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Outlook 2010: Effective Email Management
Illustration by Richard Downs

Understanding flags and the To Do list


From:

Outlook 2010: Effective Email Management

with Gini Courter

Video: Understanding flags and the To Do list

If you used Office 2003, or an earlier version of Office, you might be used to flags in Outlook that are basically color flags that allow you to categorize something. As we saw in the last video, that's not the use of flags in Outlook 2010. In Outlook 2010, flags are used not for filtering and sorting based on a group; flags are used to pin a time to the Calendar to say that you are going to do something on a particular day or in a particular range of days. So if I simply click and attach a flag to something, three things happen all at the same time.

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Outlook 2010: Effective Email Management
1h 44m Intermediate Aug 25, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In Outlook 2010: Effective Email Management, author Gini Courter demonstrates techniques to streamline the Outlook mailbox workflow. The course covers strategies for customizing views, adding filters, utilizing flags, and creating and organizing folders. The course also shows how to automate tasks as well as make effective use of QuickSteps to process email, and more.

Topics include:
  • Viewing messages by conversation
  • Tagging messages with flags and categories
  • Understanding flags and the To Do list
  • Sorting and filtering email
  • Creating a search folder
  • Creating QuickSteps and email rules
  • Using automatic replies
Subjects:
Business Productivity Email
Software:
Outlook
Author:
Gini Courter

Understanding flags and the To Do list

If you used Office 2003, or an earlier version of Office, you might be used to flags in Outlook that are basically color flags that allow you to categorize something. As we saw in the last video, that's not the use of flags in Outlook 2010. In Outlook 2010, flags are used not for filtering and sorting based on a group; flags are used to pin a time to the Calendar to say that you are going to do something on a particular day or in a particular range of days. So if I simply click and attach a flag to something, three things happen all at the same time.

One is that if we open this item, you will see that it's flagged for follow-up here in the banner at the top. The second thing is this item is added to my To Do List. We can see the To Do List down here at the bottom of the To Do bar, and here is the missing check, the flagged message from Greg. If I go to my Tasks list, I'll also see that that missing check item is here, waiting for action. Let's return back to mail and take a look at how we actually flag this item. I clicked once to flag it, but that applies a default flag.

If I right-click, I'll see a whole list of the different time flags that I can attach to an item here my Inbox or to a contact. These are also the same timeframes that I can assign to a task. First, I could say I'm going to do something today, and I can click Today, or I can right-click, and I can say I'm going to do it Tomorrow, This Week, in other words pin the date to this Friday, Next Week, the next Friday. I want to do something about this, but I have no idea when, which is simply a way to being denial about the task you are never going to actually do, or Custom, which opens a dialog box and lets me attach a start date and a due date and a reminder to this item, if I want to be very explicit about a particular day on which it needs to be begun or completed.

The flag that appears when I click once is called the Quick Click Flag, and if I right-click, I get to set that. By default, it's today. However, I can decide that tomorrow would make more sense. In my office, when I receive an e-mail, the odds are pretty good I'm not going to finish it today. I'm going to respond to that e-mail, if it takes any time at all, and it's worth flagging, tomorrow or sometime later this week. So I could choose Tomorrow or This Week as my Quick Click. It's the flag that I'd apply most often.

I'm going to go ahead and choose Tomorrow and say OK, so that when I click once, I'm saying that's for tomorrow. I can always right-click and choose any other timeframe that I wish. Remember that each of these items are being added down here to my To Do List and also on the Tasks list to my To Do List. We need to look at one other attribute that's very different in Outlook 2007 and 2010, and in prior versions. Before I could use flags in this way to automatically say this is actually a task, there was no real relationship between e-mail and the items on my Task list, but now they're actually the same.

If I've flagged an item, I have actually added it here to the To Do List. If you look at the icon, you'll notice that we have different items here. We have, for example, this item that was created here as a task. It has the familiar task item, but there items are e-mail items, all of them. So if, for example, I finish this task, I should mark it as complete. If I click again, it will be marked as complete, or I could have right-clicked and chosen Mark Complete, and the item is still on my list, but it's crossed off.

Some people, when they complete a task, what they do is they hit Delete, and if I do that, I'm doing something very different, because this task doesn't actually live here. It's an e-mail that's flagged. So I see a message box that says, if you delete this missing check task, you're also deleting the missing check e-mail message. Do you want to continue? I've been working in versions of Outlook that behave this way with flags now for four years, and I've never told it not to show me this message again, because I never want to accidentally delete an e-mail when I believe that I am simply deleting the task.

So I'm going to cancel this. I'm going to say, no, I actually don't want to do that. I have done what I need to do. I've checked this off. There is one more place that we can actually see this task list. If I go to my Calendar and the view that I'm working in is the Day, Work Week or Week view, I'll see my tasks reflected in the Task Pane at the bottom of my Calendar. Now the ads are pretty good that when you first opened Outlook, you wanted more room for you calendar, more room for hours, so you might have gone in and dragged this down to get rid of it. But I would encourage you to actually open this view back up and show it, because it's a very, very useful feature.

I can look at any particular day and see not just my appointments, but also see the tasks that I have assigned to that day. Not only that - if I mark a task as Done, for example, let's say that the designs are complete, and I've opened that e-mail, and I've marked it as Done. That would be one choice of how to do that. Let's just get rid of that Message Box. So I've gone in, and I've looked at this task, and I've marked it as complete. Notice that it no longer appears on a Thursday where it was originally; it now appears on Wednesday, which is the day that I actually completed it.

So I can retrospectively look back and see all the tasks that I completed on every workday. This gives me a calendar that actually reflects all of my work, both appointments and meetings, and any tasks that I completed during the day, all in one spot. If you're not used to using flags in Outlook 2010, I would encourage you to begin using flags. By using them, it helps you become more efficient, because you can look at all of the work that lays ahead of you and all of your work retrospectively to be able to make best decisions on how you can be effective in your work using Outlook 2010.

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