Set up an effective Outlook 2007 To-Do Bar

Take Back Your Life book cover

Take Back Your Life!: Using Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to Get Organized and Stay Organized
By Sally McGhee and John Wittry

Sally McGhee is a recognized thought leader and innovator in the field of productivity management. Sally has trained thousands of people in the corporate environment. She has more than 25 years’ experience as a consultant and an executive coach, and is the founder and CEO of McGhee Productivity Solutions.

John Wittry is an executive consultant working with senior level executives in Fortune 500 companies. John is also a major contributor to service and product development for McGhee Productivity Solutions. His 15 years of experience as a senior manager sparked his passion for productivity as part of corporate culture.

To learn more about other books on the 2007 Microsoft Office system, visit Microsoft Press.


Before you start to process and organize your Inbox, you need to set up your To-Do Bar so that you can use it effectively as part of your Action System. This article show you how to drag and drop e-mail messages onto your To-Do Bar and Calendar and how to insert e-mail messages into existing Tasks and Calendar appointments. Finally, this article discusses the difference between organizing your To-Do Bar by dragging and flagging. The information in this article supports using your IMS and getting your Inbox to zero.

Setting up the To-Do Bar

If you look at the control panel shown in Figure 1, you can see the To-Do Bar on the right-hand side of the Calendar. With this bar, you can easily view your “Total Life To-Do List” with all of the relevant Planning and Action Categories. The beauty of the To-Do Bar is that it’s accessible not only from the Inbox, but also from the Calendar, Tasks, and Contacts. This means that whichever part of Outlook you’re working in you can easily add Strategic Next Actions (SNAs), delete SNAs, or plan and prioritize them onto your Calendar. The To-Do List, which you’ve used up until now, is basically the same list with the following exceptions: the To-Do List can be accessed only from Tasks and it shows both completed and active Tasks and has more real estate to work with. The To-Do Bar does not show completed Tasks and is accessible from all parts of Outlook and has less real estate. Our clients use both of these lists depending on what type of work they’re doing; it’s a matter of preference and work style as to which list you use and when you use it. Following are the technical instructions to set up your To-Do Bar.

The Control Panel showing the To-Do Bar on the right

Figure 1. The Control Panel showing the To-Do Bar on the right.

Adding Click Here to add a new task and changing Custom to Customize Current View

If you don’t see the words Click Here To Add A New Task at the top of the To-Do Bar, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Subject heading above Categories: (none), and select Custom or Customize Current View. If you see Custom instead of Customize Current View, be sure to follow step 4 below.
  2. In the Customize View: To-Do List dialog box, click the Other Settings button.
  3. In the Other Settings dialog box, in the Column Headings And Rows section, be sure both Allow In-Cell Editing and Show “New Item” Row are selected, as shown in Figure 2.

Adding Click Here to add a new task to the To-Do Bar

Figure 2. Adding Click Here To Add A New Task to the To-Do Bar.
  1. In the Other Options section, be sure the Always Use Single-Line Layout is selected.
  2. Click OK.
  3. Click OK again.
  4. The words Click Here To Add A New Task will appear below your field headings and above Categories: (none).

To-Do Bar fields and grouping by categories

The next two settings are necessary to choose the To-Do Bar fields and to group your Tasks by categories. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the To-Do Bar, right-click the words Click Here To Add A New Task, and then click Customize Current View on the shortcut menu. Here you will choose the fields to view in the To-Do Bar and group your actions by category.
  2. In the Customize View: To-Do List dialog box, click Fields.
  3. Under the heading Select Available Fields From, choose All Task Fields from the drop-down menu.
  4. In the Show These Fields In This Order section, select Icon and Due Date.
  5. Under the heading Select Available Fields From, choose All Mail Fields from the drop-down menu.
  6. Select Task Subject and add to the Show These Fields In This Order area. Rearrange your fields so they’re listed in the order shown in Figure 3 and then click OK.

Selecting the To-Do List fields

Figure 3. Selecting the To-Do List fields
  1. In the Customize View: To-Do List dialog box, click Group By.
  2. In the Group By dialog box, in the Group Items By drop-down menu, select Categories, and in the Expand/Collapse Defaults drop-down menu, select All Collapsed, as shown in Figure 4. Then, click OK.

Grouping tasks by categories

Figure 4. Grouping tasks by categories.
  1. Click OK again.

Attaching contacts to your tasks

To complete the final setting that allows you to attach contacts to your Tasks, follow these steps:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
  2. In the Options dialog box, on the Preferences tab, in the Contacts And Notes section, click the Contact Options button.
  3. In the Contact Options dialog box, in the Contact Linking section, select Show Contact Linking On All Forms, as shown in Figure 5, and then click OK.
  4. Click OK again.

Linking contacts to your Tasks in the To-Do List

Figure 5. Linking contacts to your Tasks in the To-Do List.

