Managing People: Getting the Most from Outlook Tasks

A while back we looked at using “Assigned Tasks” to send tasks to other people.

This previous technique required the recipient to manage their own tasks. This may not be great if the recipient is over-loaded. It also does not allow the sender of the task to change the task properties (e.g. change priority to urgent or move to another date).

There is another way to manage people using Outlook tasks. This is by using shared tasks. How to do this is explained below.

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Setup a Shared Folder – Managee Computer

We will assume the person you want to manage is a “managee”. These steps need to be performed on the managee’s computer.

  1. Click on “Tasks” at the bottom of Outlook.
  2. Click on the “Tasks” entry in the left-hand-side menu.
  3. Click on the “Folder” tab at the top of the tasks view.
  4. Click on “Folder Permissions” (second to last entry).
  5. Click “Add”.
  6. Select everyone you want as a “manager” and click “OK”.
  7. Select the “Author” permission from the dropdown list and click “OK”.

Setup a Shared Folder – Manager Computer

You need to perform the following steps on the computer(s) of those who want to manage the managee.

  1. Click on “Tasks” at the bottom of Outlook.
  2. Click on the “Folder” tab at the top of the tasks view.
  3. Click “Open Shared Tasks” (third to last entry).
  4. Type the name of the managee or select from the list that appears when you select the “Name…” button.
  5. The managee’s tasks should then appear in a folder with their name under a “Shared Folders” heading on the left-hand-side.

Managing

Adding tasks for the managee:

  1. On the manager’s computer, go to “Tasks” in Outlook.
  2. Select the folder with the managee’s name.
  3. Then select “New Task” from the top.
  4. The added task will now appear in the “Tasks” list on the managee’s computer.
  5. It is recommend to add a “Category” that says who added the task – this will help the managee filter by sender.

On the managee’s side:

  1. If they go to “Tasks” in Outlook and select the “To-Do List” view (red flag) from the “Home” top menu they can see all tasks due in the future and past in a handy to-do list.
  2. The managee can then concentrate on doing the tasks due under the “Today” section (or those in the past).

The manager can now, via Outlook on their computer, edit existing tasks. For example:

  1. On the manager’s computer, go to “Tasks” in Outlook.
  2. Select the folder with the managee’s name.
  3. View the “To-Do List” for the selected folder.
  4. Double click a task to edit or delete (this will only work for tasks created by the manager).

Tasks can be reassigned to a different date, can be changed priority, can have notes added  etc..

Hide Private Tasks

If the managee is using tasks and does not want these viewable by everyone (e.g. “walk dog”, “pick up crack pipe” etc.) we need to create a private folder.

  1. Click on “Tasks” at the bottom of Outlook.
  2. Click on the “Folder” tab at the top of the tasks view.
  3. Click “New Folder” and call this “Private Tasks”.
  4. On the “Home” tab select “Simple List” in the “Current View”, select all existing tasks (using SHIFT) the click “Move” button (to the right) and select the “Private Tasks” folder.
  5. New private tasks should then be added to the “Private Tasks” folder (by selecting it on the left-hand-side before adding a task).

Let me know if you find any tricks or alternatives.

Taming the Inbox: Outlook Tasks

An unfortunate feature of modern life is a deluge of emails. Many emails require actions. However, it is easy for emails that require action to be lost in the black-hole of an inbox or mail folder.

A nice way to keep track of emails and actions is to use Outlook Tasks.

Generating a Task from an Email

When you get an email that requires an action right click on the email. Go down to “QuickSteps” and see if you have an “Assign as Task” option (or something similar).

If you do not have an “Assign as Task” QuickStep, create it using the following steps:
1) Right click – select “QuickSteps” – select “Create New”;
2) Name the QuickStep “Assign as Task” and select “Create a task with attachment” from the “Choose an Action” dropdown list; and
3) Click Finish.

Once you have an “Assign as Task” option, click it to convert the email into a task. If you have Remember the Milk you can then use “MilkSync” to sync the task to your todo list.

Assigning Tasks

You can also assign Tasks to other people. When the Task screen appears select “Assign Task” in the top tool bar / ribbon.

You can then type in an email address of a colleague, set a due date, a priority level and some text explaining the required action.

When you click “Send” the task is received and added to the recipient’s list of tasks. The original email is included as an attachment for reference.

The advantages to this are:
1) the recipient can keep track of the task (rather than have it drown in a sea of email);
2) the recipient has your instructions and the original email; and
3) the recipient knows how urgent the task is and can order by due date.

This can help a lot when organising team projects. (Or at least where Trello and RTM are a little too “early adopter” :.)