Friday Focus: May 10, 2013

Bear with me. I am trying something new...yet again.

Welcome to Friday Focus. Since I was running out of ideas for Friday Favorites, I thought instead I could focus on one thing. Much easier than coming up with a list of favorite things. Also it is wide open topic wise as is evidenced by today's post.

Let's jump in. And yes it is still technically Friday where I am...

I have been trying to find a way to manage my tasks and life with MS Outlook. Here is this amazing program that I use every single day and I am not using it to anywhere near its potential. I started at work since that is where I use email the most and where I have more things to keep track of.

I always have my open page set to Outlook Today. I like to have a glimpse of what's ahead. Here you can see the only thing happening today was pay day (very important to have that on my calendar). Nothing is scheduled for the next few days. Usually there are room reservations on here. We don't have a fully functional setup at work that utilizes out of office replies, or fully functional scheduling. But we are now using the limited scheduling feature to announce out of office days and reservations for our conference and training rooms. It is working quite well I think. I like knowing who is in and out of the office each day. There are still some that are reluctant to use it, but we try to work with those people.

I also schedule some personal appointments on my calendar since it is not able to be viewed by others.

You can't see it, but I have the Penguins Playoff games scheduled.

Next, I have been making great use of the Tasks feature.

I track my AR each month and can monitor those that are "past due" easily. What is great is that I can keep notes in the task detail portion about any phone calls/correspondence. So far it has been working great and I keep up to date on getting us paid. There are still a few recurring tasks in there, reminders of once-a-month type things that are easily lost in the bustle of daily tasks.

One thing that carries through from work to home is the way I organize my emails.

I have a folder for each month numbered 01 through 12 to correspond with our fiscal periods and year (July is 01 and June is 12). In these I keep requests, memos, credit card purchases, etc.

There are a few things I keep in their own folder: Billing; Grants; Corporate; Invoices. It helps immensely when I can just go to a folder and search by person, date, subject. I have used this system for a few years now and have had zero problems with it. To keep it tidy, I delete emails in the folders at the beginning of each month (May 2012 information was deleted May 1, 2013). If I have accessed it in a year, I don't need to keep it.

My Inbox looks like this:

I keep emails that I have to respond to, perform an action, or orders that have not arrived yet. I only move something after I have completed the task. At the beginning of the month, this gets pretty full. I hate having a full inbox, so I clean it at least weekly, usually twice a week. I am thinking about exploring the flag system within Outlook to handle emails more timely.

At home, I am implementing a similar system with tasks and the calendar (with the exception of Out of Office and Room Reservations. There is no need to schedule my bedroom for sleeping each night).

If you can read it, ignore the 2:00 - 8:00 scheduling of the Penguins game on Saturday. The start time depended upon another series and that was the range it could be between. In case you want to watch, it begins at 7:00 pm EST, 5:00 MDT.

I am just starting to use the task feature so it is still a work in progress, but I decided to highlight (ALL CAPS) the different categories so at first glance I could see where I needed to spend my time. I like having a due date to keep me on track.

Similar to work, I have folders to organize the email I hold on to. I use the following:

  • Bills/Invoices/Receipts for online purchases with subcategories for specific vendors.
  • Family for photos, gift lists, etc.
  • Funnies for those joke type emails that make me laugh
  • Help/Tutorials/Tips & Tricks is mostly for knitting related stuff 
  • Ideas & Inspiration is mostly filled with pattern & gift ideas. It needs to be completely gutted though.
  • Patterns are for patterns I have purchased that are emailed and not through Ravelry
  • Registration/Subscriptions is mostly for password resets and login information when I sign up for a new site
  • School is for all things learning related
  • To Do is a touchy one. I throw things in there that I am tired of seeing in my inbox. It is on the list for May to be completely gutted and dealt with.
  • WW/Health is for all things that are of interest for weight loss and health. Sadly I don't access that folder enough.
I employ the same Inbox system at home that I do at work. It stays until it is dealt with or sent to To Do limbo.

I am just starting to explore all the features and how I can utilize them best. As I find my groove, I hope to update with changes and things that work and don't work.

Do you use Outlook and its features? Let me know what works and doesn't work for you.


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