High performing managers are not 10 or 20 times more intelligent than other people. It is the principles they use that make them 10 to 20 times more effective. – Richard Koch
There are many ways to improve your efficiency with Outlook. Remember that saving 10 minutes a workday adds up to 40+ hours over a typical work year. This is why I encourage people to learn the most common keyboard shortcuts.
In this article, I want to focus on how leaders can use Outlook to become more effective at communicating, overseeing projects, and developing people.
Use your calendar strategically
Your calendar is not just for meetings with other people. Time is one of the two most-limiting factors for great leadership (the other is human ingenuity, a topic for another time). Therefore you want to be the first person to get blocks of time scheduled on your calendar.
- Specific project deliverables (analysis, writing, practicing a presentation)
- Vacation time
- Networking time with internal and external contacts
- 2 days quarterly focused on thinking and planning
- Prep times for predictable milestone events like monthly reports, mid-year and annual reviews
- Birthday and anniversary events for the people you work with
Once you’ve scheduled these, keep them. Use them to say, “I have another commitment at that time”.
Use tasks to bring your attention to significant items at just the right time
Tasks are ideal for reminding you about key facts. If your direct report tells you about a critical meeting next week, set up a task to ask her about it at the right time. Then you’re less likely to forget about something that is very important to her. You can use the same strategy for:
- Checking in on status for key projects when the people don’t report to you
- Remembering people will be OOO or traveling on
- Asking about a personal event (child’s volleyball match, father’s surgery, etc.)
Some people express amazement that I remembered something, but the truth is that it would have completely slipped my mind if I had not set up a task to remind me.
You can also set up recurring tasks to remind you to do things regularly:
- Personal contacts with people in your extended network
- Saying “thank you” to key people
- Encouraging people you know are struggling
Use delayed email delivery
Delaying an email message delivery to a specific day/time is a powerful tool for leaders and project managers. Compose your message, then under Options select Delay Delivery. Pick a date and time, then hit Send. Your message stays in your Outbox until the appointed time. [You do need to be logged into Outlook at the appointed time; if you aren’t, then your message will be sent when you log in again.]
There are several ways you can use this technique to enhance your leadership influence:
- Send announcements that need to be delivered at a specific time. Craft the message early and be confident that it will go out at the right time.
- Convert your good intentions into actual follow-up. When you think, “Oh, I should ask Bob about that next week,” compose the email now, and set the date/time to be appropriate for follow-up.
- You can also queue up messages to be delivered on a schedule. This allows you to craft messages in spurts of time, then deliver on a schedule you define. I do this with my team leaders, for example, to “drip out” tips, links to articles, humor, and commentary about projects. I might create 3 or 4 of these in short order, then space them out over 7 workdays.
Use Email, Tasks, Meetings, and OneNote together
Does an email message suggest that you need a meeting? Drag the email message and drop on top of the Calendar item and it will be converted into a meeting invite – just add attendees.
Does an email message suggest that you’ll need a reminder to follow-up later? Drag the email message and drop on top of the Task item and it will be converted into a new task – just set the date/time to be reminded.
Want an easy way to capture notes from meetings? Click on the OneNote icon in the calendar invite, and the meeting agenda is instantly copied into a OneNote page. Send the page after you’ve finished taking notes in the meeting, so everyone has a copy, even if you haven’t shared the Notebook with them.
Do you have other tips for leaders using Outlook?