My “Man V. Food” Method to Getting Re-Organized Using Outlook Tasks

My mother once told me my biggest strength was my organizational skills. I must admit, when I put the effort into it, I am an incredible organizer. I love having everything in its particular place, paperwork filed, bills paid, laundry sorted and things very tidy. It just makes me feel better.

However, lately, I’ve fallen out of it with travel and my husband getting in an auto accident, which resulted in a mound of paperwork that has been consuming my evenings. When I fall out of my organization, I start to panic and I can end of focusing on being overwhelmed with tasks rather than completing them.

This does no one any good.

My position at work is an interesting one. This is my sixth year and my third position at this company so I’ve accumulated a lot of responsibilities. There are things I really have no business doing, but ultimately, I am the one most suited to do the task. I have one manager, but also report to other managers and receive multiple requests from all departments each day. Organizing my work can be quite daunting, but is incredibly necessary if I want to succeed.

I am never without my trusty notepad. My current one was started almost a year ago and tracks all requests, phone messages, ideas, you name it. The problem is when my tasks increase, it can get difficult to get a good view of what I really need to accomplish unless it is nicely summarized in an orderly fashion for me. Sound familiar?

THE METHOD

So what’s a good way to get started? Tackling all tasks at once is too overwhelming. Think of any of the Man Versus Food episodes when Adam Richman has several pounds of food to eat; he always starts with a game plan of the most efficient way to eat the food.

Think of your to-do list just like Adam thinks of his eating contests:

  • What is the goal?
  • What is the time limit?
  • What can be done in quick nibbles?
  • What is going to require a bunch of steady bites?
  • What can be cut into smaller pieces to finish bit by bit?

Viewing your workload in the Man V Food method makes tasks easier to accomplish because you can view each task as a bite of your work meal.

ORGANIZATIONAL PROGRAMS

There are tons of task management websites and software available, but sometimes, it feels like that’s an extra task in itself. I started with a free account with ToDoist.com and I was pleased with the initial features. However, to really get what I wanted out of it would cost $29 a year which is very reasonable, but I decided I would stick to my Outlook Tasks instead.

If you’ve ever used your tasks function in Outlook, you may remember how annoying it can be. Tons of red items popping up, reminders you keep having to dismiss, followed by canning the whole thing and ending up a dis-organized mess again. But, when used correctly, Outlook tasks can be a great tool.

Here are some features I really like:

  • Status: You can update the status of each task as a reminder. Waiting on an answer from someone? Simply update the status and set a reminder to follow up.
  • Send Status Report: Maybe you have a list of tasks required by one person. You can create a task for the list to keep tabs on everything required, format using bullet points, highlighting, whatever you want, then set a reminder to send them an update at a specified time. Simply click on Send Status Report and send them an update in one easy email.
  • Assign Task: Maybe you need others to complete tasks for you. Just enter the details in a new task and send to the recipient. Set reminders for them and request to be notified when the task is marked as complete. Set recurrence for recurring tasks.
  • A LOAD of sorting options: Outlook provides multiple options to customize the view exactly how you want it. I like having a preview window below so I can see the details of each task, sort each task by due date, separate them by how soon each is due and have status showing.

PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION

Your desk might be covered in stacks of paperwork as well, adding to the stress of your workload, but this is manageable as well.  Sort paperwork into sections as applicable and stay on top of filing when tasks are completed.

Here’s what works for me:

  • To be handled/current projects: this is a place for anything I’m currently working on that I might need quick access to.
  • Waiting: this is where I put paperwork that is pending approval or a response from someone.
  • To be filed: this is where I put paperwork when it is completed.  Set aside a time each day or week to file this paperwork so it doesn’t pile up.

By getting yourself organized better, you will be able to accomplish tasks more efficiently and completely and show off your competence to complete whatever comes your way.

How do you stay on top of all your tasks?

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2 comments

  1. Sally,

    The way you use Outlook is the way I get my work done in Mantis, which is free. I did use Outlook as a To-Do list and for reminders, but Outlook is a beast when it comes to memory usage and it can feel very very slow at times. Mantis is a bug tracking system that is often used in the software biz to organize tasks – it’s not the best way to do it, but bug tracking tools can be applied to tracking tasks to a great extent.

    I’m looking forward to your post on what managers wish their employees knew.

    -Nitin

    Like

    1. Nitin-Thanks for the great tip! I’m always looking for ways to improve my efficiency and organization. Mantis is definitely not something I ever would have searched for, but it definitely makes sense. I will look into it.

      I’m very much looking forward to that upcoming blog as well. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback so far so I should have a lot of valuable content.

      Thanks!

      Like

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