Do these top 5 tasks today and plan for a better tomorrow with Outlook


by Margaret Kavanagh

Application: Microsoft Outlook 2000/2002/2003/2007/2010/2013

Operating System: Microsoft Windows


Like most people, you probably use precious time in the morning to plan your day’s work and review your scheduled tasks. But, by following our instructions today on how to prepare for tomorrow using Outlook, you can dive right in and make the most of every morning minute.

To stop wasting time and maximize your morning hours, we’ll:

  • Give you a valuable worksheet so you can organize your thoughts in one place.
  • Set limits and goals for each task so you have a clear idea of your entire day’s work.
  • Schedule your day around your workload to give you a realistic and attainable daily plan.

You’ve heard it before: Planning is the key to success. But why wait until first thing in the morning to do your planning for the day? By scheduling your day’s tasks the night before, you’re ready to dig into your work as soon as you have your first cup of coffee in hand. We’ll show you ways to quickly outline your next day’s activities so you can hit the ground running each day.

Get your priorities straight

Chances are you’re better prepared to plot out your work while it’s fresh in your mind, so rather than wait until at least 12 hours have elapsed, why not jot it down while you’re wrapping up your current day’s work.

As you can see in Figure A, we’ve created a worksheet to help you prioritize your next day’s activities. You can download this worksheet from the URL shown at the beginning of this article or create your own from scratch. Keep a stack of worksheets handy and, at the end of each day, grab a new sheet and fill it out, taking time to compare it with the previous day’s sheet. We’ll describe each section next.

Note: The goal to this daily exercise is for you to help yourself save time and stay organized. So, don’t spend too much time on your planning worksheet each day. Treat it as an “off the top of your head” list of tasks and keep in mind that it’s subject to change, depending on what each new day presents.


A: At the end of each day, jot down items to work on while they’re still fresh in your mind. Don’t forget to check the previous day’s sheet for leftover items.

Top 5 need-to-do tasks

At the end of the day, at least five minutes before you leave the office, quickly fill out the top chart on your worksheet with items you must attend to during the next day. Include any of the following:

  • Scheduled meetings
  • Unscheduled meetings
  • Phone calls to make
  • Email to send
  • Documents or worksheets to fill out
  • Files to organize
  • Errands to attend to
  • Purchases to make

Include anything that you must finish by the close of business. For each item, ask yourself, “Do I absolutely need to complete this tomorrow?” If the answer is yes, enter it here and include the name of anyone the task involves. (For instance, if you need to call a coworker, list her name here.) If the answer is no, save it for the next section. Don’t list more than five tasks and don’t worry about their order just yet.

Top 5 nice-to-do tasks

Now, jump to the next section and fill in up to five items for which you answered no in the previous step. Include items that you’d like to fit into your schedule, but that aren’t as time-sensitive as your need-to-do tasks. Again, limit yourself to five items and don’t prioritize them. Fill in this section as quickly as you can, without adding a lot of detail to each entry.

Top 5 will-get-to tasks

Finally, list other items that you must complete before the end of the week. As usual, include no more than five tasks, list contact names, and don’t prioritize the items. Finish your list as rapidly as possible. The trick is to save time by completing the process quickly and accurately without devoting a lot of precious time to it.

Each day, review the tasks in the previous day’s will-get-to section to determine whether it’s time to move them to the need-to-do list. At the same time, make a mental note of tasks that you need to schedule within the next day or so. 

Set a time limit

Now that you’ve filled in your upcoming tasks, you need to add time estimates to each one. Again, do so as quickly as you can for each section. For instance, if you know a phone call will be brief, dedicate just a few minutes to it. But, if the person you’re calling tends to chat, assign the call a longer block of time. As shown in Figure B, we assigned 1.5 hours to Karen’s meeting, even though she only scheduled an hour, because we know her meetings usually run long.


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