Outlook Tasks and Your Paper Planner – the Ultimate System

You like making your to-do list on paper but your business is on Microsoft Outlook. Until now, you might have thought that using both planning tools was a difficult juggling act.

Well, not any more.

Follow these steps to make a more useful task list and benefit from using a paper planner with Outlook:


1) Create your Master Task List in Outlook

Designate Outlook Tasks as your Master Task list. It’s the holding place for all activities you must do and hope to do in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Type in your tasks, keeping your details simple. Just use due date, category and a descriptive task name with an action verb.

* Power Tip: Use the Outlook keyboard shortcut Ctrl+N (Mac: Command+N) for making a new task

2) Make Tasks from email

Since many of your tasks come via email, you should learn this valuable shortcut for making Tasks from your email messages: (example uses Outlook 2003)

  • Highlight your message
  • Go to Edit menu, and select Copy to Folder


  • Choose Tasks icon as the folder you wish to copy to


  • Create a descriptive task name (email subjects typically isn’t actionable) “follow-up on sales email”
  • Create a task due date (and category, if you use them)
  • Save and Close (details from the email message will be contained in task notes)

 * Power Tip: When you’re out and about, email yourself task ideas using your smartphone and then convert them to an Outlook Task when you get back in office.

4) Make your morning list

Each morning, spend 5 minutes at your computer going through your Outlook Task list:

  • Check off tasks you completed and crossed off in your planner yesterday
  • Choose tasks you hope to accomplish in the day ahead
  • Write your new list down into your paper planner’s to-do list
  • Label your tasks A,B,C and 1,2,3 by order of importance and activity (see this post for how-to)

The act of writing out your tasks makes it easier to follow through because it establishes a more memorable, more personal commitment to the activity.

* Power Tip: For the sake of work-life balance and stress management, be sure to include both priority and non-priority tasks, and work and non-work related tasks.

5) Take it with you

What’s great about this method is that you can take your Outlook Task list with you. Just print it out and stuff it into your planner. It’s a great fall-back plan for the days you’re too busy to write, or on Friday afternoon when you might be leaving your computer for a few days.

* Power Tip: Make it a habit to have a Sunday brainstorm session where you write down all the tasks that come to mind on your printed Task list. You can then update your Outlook Tasks when you get back to your computer on Monday.

Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at jeff.doubek@daytimer.com