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A few months ago we blogged about the new To-Do Bar in Outlook 2007, and today I'm going to expand on that by talking about the new Daily Task List, and how you can use it together with the To-Do Bar as a pretty cool little task-and-time-management system.
Every good feature starts with a real-world problem, and the Daily Task List's problem is: “How do I relate the stuff I have to do (my task list) with the time I have to do it (my calendar)?”
Outlook's approach is to carve out some space at the bottom of your calendar and use that to show you the tasks for that day. These are the exact same tasks (including flagged mails) that you see in the To-Do Bar.
This area is called the Daily Task List. It shows in both the “Day” and “Week” views in the calendar, and for me, the Week view is where it really shines. Every Monday morning I spend about 10 minutes looking at my accumulated tasks for the week, typing in new ones, and assigning them to days of the week based on when they're due, or when I think I'll have time to get to them - like dealing out a deck of cards.
Since these are the same tasks you see in the To-Do Bar, when you move them to a different day on your calendar, their dates are updated in the To-Do Bar as well.
Note that tasks assigned to "No Date" don't show up in the Daily Task List, since, well, there's no date for them to appear on. This makes "No Date" a good place to stash tasks that you'd like to get to some day, but that really don't have a deadline. (Tip: you can hide them in the To-Do Bar as well by double-clicking on the "No Date" header. Then you can use "Today", "Tomorrow", etc, just for things that really do have deadlines.)
You can add tasks on any day simply by clicking on any blank space in the Daily Task List:
3. Press Enter
So the Daily Task List provides an easy visual way to organize your tasks. But an even bigger value for me is that it simply keeps my tasks visible when I’m looking at my calendar. Collectively, the To-Do Bar and the Daily Task List ensure that wherever I go, my tasks are there, so they never get forgotten. (Or perhaps more accurately, so that I cannot escape them.) I'm apparently in good company here - Bill Gates wrote a couple of weeks ago that he started using tasks in Outlook 2007 for precisely this reason.
If you use the Daily Task List a lot, another tip is to turn on the To-Do Bar in the Calendar (View > To-Do Bar > Normal). It's off by default in the Calendar because most of the information in it is already visible. But turning it on makes it easier to drag tasks to future weeks – just switch to next week in the calendar, and your tasks from today or this week will still be accessible in the To-Do Bar. Note that I’ve switched my Calendar here to show only my work week (View > Work Week).
This also highlights another thing I like about the Daily Task List, which is that in terms of planning my time, it's a nice middle ground between a task list and a set of detailed task appointments. The list is often a bit too much to deal with all at once. And the appointments tend to need a lot of maintenance, since the tasks can slide around during the day, as meetings, fire drills, and other Events From Real Life intervene. The separate task area at the bottom is "fuzzy time" - I plan to do this task approximately on this day, but there's some wiggle room. And since these are the same tasks you see in the To-Do Bar, they have all the same smarts, including rolling over to the next day if you don't finish them.
One cool way in which the Daily Task List is different from the To-Do Bar is that when you complete a task, it does not disappear. Instead, it stays put, with a highly satisfying strikethrough:
Furthermore, the completed task then stays put on that day, allowing you to build up even more satisfying records of your accomplishments over the week:
Which you can then survey smugly on Friday afternoons. Or lament the lack of, depending how your week goes. Of course, if you find your completed tasks to be pointless clutter, you also have the option of turning them off (View > Daily Task List > Arrange By > Show Completed Tasks.) From the same menu, you can also change the arrangement to Start Date if that is how you prefer to work.
Do you use the Daily Task List? Why or why not? What's working for you, and what's not? Let us know! We love hearing from you.
Owen Braun Outlook Lead Program Manager
Great post! This will be really very helpful to me. Many thanks. Fran McKeagney
When I loaded 2007 I poked around a little and noticed one view with the calendar on the wrong side so I fixed it and never looked back :-). I wouldn't have taken another look if you hadn't written this post. I can't tell you how long I have looked for features like this :-). Next time I flip to a new version perhaps I'll take a little longer and explore (nah.. :-). Thanks for pointing this out. -Ed
Manager, Business Integration Web Services
I find it cute but not very useful. For example, what happens when I assign Tasks to colleagues? They show up here as if they were mine to do and I cannot add the Owner Field to show that they are not. So anyone working with Tasks in a team environment finds that their Daily Task List shows a whole jumble of Tasks. The reduction of configuration settings for Tasks in 2007's Calendar (Daily To Do List and To Do Bar) is negatively affecting power users of Tasks. Maybe it's getting some new Tasks users on board because it's more cute. Cute does not necessarilly improve productivity. The low Tasks visibility issue that now means that in 2007 one can "ensure that wherever I go, my tasks are there, so they never get forgotten." Was caused by the TaskPad being removed from Outlook 2003's default settings! The TaskPad in all earlier versions was by default ON and highly configurable using the Field Chooser and Group By settings, as well as filters and Automatic Formatting. Judy Gleeson, MVP Outlook
aka "queen of Tasks"
I'm sure that html and css must be swear words for the outlook team by now. And I know this isn't the best place to log this comment but I'm sick of looking for a solution, or the correct place for reporting bugs to someone who might give a damn. At least if I put it here, someone might read it. The trust centre section entitled "Automatic Download" and with a description that talks about pictures, clearly breaks the use of external css files if selected. I can understand, what with it being so easy to remap different filenames to cgi scripts etc. on a web server, but this is clearly a breakdown in usability, as the section is talking about pictures and not CSS. And if the function is enabled, you can allow downloading of pictures from sites in the trusted zone, but NOT css files. I have a backup script which sends an html email with nice css formatting to me and my team, alerting of any irregularities in the backups by the use of different css tags, and using our companies corporate website css file for branding. But it appears as though the only way to make this system work is to either a) enable automatic downloading of pictures from all websites, and potentially confirming to any spammers that my email address is real, or b) include the css as part of the html, increasing it's size unnecessarily I'm very unimpressed by Outlook and Microsoft. not that they give a monkeys! Anyone feel like restoring my confidence? Hamish
Very interesting post, but am I missing something -
1) No muti day tasks?
