All About Outlook Part III: Keeping Control of Your Calendar

H ave our posts inspired you with what Outlook has to offer? Been motivated to conduct an email overhaul? Great! So now that you’re on a roll, what’s next? In this, our final post on PEP participants’ favourite time-saving Outlook features, we’ll explore Outlook’s Calendar and Tasks functions. Here are the key tips that our clients tell us have made the biggest difference to their working lives:

1. Categorise and colour-code appointments.

Just as you did with the Conditional Formatting tool in your email, you can categorise or colour-code the types of meetings or appointments – internal, client-facing, travel – you’re scheduling into your Calendar. “Each of my calendar items gets categorised into different types of activities, for example customer discovery, solution design or customer presentations,” says Salesforce.com solutions strategist Stuart Jones. “These are synchronised to our CRM system Salesforce and linked to the relevant account and opportunity. At the end of the week or month we analyse the types of activities happening in these accounts and opportunities, which allows us to see where to allocate our resources. For example, are we spending too much time on low-value opportunities and not enough on high-value opportunities? All this analysis is driven by my Calendar, which highlights the importance of good categorisation in Outlook.”

On a more basic level, colour-coding also gives you a quick snapshot of your day. “I look at my Calendar in the morning and based on the colours, I can easily see how many client-facing meetings I need to be prepared for, or how much travel I need to do,” says Jones.

2. Schedule travel and preparation time before every meeting.

“For every meeting you schedule, stop and ask yourself what preparation you need to do, when you need to do it by and how much time you will need to do it – and then schedule this in too,” explains PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. “This ensures you’re properly prepared.”

3. Schedule follow-up time after every meeting.

Allow yourself time after every meeting to either list required actions in your Tasks or to schedule them into your Calendar. “For every client meeting I go to, I have also scheduled time afterwards to follow up what I need to,” explains Anda. “At the meeting I can then let the client know exactly when I will provide them with the follow-up information, as I’ve already scheduled time to do it.”

4. List only minor tasks in your task list.

If a task is going to take more than ten minutes to complete, you need to decide when you can do it and schedule it into your Calendar instead.

5. List tasks with a due date.

If you list tasks with a due date, the only tasks that appear in your task list each day are the ones that need to be completed on that day. “I only need to know about the five tasks I need to complete on Monday, not the thirty tasks I need to complete over the week,” explains Anda. “I don’t want to be distracted by other tasks. Your challenge is simply to complete the tasks that you have allocated for the day, on the day.”

Remember: it’s all about you. “Your Calendar is not an appointment booking system for other people!” says Anda. “It’s there to help you get your work done and perform your role as efficiently as possible.” Jones agrees. “Don’t let other people control your Calendar. I block out mine with travel, prep and post-meeting activities so that people can’t schedule back-to-back meetings. Be mindful of who you share your Calendar with – some people can monopolise your time. And in turn, remember your manners: don’t just book a meeting into someone else’s Calendar and expect them to be there. Confirm with them and prepare with them if necessary.”

So your final Outlook challenge? Change the way you use your Calendar – and then let us know how it changes the way you work. We’d love to hear how you get on.