Webinar Report: Making Outlook Work for You by Sinead Collins

Sinead Collins from E-Bridge painted an all too familiar picture of full email inboxes, continuous distractions/interruptions and the lack of one central place to prioritise work to explain why it can be so difficult to be productive and get work done.

In the latest lunchtime bytes webinar from the ICBE Aviation Skillnet entitled ‘Making Outlook Work for You’ Sinead explained how to start taking control of your email and workload, rather than then them controlling you.

Without taking action the relentless flow of requests, treating all emails as equal and not having a robust work process leads to a lot of stress, procrastination and ultimately a loss of productivity.

“You need to strive to achieve an empty inbox at the end of each day, have one central location to store all your tasks and establish a way to prioritise work effectively” explained Sinead, further adding that the combination of obedience to a process and leveraging the right tools can help achieve these.

Key to good time management are the 4 D’s which when applied to email and tasks mean you have to make a rapid decision to deal with incoming email and tasks covering

  • Do it
  • Drop it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it 

In her live demo of outlook Sinead recommended that people customise their view of outlook from the default setting by:

  • Turn off notifications so you check when suits you
  • Turn off the reading pane and preview for email 
  • Set calendar for week view
  • Set the to do list and calendar first over email
  • Untick compact so you see the words (tasks etc) rather than icons
  • Set up folders and sub folder
  • Always use full screen

These cosmetic changes radically transform the approach to using outlook, effectively delegating email to a lesser visual priority with a focus on jobs to be done and a rapid visualisation of their status.

Next Sinead shared the list of short cuts she uses (see full list in below pdf).

To do lists can greatly aid productivity but the Tasks function take them a step further with the ability to rank the according to priority (rather than just chronological order) and also the simplicity of changing their status and details.

By walking through the 4Ds Sinead demonstrated how each of these actions are done in Outlook  by showing how to turn emails into tasks, prioritising them, completing them and adding appropriate start/due dates.

Key to the success of harnessing the email deluge through allocation to tasks and calendars is using the shortcuts as this greatly adds to speed and keep it as one touch management.

The clarity that having a zero inbox, a well organised list of jobs to be done and preordained timetable of work cannot be underestimated but Sinead also warned that you need to be realistic about start/due dates so that people do not only begin tasks when they are flagged as due.

Taking time to get organised, setting up outlook for maximum efficiency, understanding the flow between email, task and calendar combined with being rigorous and disciplined requires some degree of change management.  However the problem it solves face us all daily and the promise of a clearer, less stress mind while getting our work done is very alluring. 

The webinar was snapshot of what Sinead and Ebridge cover in their  full programme on Practical Productivity using MS Outlook.  Anyone interested in a deeper diver and the expanded programme can email maeve@icbe.ie.



You can browse Sinead’s presentation below.