Dragging e-mail to the To-Do Bar or Calendar

To set up an effective Integrated Management System, we recommend you predominantly use dragging as a method for organizing e-mail. Our productivity philosophy is based on you emptying Collection Points, centralizing your action list, and having all the data you need to complete an SNA attached to the SNA, and dragging facilitates this. You can drag an e-mail message from the Inbox directly onto your To-Do Bar and into your Planning and Action Categories or onto your calendar as an appointment. This is a pretty cool feature.

In Figure 6 Carol received an e-mail reminding her to edit the Adventure Works proposal, which was posted on a SharePoint site. Carol could not do this SNA in less than two minutes or delegate it, so she had to defer it to do herself. She dragged the e-mail into her SNA computer category, added a due date and inserted the proposal from SharePoint; she now had everything she needed to complete the action in one place. Dragging e-mails enables you to remove them from your inbox and puts them in your To-Do Bar as a task; from here you can respond to them as you would an e-mail which is really useful.

Dragging an e-mail on the To-Do Bar into a Planning or Action Category

Figure 6. Dragging an e-mail on the To-Do Bar into a Planning or Action Category.

To drag an e-mail into your one of your Planning and Action Categories on your To-Do Bar follow these steps:

  1. Right-click and drag the e-mail to the Task icon in the Folder List.
  2. From the shortcut menu, choose Move Here As Task With Attachment.
  3. In the Task window, the e-mail Subject line appears in the Task Subject line, and the e-mail is inserted into the task as an envelope icon.
  4. Review your subject line to ensure it says want you want and if not you can change it.
  5. Click Categorize on the ribbon and select the appropriate Planning and Action Category.
  6. Click Save and Close.

You can just as easily drag and drop e-mails onto your calendar as you can the To-Do Bar. Carol received an e-mail related to completing her performance review and submitting it online by Friday at 3 p.m. This was a SNA she could not do in less than two minutes or delegate so she had to defer it to herself. She wanted to make sure she got it done on Friday so she dragged and dropped the e-mail onto her calendar on Friday at 1 p.m. and created an appointment for 1 hour to make sure she completed it. The e-mail attached itself to the appointment so that when she got to the appointment, she could open the e-mail, find the link to the intranet site, and complete the review online. By using this method, you can move action-related e-mail out of your Inbox and place it where you can do something with it to complete it.

To drag an e-mail onto your Calendar, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click and drag the e-mail message to the Calendar icon.
  2. On the shortcut menu, click Move Here As Appointment With Attachment.
  3. In the appointment window, the e-mail Subject line appears as the appointment Subject line, and the e-mail is inserted into the appointment as an envelope icon, as shown in Figure 7.

Dragging an e-mail message to the Calendar

Figure 7. Dragging an e-mail message to the Calendar.
  1. Review your Subject line to ensure it says want you want, and if not, you can change it.
  2. Click Save and Close.

Inserting an e-mail message or document into an existing task

One of the cool things about Tasks is that you can insert files and contacts and e-mail messages into them, making it easy to have the supporting information you need to complete your Strategic Next Actions. Carol received an e-mail message related to her 401(k) plan detailing her different investment options. Carol has an existing Task in her 1:1 Jonathan category to talk to him about an investment strategy. Carol thought it would be a good idea to include this message in her conversation with Jonathan, and so she decided to insert it into that Task so that she can refer to it when she is in her 1:1 meeting with him.

You have a choice when inserting e-mail messages into Tasks. If the information you need is in an attached document in the e-mail message, you can either insert the entire e-mail message, which includes the attachment, or you can insert the attached document only. If you don’t need the body of the e-mail message and only need the attached document, you can first save the document in your My Documents Reference System, and then link the document to the Task. This way, the document is in two places. When you delete the Task, you’ll still have access to the document in your My Documents Reference System. Or if you want the e-mail message and the document, you can insert the message into the Task and the document will go with it.

To insert an e-mail message or its attachment into an existing Task, follow these steps:

  1. Double-click an existing Task.
  2. In the Task, click the Insert tab, and choose Attach Item from the ribbon.
  3. In the Insert Item dialog box, select Inbox.
  4. Locate the e-mail message that you want to insert, and click it once to select it.
  5. In the Insert Item dialog box, in the Insert As section, select either Text Only or Attachment, as shown in Figure 8.
  6. Click OK.

Inserting an e-mail message into an existing Task

Figure 8. Inserting an e-mail message or an e-mail attachment into an existing Task.

Inserting an e-mail message or document into an existing calendar appointment

Some of the e-mail you receive will be information that you’ll want to have handy during meetings or phone calls. For example, Carol Philips received an e-mail message outlining the agenda for a Friday staff meeting. Carol wanted to make sure she had the agenda available on Friday, and so she inserted the message into the staff meeting appointment on her Calendar, as shown in Figure 9. With this setup, she can open the appointment on Friday and double-click the e-mail icon, and the agenda immediately shows up on her screen. It takes less than two minutes to complete, and places the data where it is most useful, and minimizes what Carol has to do to find it on Friday at the start of the staff meeting.

