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May 16, 2013

Outlook Tasks: A Teacher’s Best Friend

Today we have a guest post from one of my favorite Outlook gurus —Pam Bookbinder! You can read more about Pam at the end of the blog entry!

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You know the saying, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend?” Well, don’t tell my fabulous husband (who did pick out the perfect engagement ring for me totally on his own), but Outlook Tasks are actually my best friend…at least when it comes to staying organized and prioritized!

No matter how much you wish you could, you can’t control how many emails you receive. But, you can control what happens to them once they land in your Inbox.

  • Respond (and then file it away)
  • Move to a folder immediately (for FYI emails)
  • Delete it (seriously, don’t be afraid to delete)
  • Convert it into a task for later completion

Today, we’ll focus on Option 4.

I often ask colleagues and trainees, “Why, oh, why do you have so many emails in your Inbox?” The number one response is that they keep them there as reminders of what needs to be done. This is right about when my heart rate and blood pressure start to steadily increase…

The challenge I see is that those “reminder emails” only sink to the bottom of the screen as more emails come in throughout the day. This makes it nearly impossible to prioritize what you need to do (whether it be by date, topic, or another relevant header).

I also think, somewhat unscientifically, that seeing hundreds of emails leads to serious stress and Inbox anxiety. As Sweet Brown so eloquently puts it, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” See here if you do not spend as much time watching viral videos as I do.

So, let’s practice Option 4: Let’s say you get an email from your coach with a request to send her your student achievement data by a certain date which is two weeks away. Many people keep that email in their inbox for those two weeks, and if they are lucky, remember the work is due. But here’s how Outlook Tasks can help you instead…

First, go to your calendar and make sure you can see your tasks on the bottom- you may have some tasks there that you didn’t even know about- that’s where they go when you click the red flag in Outlook. You can delete all of them- let’s start from scratch!

Pam Outlook Tasks #1

Now, go to your Inbox, and click the email from your coach just as you would if you were reading it, and also press Ctrl + C (just as if you were copying something in Word).

Pam Outlook Tasks #2

Then, go back to your calendar, and go to the date when the action is due. Double click on the Tasks window at the bottom of that day and you should see this:

Pam Outlook Tasks #3

Then, in the body of the task, press Ctrl + V (aka paste) and you should see:

Pam Outlook Tasks #4

Type in a subject that means something to you. Some subjects I find most helpful include directive verbs like Reply, Read, Review, or Send. For this example, I would say something like “Email Coach my Unit 2 data.”

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After that, press Save & Close, and your task will now appear on the day you set it for!

Pam Outlook Tasks #6

Now you can go back to your original email and either move it into a folder or delete it. Since you’ve already got the important information embedded in your task, that’s all you need!

Later on, once you’ve completed the action required, you can right click the task to mark it complete. If you complete the task before the day you set it to be due, it will move to (and get crossed off for) the day you actually did it.

When you first try using Tasks, it may take you a minute or two to create each one. But after a few, you’ll get the hang of it in under 15 seconds- you have my word!

I can already feel your email anxiety floating away…

Pam’s Bio:

When she is not peeking over people’s computer screens and (gently and persistently) nudging them to get on board with her email organization systems (aka The Outlook Bible) Pamela Bookbinder Clarke is the Director of New York Recruitment for Achievement First. When she is not peeking over people’s computer screens and (gently and persistently) nudging them to get on board with her email organization systems (aka The Outlook Bible) Pamela Bookbinder Clarke is the Director of New York Recruitment for Achievement First. She leads a team that recruits and selects teachers and school leaders for the Network’s 12 Brooklyn based schools. Before joining Achievement First, she was a 2006 New York City Teach For America Corps Member. During her commitment, she taught 10th, 11th and 12th grade Social Studies in The Bronx. Pamela received her B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and holds a Masters in Secondary Social Studies Education from Pace University. Additionally, she is an alumna of Leadership New York at the Coro New York Leadership Center.

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