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TIP: Improve weekly planning in your Outlook Calendar

Here are some quick tips to improve your productivity with the Outlook calendar:

Weekly Planning:
Screenshot of regular and planning calendar side by side in Outlook 2007 

Create a second calendar for planning your week. Choose File | New | Calendar... and name it Planning.

In the planning calendar, make a general weekly planning by creating recurring appointments. Set their status like this: free status for home stuff, tentative status for work stuff, and busy status for must-do weekly items (backup, etc).

Assign meaningful categories to these appointments (work, phone, email, errands, home, garden, etc.) and make extensive use of Outlook's color categories. If you only need a few categories, give every one of them a distinct color.
If you plan on using lots of categories, assign the colors based on billable status (green = home stuff, blue = work stuff that brings in money, purple for unbilled work stuff, etc).

Every Monday morning, switch to the calendar view (Ctrl+2), enable Week View (Alt + "-"). Now you can do your weekly review (using David Allen's GTD-style or Franklin Covey's Big Rocks) with your planning calendar as a guide. Note that you can set the planning calendar to overlay your regular calendar, or you can display them side by side - whatever works best for you. Now it's easy to fill those days and keep a healthy balance between work and family life: a quick glance at the colors of the week will tell you if you schedule enough time for both parties.

Still in the calendar view, with the To-Do Bar at the right side open, arrange your todo's by Category. Based on the color or category, you can now quickly drag a task or follow-up item to your regular calendar:

  • If you drop a task onto the Daily Task List, it will set the due date of your task and update the follow-up flag.
  • Dropping it on a time slot of a day will create a new appointment and past the task text into the appointment.
  • You can also drop your task on the calendar button in the navigation pane. That will create a new appointment with the task text, and open it for editing.

Note: Dragging/dropping with the right-mouse button will give you a popup menu with choices (create or copy a new appointment - with the tasks linked as a shortcut or attachment).

Some handy and lesser known Outlook keyboard shortcuts to further improve your productivity:


  • Control + 1: Email
  • Control + 2: Calendar
  • Control + 3: Contacts
  • Control + 4: Tasks
  • Control + 5: Notes
  • Control + 6: All folders
  • Control + 7: Your shortcuts
  • Control + 8: Journal
  • Control + Y: Jump to any folder
  • Control + Shift + I: Jump to Inbox
  • Alt + F1: toggle Navigation Pane (full, minimized, off)
  • Alt + F2: toggle To-Do Bar (full, minimized, off)

Calendar views (regular shortcuts):

  • Control + Alt + 1: Day view  (1 day)
  • Control + Alt + 2: Work week view  (5 days)
  • Control + Alt + 3: Full week view  (7 days)
  • Control + Alt + 4: Month view (31 days)

Calendar views (alternative shortcuts):

  • Alt + 1: Day view  (1 day)
  • Alt + 2: Day view  (2 days)
  • Alt + 3: Day view  (3 days)
  • Alt + 4: Day view  (4 days)
  • Alt + 5: Day view  (5 days)
  • Alt + 6: Day view  (6 days)
  • Alt + 7: Day view  (7 days)
  • Alt + 8: Day view  (8 days, no kidding)
  • Alt + 9: Day view  (9 days - yes really)
  • Alt + 0: Day view  (10 days - this rocks!)
  • Alt + -: Week view
  • Alt + =: Month view

For email:

  • Control + Shift + V: Move an item to a folder

Creating stuff:

  • Control + Shift + M: New message
  • Control + Shift + A: New appointment
  • Control + Shift + C: New contact
  • Control + Shift + K: New task

Has this helped you - or do you have some tips of your own? Drop a line in the comments...

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  Posted by oVan on Monday, March 31, 2008 | PermaLink | 0 comments
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