Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Tracking time with Outlook


By Francine Otterson

Where is my time being spent? Can Outlook help track this information? Tracking actual time spent on activities, along with assigned tasks, is often needed to manage resources i.e. time, effectively. This month, the OutlookPower Answer Team and I help one reader learn how to use Outlook to track the time he spends on his jobs.

Timothy Lynch writes:

My activity here as Technical Services, safety and training Manager requires that I track the work that I've done. It would be best if I were able to do it like an attorney tracks their time, by the minute with a timer. I saw a timer somewhere in Outlook before, but can't remember where.
I've fiddled around with the Tasks folder in Outlook some, but can't seem to get regular with its use. It's based more around listing and completing your tasks, and not tracking what you are doing. I bill my time by the hour and a lot of the desk tasks I perform are hard to track and fall through the cracks. Do you have any thoughts on how Outlook could help me track my time better?

One of the best features of the Outlook Journal is the ability to track activities, and the time associated with those activities. This feature allows you to truly grasp where time is being allocated and to make informed decisions.

In addition, a Journal entry can have an entry type associated with it from a predefined list. The end result is not only seeing time spent on a particular activity, but what that type of activity is, e.g. phone, email, meetings, etc. How much time do I spend in meetings? How much time did I spend on phone calls?

The Journal entry can also be linked to a particular contact/client. Knowing how much time you spend in meetings, phone calls, and resolving issues for a particular contact can be valuable business information.

Outlook Task can be used as well to track activities, but is geared more towards actual whole tasks or projects, and not managing time. The time associated with a task is used in the broader sense, based on the percentage completed.

Using a combination of both the Task and Journal functions of Outlook allows you to manage your tasks/ projects, as well as tracking where your time is being spent, and to what purpose.

By the way, it looks like our Answer Team has become a real hit among OutlookPower readers. We've gotten a ton of questions and that's got my group busy with getting you the answers. Stay tuned in coming weeks for more and more great tips!