When you insert an e-mail message into an existing appointment, you have two options: you can insert the text, or you can insert the entire e-mail message. When you include the whole e-mail message in an appointment, you can open the message and respond to it or just view the information in it. When you insert the text of a message only, you can’t respond to the message, but you can see the text. This is useful in relation to using a PDA or smartphone. When you synchronize with a PDA, the text of the message shows up in the appointment so that you have it available. If you insert an e-mail message, you cannot open the message from a PDA. Based on how you are going to view this information you need to discern whether you insert text or the e-mail message itself.

In the example, if Carol inserts the Friday staff meeting agenda as text into the appointment, she can view the agenda on her PDA, which is pretty cool. Another example of using text on a PDA is when you go on trips, you can insert the travel data as text into your travel appointments, such as air, hotel, and car rental confirmations. It’s much easier to view your PDA when you’re on the road than it is to use your laptop. This information is extremely helpful, and having it readily available saves time and makes you look good! It’s very important to look good and have the latest equipment, you know!

To insert an e-mail message or its text into an existing Calendar appointment, follow these steps:

  1. Double-click an existing Calendar appointment.
  2. In the appointment, click the Insert tab, and select Attach Item from the ribbon.
  3. In the Insert Item dialog box, select Inbox.
  4. Locate the e-mail message that you want to insert, and click it once to select it.
  5. In the Insert Item dialog box, in the Insert As section, select either Text Only or Attachment, as shown in Figure 9.
  6. Click OK.

Inserting an e-mail message into an existing Calendar appointment

Figure 9. Inserting an e-mail message or the text of a message into an existing Calendar appointment.

Flagging

Flagging an e-mail message creates a synchronized link between the item in the Inbox and the To-Do Bar; it does not create a Task or an appointment, and the e-mail message stays in the Inbox. In Figure 10, you can see that Carol flagged an item in her Inbox; you can see the flag on the far right-hand side of the message “Create Sales Proposal Templates for new products.” Carol wants to discuss this item with Kim in their next 1:1 meeting, and so she categorized it under her 1:1 Kim category. You can see the item appears under this category in the To-Do Bar and stays in her Inbox. If Carol were to click the item in the To-Do Bar, it opens as an e-mail message not as a Task, and this enables Carol to respond to the e-mail immediately. However, she cannot insert or add any supporting information.

A flagged e-mail message in Carol's Inbox

Figure 10. A flagged e-mail message in Carol’s Inbox.

If you are going to be flagging e-mail, we suggest you have the Flag Status Field and the Category field showing in your Inbox as shown in Figure 11. To add these fields, follow these steps:

  1. In the Inbox, right-click the Subject heading, and then click Customize Current View.
  2. In the Customize View: Messages dialog box, click Fields.
  3. In the Select Available Fields From section, choose All Mail Fields To Add Flag Status. Choose Frequently-Used Fields from the Select Available Fields From section to add Categories.

Adding the Flag Status and Category fields to the Inbox

Figure 11. Adding the Flag Status and Category fields to the Inbox.

To flag and categorize an e-mail message onto the To-Do Bar, follow these steps:

  1. In the Inbox, click the Flag Status field of the message, and the flag will turn red.
  2. In the Inbox, right-click the Categories field of the message, and then select a category. This e-mail message will show up on your To-Do Bar under the category you selected with no due date. See Figure 12.

Flagging and categorizing an e-mail message onto the To-Do Bar

Figure 12. Flagging and categorizing an e-mail message onto the To-Do Bar.

Why we recommend dragging instead of flagging

Dragging is not as intuitive as flagging, but dragging provides you with some very strong advantages.

  • You can drag e-mail to the To-Do Bar as well as to the Calendar.
  • You can create Tasks that capture relevant Supporting Information needed to complete SNAs.
  • You can empty the Inbox by moving action material to your Action System and reference material to your Reference System.
  • You have only one location for storing your Planning and Action Categories, not two, and so all of your action items are in one central location.
  • If you delete a flagged e-mail message by accident, you remove it from the To-Do Bar without notification or warning.
  • With flagging, you end up with two Planning and Action Categories to review, one in the Inbox and one in the To-Do Bar, and they are not identical. When you add Tasks to your To-Do Bar, they do not show up in your Inbox categories; they show up only on the To-Do Bar.

We believe these advantages make dragging the primary method to use. Of course, you can use a hybrid approach, mixing both dragging and flagging. For now it is simpler to choose one method and stick with that until you become an Outlook Power User and can use both effectively.

 
 
Applies to:
Outlook 2007