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Using Outlook effectively: part 2 – the tasks feature

Most accountants use Outlook for emails but often overlook the tasks feature. Making the most of tasks saves time, repetition and the fear of forgetting something.

A task is an item that you create in Outlook and track to completion.

It can occur once or repeatedly. A recurring task can repeat at regular intervals (eg, sending a status report on a specific day monthly) or repeat based on the date on which the task is 'complete'.

Both tasks and 'to do' items appear in Tasks, the To-Do Bar and the Daily Task List in Calendar. No matter which view you use, the To-Do Bar keeps you informed.

Creating a new task

There are several methods:

  • enter a task in the Type a New Task text box in the To-Do Bar;
  • use the Task command: click New on the File menu;
  • type in any blank space in the Daily Task List in Calendar; or
  • use the New Task text box at the top of Tasks view.

Of these, the fastest is the To-Do Bar.

The subject line will appear in your reminders, so needs to be concise.

You can use the body of the task for additional information (eg, specific steps to take or progress so far). You can also attach related documents, spreadsheets and emails, keeping everything you need together.

Managing tasks

Having created a task, set its Start date and Due date. If you specify a Start date, the Due date field is automatically set to the same day. You can change the Due date.

You can set the reminder to be earlier than the Due date, eg, to break the project down into manageable sections.

To set the task to recur: go to the Tasks tab; select the Options group; and click Recurrence. In the Task Recurrence dialog box, click the frequency (Daily, Weekly, Monthly or Yearly) with which the task should recur, and then select one of the following:

  • regular recurrence: in the Recurrence pattern section, select the frequency interval required; or
  • recurrence based on completion date: select Regenerate new task and type the amount of time after which a new task must be generated.

Assigning tasks

Having created a task, you may wish to assign it while retaining an overview. For example, you might want status reports and updates on the progress of the task. If the recipient rejects the task, you can reassign it or take it back.

To assign a task: first create it; then send it as a task request to someone. The person who receives the request becomes the temporary owner of the task. They can decline, accept, or assign the task in their turn. If they decline, the task returns to you (though note that the task is still owned by the recipient until you reclaim ownership by returning it to your own list).

If the recipient accepts the task, they become its permanent owner. If they later assign the task to someone else, the new assignee becomes the owner.

The owner is the only person who can make changes to the task. When an owner updates a task, Outlook will update all copies, including the originator and all prior owners. When the owner completes the task, Outlook automatically sends a status report to the originator, all other prior owners and anyone who requested a report.

To assign a new task on the file menu, point to new, and then click Task request.

To assign an existing task, open the task; on the task tab, in the Manage Task group, click Assign Task.

In the To field, enter the name or email address of the person to whom you want to assign the task.

In the Subject field, type a name for the task.

Select the due date and the status options that you want.

Select or clear the following check boxes:

  • 'Keep an updated copy of this task on my task list'; and
  • 'Send me a status report when this task is complete'.

If you want the task to recur: on the Tasks tab, in the Options group, click Recurrence; select the required options; then click OK.

In the body of the recurring task, type any information that you want to include in the task. Click send.

December 2013