Tag Archives: Execution

Outlook Knowledge Pack

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. The complete Outlook Knowledge Pack.

Outlook Knowledge Pack

Photo credit: simondavies57 / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Beyond Task List – Add a duration column

The Need: Task List

We have already seen that work is best executed using the Task list folder. But just making a list of tasks with deadlines is not enough. We need more information – how much time will each task ACTUALLY REQUIRE to execute. Duration can then be used to sort / filter pending tasks and choosing the right task depending upon time available at hand.

Here is how you do it…

Continue reading Beyond Task List – Add a duration column

Never delegate work using email: Use Outlook Tasks

This article is specific to Outlook and Exchange. Task delegation may not be available in all messaging platforms.

In order to understand this article, you must read these two articles first.

  1. The Outlook paradox: Are you helping others at the cost of your own work?
  2. Tasks folder is your best friend!

Best way to delegate – use Outlook Tasks

Here is how you delegate work.

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Go to the Task folder and Create a new task.

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Specify subject and due date. Click on Assign To

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Specify name of the person and Send

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A copy of that task is now kept in your Task folder as well

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The icon for this task is different. This way you can differentiate between your own tasks and delegated work.

Remember to monitor these tasks and follow up if there is a delay.

You can directly create a Task Request by choosing this menu item. It is a good idea to add it to Quick Access Toolbar – because you are going to use it frequently.
Right click on the item and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

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What happens at the other end?

The other party receives it as a Task Request – with Accept / Decline buttons.

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When the person clicks on Accept, it becomes a task in that person’s folder automatically.

When she marks it as  complete, you get a notification in your inbox.

When you open the notification, the equivalent task in your task folder is also marked as complete.

Press Escape to close the notification… it destroys itself so that your inbox is not cluttered with such notifications.

Management Principles >> Technology

Only ONE person can be delegated work to using this method. This is GOOD because it makes that person accountable.

Multiple level delegation is allowed. But one person at a time.

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Last person in the chain is responsible for execution. When she updates the task, everyone up the chain gets notifications and updates.

Viewing tasks by person responsible

Your tasks and delegated tasks are mixed up in the Task folder.

The solution? Change the View to Assigned

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Now you can see only delegated tasks. A new column called Owner is added.

Right click on the Owner column and choose Group by this column.
Right click on the column header for any person and choose Collapse Allall column headers to view a concise picture of whom you have delegated work to…

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Open the group header to view pending tasks at a glance by person responsible.

Share this with everyone in the organization

If everyone uses this method of delegation of work, the execution speed will double instantly across the organization. Try it.

Best is to start top-down!

The Outlook paradox: Are you helping others at the cost of your own work?

This article assumes that you are using Outlook (and Exchange server) for managing mails. However, the concepts explained here are applicable to any mail / messaging system. However, the remedies mentioned are specific to Outlook-Exchange only and may not work with other products.

Here are some (obvious) facts

  1. We spend a lot of time handling mails (replying to mails)
  2. We also spend a lot of time attending meetings
  3. Most of us are running against time – there is always significant backlog of pending work
  4. Even though we are capable of doing all the pending work, we simply do not seem to have enough time to execute it
  5. Due to this, our capability is not fully actualized – it hinders your growth

Here are some – not so obvious – facts

    1. Everything in Outlook requires at least two parties (sender and recipient)
    2. It is an interaction between YOU and OTHERS (everyone else who can interact with you including all your staff as well as external people like customers, vendors, etc.)
    3. You send mails and others send mails to you. Naturally, the number of mails you mails you RECEIVE are going to be more than mails you SEND.

When you send a mail you are trying to do YOUR WORK. When you reply to someone else’s mail, you are helping OTHERS do their work.

  1. Similarly, the number of meeting requests you SEND are bound to be much lesser than the number of meeting requests you RECEIVE.When you arrange a meeting, you are trying to get YOUR WORK done. When you attend a meeting called by someone else, you are helping OTHERS get their work done!
  2. When you say I spend so much time cleaning inbox, do you realize that you are spending that time helping helping OTHERS ?

Question: When do you do your work?

Very important question. The answer is surprisingly depressing.. the answer is…

Whenever I get time!

And whatever time you have you are literally WASTING in helping others!

Of course, I am not against you helping others. Everything we do is teamwork. But this is a highly skewed version of teamwork.

