Do you know any tricks/tips in Outlook to make project management more effecient?
September 28, 2005 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm using MS Outlook at work as a Project Manager in Technology (I don't have a choice on that). Are there some good tricks you've come across to manage communications, status of tasks, categories, or just some way of keeping track of the bazillion pieces that actually works? Bonus if your work involves the large software company on the east side (Microsoft).

I know about all these cool productivity sites (43 Folders (and it's excellent wiki), 52 Projects, LifeHacker, Ta Da Lists, To Done) and all that ilk (Slacker Manager, etc.)

But I'm looking specifically for a way to tame the Outlook beast. I can't afford to lose a detail in a message buried deep down from last week. I don't have time to organize the messages continually. I need a way to act upon receipt. I also know you can drag an email message to your tasks, creating a task.

Do you realize how much time gets spent in Outlook poking around from function to function? It's taking up half my day!

I even have a WindowsMobile SmartPhone to carry around and sync with.

I'm hoping someone out there has a trick using rules, catetgories, message options, things like that, specifically to corral the many shards of details.
posted by ValveAnnex to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I must have channeled this through you because this is essentially the same question I was thinking of as I strolled on my lunch walk. The only addition would be optimizing Outlook as a contact management system too. Strange. I hope you get some good responses.
posted by mic stand at 10:44 AM on September 28, 2005

I use the [url=]Getting Things Done Workflow Processing Document[/url] to configure my Outlook. $10 to buy the document, and I recommend reading the book, but the document is useful standalone.

posted by Manjusri at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2005

Best answer: Whoops, heres the link: Getting Things Done Workflow Processing Document
posted by Manjusri at 10:49 AM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's neither task, category, nor contact management, but if you haven't yet replaced the slow and ineffective Outlook search with the speedy search in the Google Desktop beta, you should. It's free, painless, and very useful for finding emails with keywords. The latest version of Google Desktop includes an Outlook toolbar for searching email.
posted by blue mustard at 10:51 AM on September 28, 2005

Are you using Outlook in conjuction with an Exchange server? If so you can at least coordinate appointments with a team calendar and emailed invitations.

For messages, you can make subfolders from your main INbox and apply rules to sort the messages into their designated folders upon receipt.

You can use multiple contact folders to set up groups of project teams. You can customize the contact forms, adding fields for new data. Using VBS scripting you can automate reports to MS Office files.

I haven't used the Journal much, but it has some ability to link Office documents with email messages and calendar items.

You will never make Outlook into a full-blown CRM database, but if you don't mind the overhead it can get close, sorta. Here are some links to Outlook resources:
posted by pgoes at 11:48 AM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Tips for Mastering Email Overload
Outlook Tactics
There's another thing I do, which I read on one of those productivity blogs, but apparently didn't save to, so I can't retrieve it now, but I'll restate it here. I have a custom toolbar I created with the 6 colors of flags and put it at the top of my outlook window. I set the text of the flags to be, in this order, Urgent, To Do, Follow Up, Waiting For, Information, and Interesting. When an email comes in, I flag it with one of these right away. I check the flag "completed" as soon as it's dealt with. I also try to follow the "clean it out of the inbox" rule stated in the "Outlook Tactics" article. The folders are based around projects or groups (e.g., Tech Team Admin).
posted by matildaben at 11:49 AM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Every time I send out an email that I need someone to act on, I bcc myself. Then, in tools-->Rules Wizard, I set up a rule that any email both from me and to me (the aforementioned bcc) gets routed to my @waiting for folder. That way I have one place to look for all the things I've assigned out via email, and never lose track of what someone else is supposed to get back to me on.
posted by mabelstreet at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2005

Are you able to incorporate Sharepoint? I can't imagine being a Project Manager without it.

It's a free Windows server add on - basically an extranet that works in conjunction with Office 2003 products - it's really quite brilliant and handles any workflow you wish to impose - ultimately makes your job as a PM very organised and takes a lot of duplication out of your daily work load.

Jesus, I sound like a MS sales rep.
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:31 PM on September 28, 2005

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