2) No linking tasks with calendar? I.e. assigning a time slot to a task.
On reading this post I think I may be going the wrong way about using tasks..
I understand the logic of "fuzzy time tasks” for short period task like “phone jack”, “email jane”, “enter comment on outlook blog that will hopefully get answered..” This is great improvement, and very easy to use, and assign tasks However how do you suggest you deal with a longer task, i.e. write a report for a customer by following Friday that the boss has requested by email for me to do? I would like to:-
1) Assign time in the calendar to work on this report on a number of different days, i.e. blocked out like a appointment.
2) Have the task and calendar linked, so if information in the task, or any blocked out time in the calendar is changed or added to, this is updated in the rest.
3) That the overall time is recorded in completing this task is shown in the task by adding up all the time blocks in the calendar.
4) The time blocks in the calendar can be moved or extended, or reduced. Say I was to work on this from 1 to 2, and at 1:30 and urgent email came in, that required attention, then could reduce the blocked time to 1:30. Or even better have a timer that opens when you click the blocked out appointment that you can click start or stop when you are working on this. Then will have the planned and actual time spent on the task.
If you could write a blog on this it would really help a lot of people, as maybe we are looking at how to deal with this differently to who Microsoft would deal with it. The above blog did make me say “O I see”, “yes I get “, “doing it that way really makes sense”. I might even use task after all.
Presently I assign a task, and drag this to multiple times within the calendar, but as you say real life events make this a mess, as there is no link, I have to go and search for the task to update the work time and any other information. In the end I don’t use tasks at all and the report always late..
Just leaving the tasks at the bottom of the day makes it very hard to see the amount of work you have, i.e. a 2 min task looks very similar to a 2 day task! The amount of times I been stuffed as I work through the tasks and come to a task that requires more time to complete than I have as I have not allocated time to it.. Ps don’t tell my boss about this...
roryma, I know you may consider this a workaround, but for tasks that require you to block off time, as many of mind do, just schedule an appointment to work on that task. It will let the boss see how busy you are on that task. At the block of time, you can then refer to the task item (neatly at the bottom of the day) and update your next actions (depending on what guru you follow, if any) and the %complete. I say make tasks the check off list, but use the calendar to schedule their completion. Will
I don't think most people really get To Dos. They're suppose to be simple. To Dos are not scheduling software; they're simple lists to keep track of what you have and haven't done... The above thingy is more scheduling than To Do. Here's the other thing, I think for certain tasks scheduling is better, but for many other things a simple To Do list works well.... It doesn't really matter what To Do thing you use, but I like the online ones better, specifically ZoToDo.com , a daily to do list
Is there a way to have the Tasks list show on the bottom of the screen at the same time as the messages Inbox? I would like to be able to have the Tasks always displayed whether I am looking directly through the Task or Calendar of Inbox. I do not use the calendar much so this is why I am asking this.
Hi. I work on a network that uses tasks in outlook on a daily basis. But we categorize tasks' priority as follows:
1. Urgent and important
4. Not urgent and not important I want to know please how can I replace outlook values "Low, High and Normal" for priority with these values. I would also like to know how to change the way "Outlook Today" displays those tasks, so that it displays "Urgent and important" at the top, next "urgent" and so on... Thanks.
@Hazar I use the same 1,2,3,4 priority as you do. The way I've been able to get around it is by adding one of these values at the beginning of my task subject/description (ie, 1:Draft proposal). Then you can sort by task subject in ascending order and all the 1 items will be at the top of the list, followed by the 2 items, followed by the 3 items, and so forth.
I've just switched from Outlook 2003 to 2007 and I'm really, really trying to make the To-Do Bar and Daily Task List work as well as "Active Tasks for Selected Days" did (and which was dropped in Outlook 2007). Unfortunately, it really doesn't work as well if you are a Task "power user". For example, in TaskPad in Outlook 2003 you could easily copy a task by dragging with the right-mouse button and choosing "Copy". This functionality has now gone. I regularly copied an existing task, marked one as complete then moved the other forward when, for example, ringing someone (who wasn't there) but wanting to leave myself another note to do it in a few days with a record that I had tried today. If the Daily Task List was groupable by category, that would help. Unfortunately, Outlook 2007, for me, is a great looking product which has gone way backwards with Task functionality from 2003. Shame!
I am using Outlook 2007 and my emails are also shopwing in the ToDo list. How can I turn off the emails in this list and just get the tasks to show.
Nick, If you want to see only tasks in the To-Do Bar, you can change the view - see: blogs.msdn.com/.../Make-your-To_2D00_Do-Bar-only-show-tasks-.aspx for how to do this. Unfortunately, the view in the Daily Task List cannot be filtered, but you can turn on the To-Do Bar in the Calendar. -Melissa
roryma, December 19, 2007 9:02 AM
+1, I totally agree.