Mix Outlook with a Paper Planner for a Productive Day

Do you have a paper planner and Microsoft Outlook but can’t decide which to use? Here is some practical advice for making them work together.

It’s a common scenario: you use Outlook at work, yet enjoy the experience of using a paper planner for managing your life. Frustration often occurs when trying to juggle two different systems. The good news is, you don’t have to give up one for the other – you can successfully combine Microsoft Outlook with your paper day planner for a dependable and productive planning solution.

Know your roles

The Outlook and day planner relationship works best if you properly define the roles of each tool. Outlook should be your “master” scheduling device. You should maintain all time-sensitive data here. If it’s tied into your work network most appointments begin here already, and it offers terrific reminder features.

Your paper planner, on the other hand, should serve as your portable all-purpose tool. It works great while on the go or at your desk — just flip it open for access to your daily plan. (Outlook can be a distraction, especially while working in other computer programs.)

Follow this daily routine:

– Sync your day: Establish a time for planning your day ahead. Typically, I recommend the morning for this activity, however many enjoy planning at day’s end. Make it a routine by setting aside at least 15 minutes each day.

– Review on paper: Run through your day planner and extract all task and appointment notes from the previous day. Input this information directly into Outlook, making certain to include start dates and due dates. Important tip: Always reference in Outlook where the task or appointment request was found in your paper planner notes, in case you want to refer back later

– Process your email: Scan your past day’s messages and create tasks from those that require follow-up action. Simply open the message, open the “File” menu, choose “Copy to folder,” and select “tasks” from the drop-down menu. Important tip: Create new task subject headings that more specifically address the action required.

– Update your paper planner: First, go to your Outlook task screen and copy into your planner the tasks you need and want to do today. Next, go to your Outlook calendar and update today’s appointments in your planner. Then, go to your monthly calendars and copy into your planner any schedule updates for the week and month ahead. If you perform this routine daily, keeping your tasks and schedules in-sync is a quick, reliable process.

Important notes:

– As you go about your day, use the tool that is most convenient. In other words, hand-write notes for new tasks and appointments if you’re using your planner for activities such as taking meeting notes, and create Outlook tasks and appointments if you’re reading email. As long as you perform the daily sync your system will be current.

– Printing out your Outlook schedule is the preferred choice of many. Use Day-Timer’s Print Your Own planning pages.

A final thought to remember: Stick to your daily plan. As new urgent tasks arise through the email and conversations of your day, you must decide whether they take priority over those that you’ve already assigned yourself.

How have you found success in achieving your goals? Please share your ideas by commenting to this post. If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS.

15 thoughts on “Mix Outlook with a Paper Planner for a Productive Day

  1. To print out the outlook calendar page for daily planning with both Daytimer Desk and Daytimer Folio, what page and paper size definition do we use in outlook MS Office 2003. None of the options seem to give an easy fit to printing onto an A4 page. Obviously with the Desk size planner you want to print in landscape to fit it to half a page. Cheers D

  2. Help–I can’t seem to find any of the commands you list under “Process your email” in Outlook 2007!

    1. Cheryl,

      I’m sorry for the confusion. Outlook 2007 users will find the copy function on the “Message” tab in the “Actions” group, click “Move to Folder” and then select “Copy to Folder.”

      Hope this helps — Jeff

  3. Does this program work with other systems other than MS Outlook? I use lotus notes would this work with that?

    1. Janet,

      Creating a digital/paper system does not refer to Outlook only. You can create your own system in Lotus or any other digital planning software you choose.

      Thanks for your comments — Jeff

    1. Hi John,

      Use the print button that is located in the “Share this” line at the bottom of the post. If you hover over the share button you will see a print option.

      Thanks — Jeff

  4. Glad to help Anne! Please give the suggestions a try and check back in with me and tell me how it’s going.

    1. Jeff –

      Still don’t have it down on getting everything entered into outlook for appointments etc. But the entering tasks from email is great it is really simplifying things and keeping me on track

      I will let you know when I get the other part of the system down as well


  5. Thanks! This is exactly the kind of system that I have been looking for, but could not figure out a good way to accomplish it – probably because I am really a paper and pen person.

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