Sunday, May 7, 2006

How I Took Back My Life Through the Miracle of Outlook

I promised to let you know how one could get 8 hours of material out of an Outlook class.
The headline would be: Glory glory hallelujah.

A few things to put out there. You must already have a certain obsessive disorder, a need to categorize, and a thrill at following orders to use the techniques laid out in this class. If you don’t already have that in the toolkit, you might want to stick to something gentler, like regular updates from Flylady.

We got a bit of a late start, and nothing sets a tone like your Time Management instructor being late, but he had us at “log On.”

Here are the rules:
You must not use your Inbox as a storage device.
You must not fear deletion.
You must get off distribution lists that deliver mail you don’t read.
You must turn messages into tasks and tasks into appointments and you must keep your appointments.

From there it is really just a matter of doing it. And you’re thinking, if I can’t do the ONE task, which is empty my mailbox, how do you think I can do all that? And, honey, I don’t know. But I never worried less about my unread mail since it came in manila envelopes tied with string – 1995, to be precise.

It means giving up an hour a day (an HOUR? Who has an HOUR? That’s me, quoting you.) to manage mail and you have to promise yourself not to bother with it the rest of the time. Oh read it, if you must, you big coward, but if you can’t DELETE it and you can’t DO it in under 2 minutes, you are supposed to leave it alone until your mail handling time.

When it is mail handling time, ask yourself what you have to DO in response to this silly message, and if you can actually delegate it to someone else (you know who you are). But if you can’t, and it exceeds the 2 minute rule, then right NOW, right THERE, put it on your calendar.

"What about my other meetings?" (that’s you again. When I do you, I make a pouty face and whine. That is so like you.) What about them? When you put this task on your calendar, show time as “Free,” then people can still schedule a meeting in that spot, and if you need to accept the meeting, then you drag your task to some other empty spot in the same motion that you accept the meeting.

Rigid, right? Whose blog is this anyway?

My email handling hour is now my favorite hour in the workday, except the weekly calendar review, which is like every email handling day in the week happening at once. Says a lot about the job, I realize. But I found 6 hours where I feel productive and in control, have the time to reflect on my workload, plan for the future, and organize my thoughts. 34 more hours to go.

Have a great week!


  1. You know your audience so well. That's exactly the voice and face I was making as I protested aloud.

  2. Thanks to years of OCD training, I actually do keep my Outlook pretty tight. No hour a day... an email comes in and I make a decision. Delete, TO DO folder, or file away in neatly organized personal folders (thats .pst to you). :-) Voila.


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