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.

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.

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

  1. I used to have a program called Daytimer 2000 that would print out my schedule on Daytimer paper, alas the program is no more…so now I use a program on my IPad called Cozi and it syncs with Outlook and Google …use a paper Daytimer less and less because it is a pain to carry around and I can’t print it

  2. Okay… I have been doing this since I got my DayTimer Organizer software back in 1996. Outlook does not work well for me, but little matter, because I am retired. I do have a crazy schedule, so I use pencil notations on my planner pages (printed from DTO) and remove the extraneous stuff when I print a replacement page.

    1. What is the last version of the dot software that you have? Do you know anyplace that I could find it to put on a laptop to be able to print out Dot pages? I have reams of paper for the Software but the computer the program was on is dead

      1. Yahoo Groups: Daytimer is search term to use. They have a couple of different types. Since DTO was never intended to be used past the XP version of Windows, you may need some help getting it to run correctly. I use a Vista laptop — no problems installing or using it, but I installed from “Safe Mode”. They have the last version in their “Files” section. I still have a CD, but it is not the most recent edition/version. The listowner forthe group and the group members are very helpful when things do not want to run correctly. Give it a try!

  3. I’ve been using Outlook and my Day-Timer for years but go a step further. Since I have a desktop at home and use a laptop when I travel, I use Google for my email. I can sync the Outlook calendar with my Google calendar and only have to update one calendar for both computers. Naturally, the Day-Timer has everything in writing and I can take notes to transfer when I’m away from both electronic devices. My preference is to update the night before so my morning has a fresh start.

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