you want
- You can select two different file types: Outlook data file (.pst) or Comma Separated Values (.csv)
The .csv or Comma Separated Values file type is the most common choice. It allows users to map the fields and make a cleaner transition.
In addition, the file can be imported or uploaded into spreadsheets or databases. If you desire a backup of your Tasks in Outlook, then the Outlook Data File is best.
To make a backup of your Tasks in Outlook:
- Select the Task folder from the options lists and select Next. This enables you to adjust the file name and of course, the location you want to save the document.
- At this point, you can finalize the export. Select the Map Custom Field buttons if you want to alter the fields in your file. This is an optional step, so it is up to you.
- Once done, select the Finish label to prompt you to enter a date range for your exported task.
You can use categorization and prioritization
You can use this priority field to view your most important tasks and projects at a glance. A red exclamation mark is placed next to high priority active tasks, while low priorities have a blue downward arrow. It is also possible to add a custom priority field to any existing task.
You can also use the category feature, as it is useful when spotting specific task types at a glance. By default, the various categories are named using their color, but you can change them to more recognizable names if that’s what you want.
For example, if you have all your finance tasks in the green category, you can rename them as such. It is possible to create unique task view categories and assign them with personalized colors.
You can update statuses
Microsoft Outlook comes with status and percent complete fields that ensure your multiple tasks and projects are on track. Just as with time tracking, you can choose to use both or simply use one, since that is dependent on your preference.
One advantage of using them is that you can mark a task as 100% done. For example, your status field can automatically display “Completed”, causing the completed tasks to become struck out.
The status field comes with options for “Waiting,” “Someone Else,” “Deferred.” and “In Progress.” Each of these statuses helps you to remain on track with your project.
You can track time
For individuals that charge by the hour or freelancers, time tracking is an important aspect. Microsoft Outlook provides you with both “Total Work” and “Actual Work” fields. You can choose either one based on your particular needs.
For example, you can use the Actual Work field for billable hours, while the Total Work option is for the time spent on the entire task. These two fields are recorded in decimal hours.
You can set up reminders
Just as with any task application, one of the most essential tools is reminders. Microsoft Outlook enables you to customize your reminders by simply selecting the time, date, and particular sound you prefer. The time choices for a task reminder are in 30-minute marks, while the dates appear in calendar form.
You can easily assign tasks
If you work with an employee or partner, assigning tasks is quite easy. To do this:
- Open the task and locate the Assign Task menu in the top navigation bar.
- Click the “To” button to open the contact list and select the assignee of the task.
- To insert the contact into a task, click Send, and the task goes to an assignee.
- You can also add a field for Team Tasks that include basic checkmarks, while also assigning the “To” field. This can enable you to see who is responsible for that task.