Based on your job and calendar, set thresholds that create three different timeframes for work: a few minutes, a short time, and a long time. As you take on new work, research or use your experience to determine its timeframe. Work that takes a few minutes should be done immediately or asap. Add work that takes a short time to a task list. Add work that takes a long time to the calendar. Add deadlines to all non-immediate work to the calendar.
- [Voiceover] Before we launch Outlook 2016, I'd like to give you a little background on how I'm thinking about work and how you might choose to think about work to be very efficient in Outlook 2016. The first thing I'd like us to consider is how to separate our work into three different piles based on how much time that work is going to take. First, you have a job. It's in your Inbox or someone walks in your office and hands you a new piece of work to do.
You could call it a task, a job, a project, whatever it is, you have something that needs to be done. It's possible that it will take a long time. That's one category of work, work that will take a long time and if so, we'll throw it in the long time pile for right now. Another possibility is it's going to take a short period of time. The third possibility is it will only take a few minutes. In our work in Outlook, we're going to manage tasks in each of those piles, work in each of those piles, in different ways.
Therefore, we need to be able to separate the difference between long time and short time, and the difference between short time and a few minutes. What do we mean by a few minutes? What do we mean by a short period of time and what do we mean by a long period of time? The separation between those, for the purpose of our conversation, I'm going to call thresholds. So we need a threshold that separates a few minutes from a short time and short time from a long time. You might ask what those thresholds are and it depends.
Let's imagine, for example, that you're in a work setting where you have a fair amount of empty space in your calendar. That doesn't mean you're not working. You still have 14 hours worth of work to do in your eight hour day, but you have the ability to arrange that work at different times of the day. So for you, then, something that takes a long time might be something that takes more than an hour.
If you have something that takes a short period of time, it might take more than 10 minutes but up to an hour. Something that takes a few minutes, that means it takes 10 minutes or less. This is about what my thresholds are right now. If it's going to take me more than hour, I think, that's gonna take me a long time to do. Not like forever, but a long time. Whereas something that's going to take me nine or 10 minutes, yeah, that's just a few minutes. Let's contrast that with someone whose work is to go from one meeting to the next, to the next.
I've had that gig too. I often didn't have any empty one hour stretches in my day because someone would claim some part of that time. For me, in that work setting, if I had something that took more than 30 minutes, it took a long time because that meant I had to find a place to wedge it in and that made that long time. Whereas 30 minutes, eh, short period of time, I could get this done in the next 30 minutes.
But I didn't have a lot of empty 30 minute blocks in the day either 'cause two of 'em back to back meant somebody was gonna drop a meeting on me. Finally, if it takes less than five minutes, well, I can manage to clear a few five minute things off my list in that 20 minutes that isn't being claimed right now. This doesn't mean that one of these types of work is more important, but these tend to be somewhat of the extremes in terms of thinking about how your day works. Either you have a lot of freedom to organize your tasks or your calendar is very full and you don't have as much freedom to organize your tasks.
You can turn down appointments, but that's really the primary way in which you would create space. Well we're talking about estimating how long something takes, an hour, 30 minutes, five minutes, there are three types of guidance that you'll bring to tasks when you estimate 'em. First, you'll have tasks that you do all the time. You're being asked to do something for the fourth time this week. In that case, you're probably going to estimate it fairly well, if you are attentive to the work that you've done in the past because you have deep guidance on this.
You've done it over and over again and because you've done it over and over again, you've most likely done it recently and that means the way the process works in your organization has probably not changed since the last time. If you frequently take packages down to the shipping dock to be sent out, you know exactly what that process looks like. So when you think it'll take me five minutes to mail this package, you're probably right. Then there are tasks that you do occasionally. You have a little less guidance about them and there's a greater chance of change if you haven't done them recently.
So if you only mail a package once every six months, for example, maybe there's a new form that needs to be filled out. Maybe you're using an entirely different carrier. Maybe you filled out the paperwork that you had on hand, you take it down to the shipping dock, and they say, "We don't actually do it this way anymore." So when you do something less frequently, there's both less experience and the chances of you having done it recently enough that nothing's changed, are lower than with the task you do all the time.
