Problems as I see them with Outlook 2007 and time management

  • Thread starter The Markster... making copies
  • Start date


The Markster... making copies

First, a little background on my day. I'm a computer consultant. About 50%
of my day is spent at my office doing computer nerd tricks, and the other 50%
is spent around town doing computer nerd tricks at my clients' offices.

I have a combination of what you would call "tasks" and "appointments",
tasks being general things I need to get done and appointments being
scheduled meetings or on-site service calls involving a client. Up until now
I've always kept them separate, using Outlook Tasks for tasks, and Calendar
for appointments. Makes sense, I figured. Well as it turns out, I tend to
schedule my days start to finish with appointments and so my task list grew
bigger and bigger with tasks that never got done because I didn't leave gaps
in my schedule to work on them.

So recently I looked into Outlook's ability to assign appointments to Tasks
in the Calendar. Perfect, right? Well, um... actually no. I'll spell out
my grievances and some suggestions for the Office team.

1) When you schedule a task in the Calendar there's no indication of what
type of appointment it is, unless I assign a category manually. How about an
automatic flag or glint or something to save me the trouble?

2) If I complete or delete a task before its scheduled appointment, the
appointment remains on the Calandar even though I don't need it, taking up
valuable time I could be scheduling out. A "completed" Task should result in
a "completed" appointment too, with the obvious optino to filter those out of
the Calendar views.

3) If I look at my (sometimes quite long) Task list, there's no at-a-glace
way to tell if a Task hasn't been assigned a Calendar appointment to get it
done. Or at least I couldn't find a way.

4) If I open a Task there's no way to easily open the corresponding
appointment, I have to manually go to the Calendar and find it. The opposite
is also true, that if I open an Appointment there's no easy way to open the
associate Task other than to manually hunt it down. I'd like to see a
link/button on both sides that will open the associated Task or Appointment.
I'd also like a link/button on the Task's window to open the Calendar to the
day of the associated Appointment with it highlighted so that I can see it in
the context of my schedule that day/week/month.

5) If my schedule doesn't work out as planned there's no way to
automatically indicate that an Appointment scheduled task has been missed and
needs to be rescheduled. I have to manually go through my scheduled tasks to
see which ones I might have missed at the end of the day and re-schedule
them. Appointment's related to a completed Task should have a visual
indication of this, and Appointments occuring in the past associated with an
incomplete task should be highlighted as such.

6) If I reschedule an Appointment associated with a Task to a date beyond
the Task's due date, it doesn't update the Task nor warn me that the new
Appointment time is outside the due date. They are simply ignorant of each
other's date information.

All of these limitations are enough to prevent me from using Tasks in their
present form. In short, Tasks and Appointments just aren't integrated
tightly enough to make them useful (to me) or reliable enough to ensure that
I'm getting what I need done without significant user input. What I am
currently doing is immediately creating an Appointment for anything I need to
get done and not creating an Outlook Task for it at all. During my day I
rescedule those appointments as needed and I recheck my Calendar at the end
of the day to make sure my "tasks" were either completed or properly
rescheduled. I use Categories to help me distiguish on the Calendar view
between appointments in and out of the office, and "tasks" in the office. I
*know* that all of my "tasks" are in one place and are scheduled some time to
get done. Some of them get pushed around a lot, but it still works better
than trying to get Tasks and Calendar to have enough in common.

I've found some third-party addins that help with my problems but none of
them are perfect. I feel that these features should be built-in to Office,
hopefully in a future version or SP.

If you have a solution to any of the issues I've raised I am very open to
suggestion, however I only wrote this as a suggestion for future improvement
so don't see this as an urgent cry for help.

Thanks for reading!

-Mark L

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Diane Poremsky [MVP]

This type of integration will not be in an SP and probably not in a future
versions. Tasks are things that need done at no specific time, appointments
are things that need done at a specific time and they really don't mix. Use
categories and views to view tasks by different criteria so you can see what
needs done.

It sounds like you need to either block off time to work on tasks or
prioritize them better. I would not create appointments for individual tasks
(except those that require an extended uninterrupted period of time to
complete), but would block off a time period each day (or week) to work on
all tasks - say from 8 -9 am or 4 -5 pm daily or 3x a week. Break them up
by type of task and assign categories - ie, use a phone call category for
all phone call tasks then make all the calls at the same time. If a task
requires a block of uninterrupted time, make an appointment to block off the
time to do it, but this should be the exception rather than the rule.

1. Why is assigning a category too hard? Tasks and Calendars are not linked
so outlook is not going to do anything automatic to alert you that you set
aside time to complete a task using an appointment.
2. Why are you making an appointment for the task then not keeping the
3. You'll need to use categories to mark tasks as "assigned" to
4. Either link the task to the appointments or insert it as an attachment

Microsoft is working on a Best Practices white paper and I think you'll
benefit from it, once its released.
Diane Poremsky [MVP - Outlook]

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"The Markster... making copies"

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