You are helping others at the cost of your own work!

This is what I call Outlook Paradox

Now let us try to pin down the root cause.

Root cause: false sense of “free” time

When you or others look at your calendar, the time which is not blocked for formal meetings is considered as FREE.

Others are free to request a meeting with you during the FREE time!

The question is – are you really FREE during that time? Is it not the time you get to do your own work?

But somehow, your actual work is never visible in the calendar. That is the root cause of Outlook paradox.

It is surprising that this simple and obvious fact is ignored by billions of people every day.

Solution to the Outlook Paradox

The solution is simple. Stop using Outlook the way you currently are.

Turn the tables. Be focused.

Do your work first and then help others!

That is the concept. In reality we have to follow more specific steps. We will cover these steps in detail in upcoming articles. Here are the steps:

  1. Realize that TASK folder is the most important one!
  2. Focus on your work
    1. List down all the work (personal as well as professional)
    2. Specify the estimated time you will need for each work item
  3. Even if others ask you to do some work, monitor it in Task folder (not in Inbox)
  4. Find time to do your work
    1. Allocate time for your work in the calendar
  5. Delegate work in an efficient and effective manner
    1. Use Task delegation features of Outlook
    2. Use SharePoint Task list
    3. Use Microsoft Project for complex projects
    4. Use OneNote to capture and delegate tasks DURING meetings rather than AFTER meetings
  6. Prioritize mails which you respond to – don’t read and respond to every mail which arrives
  7. Learn to manage mails and tasks across multiple devices

Next article

In the next few articles, we will learn these steps in detail.

For now, just go to your task folder, create a new task and see all the options! Get ready for action…

Show Off Demo: OneNote and Outlook

This is a new type of article. Impress your colleagues, boss, spouses, partners, soul mates, children by showing this impressive demo! I show you the steps and tell you what to speak Smile

Before you start this demo, check the requirements

Office 2010 or Office 2013

OneNote and Outlook installed.

Outlook must have at least one mailbox configured.

Demo: Meeting notes

What you have to do is in black color. What you have to say is in blue color.

  • Open Outlook calendar
  • Click on any meeting
  • How will you take notes for this meeting? Open a blank Word document and type meeting details all over again? Obviously not!
  • Right click on the meeting, choose Meeting Notes
  • If it asks what type of notes, Choose

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  • Now Outlook will ask you to choose the notebook in OneNote. Choose any one.

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  • A new page will be created with meeting name.

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  • Unlike Word, all the meeting details are automatically added. Did you expect that?
  • Now type some random notes. One sentence should be “Action Point Demo”
  • Let us say this is an action point which must be completed by tomorrow.
  • Right click in that sentence and choose Outlook tasks – Tomorrow

    OneNote Task demo

  • Now go to Outlook and open Tasks folder. Select Tasks. Not Follow up.
  • Point to the task which was automatically created by OneNote.

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  • See – even before I finish the meeting, I already know my tasks.
  • Pause for people to appreciate the integration
  • Now when I mark this task as complete (mark the task as complete in Outlook) what do you expect?
  • Your audience will say something like, the OneNote task should be updated
  • DO NOT go to OneNote yet.
  • This is an amazing example of how these OneNote and Outlook integrate with each other. Usually we would have received the Minutes of Meetings a day later and I would have forgotten to execute my action point on time. What happens then? Delays and fire fighting! Sounds familiar?
  • One more thing – this was my own task. But what if I wanted to delegate task to someone? No problem, we could have chosen Custom task and Assigned it to someone else. That way I can still monitor the task and check for delays.
  • Wait for some response from the audience
  • Basically you have to spend at least 20 seconds before you return to OneNote
  • Now go to OneNote and notice that the Task is already marked as complete

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  • That is OneNote for you. Use it next time you are in a meeting. 

    Practice this few times to perfect the demo.

    Cheat sheet

    Mark as task in OneNote – it reflects IMMEDIATELY in Outlook task folder.

    The catch is – when you mark it as complete in Outlook, it takes around 20 seconds to refresh the OneNote task status. That is why you have to mark it as complete in Outlook and kill some time by talking some relevant stuff before you return to OneNote.

    If you return to OneNote too soon, the task will not be shown as complete and the demo will fall flat Sad smile

     

    Enjoy.