Finally, there's something that you're doing for the first time. You've never sent a package before at all. You get no guidance and it's all new. You have to begin by asking, "How do I do this?" Or you could plunge boldly forward and mail the package and then you might find out that that's actually not what was intended at all. That taking it and dropping it off at the post office wasn't the option that you're going to get reimbursed for. So part of the trick of estimating work time so that it's close or more accurate is to give more credence to the work estimates that you create for work you do frequently and to give yourself more time for things that you're doing for the first time or for things that you only do occasionally, particularly if it's something you haven't done in a while.
Having said that, let's go back to our three types of work. Work that takes a long time, a short time, and a few minutes. That work that is gonna take a long time, you're gonna put that work on your calendar in Outlook. Work that's going to take a short time, you're gonna put on a task list and work that takes a few minutes, you're gonna do it now. Now, let's talk about this for just a minute. If you are a person who uses a calendar and almost never uses tasks, I'd like to encourage you during the time that you're working with this course, to give tasks a try.
If you're a person who says I don't really use my calendar that much, I just put stuff on a task list, that's okay but try to flex your calendar muscle while you're taking this course. There really are two different types of work by using both your calendar and your task list, you'll be more likely to be efficient in tracking the two. Then finally, the things that are below both thresholds, you should just do them now. If you wanna mark 'em as done, that's fine.
But there's no point in spending 20 minutes managing a five minute task. There's one more possibility. What about something that has a deadline? Deadlines break the rules because if something has a deadline and it's on your task list because it's only gonna take 30 minutes, great, but I also want you to make sure that you are always putting that deadline on your calendar. As you're scheduling your work, there are three different models that I wanna hold up for how you think about scheduling.
The first is somebody who's a manager, CXO, supervisor. Someone who's in that mode where they go from one meeting to the next, to the next. If you spend all day in meetings, then it's very easy to prioritize creating gaps, making sure you have 45 minutes with a 15 minute break, 45 minutes of meetings with a 15 minute break. Two hour meeting, make sure you have 30 minutes off. That's a typical way to schedule. So meetings are meetings filled with calendar and spread through the day and you try to reclaim those short periods of space for short time tasks between meetings.
The second threshold set I showed you was actually for an administrative professional, support staff person, a legal paraprofessional. Someone who is mostly in a support function, has a lot of different work to do during the day, but has very few meetings. In that case, people who work in that way tend to spread their meetings throughout the day. So if I have three hours of meetings, I'll spread them out so that I have an hour or so to work, an hour to go to a meeting.
An hour or so to work, maybe 90 minutes, and then perhaps another meeting because meetings provide some variability but also because you're a support staff person, you're scheduling the clean-up or mop-up from a meeting right after the meeting. The third type of calendar is similar to support staff persons, often, and these are people who are in developer roles or designer roles, coders, people who are often thought of as makers. They make product whether it's software or architectural plans and for those folks, they treat their time in the opposite way of administrative professionals and other support staff.
If they have four hours of meetings, they put 'em all in one clump. The reason is, the work that they go back to is not a series of tasks, it's big tasks, write a chunk of code. Design the third floor lighting system. Frequent interruptions of that task actually degrade performance. So makers often work really hard to preserve large, uninterrupted blocks of time for their work. Three different ways that you might think about scheduling based on the type of work that you do.
One more thing to pitch in, as we're thinking about scheduling our work and managing it in Outlook. You are more or less efficient, more or less crisp, at different times of the day. If your best time is 8 AM, put your most challenging work when you are sharpest. I don't actually wake up until about 10, even if I'm at work, so I don't put my most important work at 8 AM. I put my most important work at about 11:30 on.
In the morning, I'm happy to do small things that don't engage me in the same way. So here's the summary. When you're capturing your work in Outlook, on the calendar, you're going to report any work that is long-time work, an hour or more, 30 minutes or more, whatever your high threshold is and you will note any deadlines on your calendar, even if the work itself is in a task list. Speaking of task lists, task lists have short time work and we don't record deadlines on the task list.
We might record work that has a deadline, but we won't track the deadline itself on the task list. Then finally, work that comes in that we can simply get rid of, we don't put on a task list, we don't put on a calendar, we do it and we dispense with it. In the course, I will be showing you how to put items on your calendar, put items in your task list, and how to mark items as completed or done and dispensed with them in Outlook 2016.
- Managing your time with Outlook 2016
- Creating an appointment or event
- Inviting others to meetings
- Creating recurring meetings
- Flagging email
- Creating tasks and to-do items
- Applying categories
- Using built-in Quick Steps
- Completing a task and sending an update
- Setting calendar and task list options