I tend to multi-task. And since I work from a home office, this often means that while I’m writing a book or working on a large publication layout project, I’m also doing laundry, prepping meals, and tending to the everyday needs of my freelance clients. How is this possible?…Microsoft Outlook.
While many of you probably think of Outlook primarily as an e-mail client, I use it as a task manager and the hub of both my freelance work and household activities. In addition to its function as an e-mail program, Outlook has several nifty little features, including a calendar, pop-up reminders, and a task manager, which help me run my blended business and household like a Swiss watch.
I use the calendar to schedule appointments and deadlines, as well as recurring events such as holidays, daylight savings time, birthdays, and anniversaries. I also use it to schedule smaller events, such as taking vitamins and medications, recording television programs, watering plants, and keeping up with my son’s academic and social schedule. Each time I schedule an event, I create a pop-up reminder that can be customized to notify me anywhere from one minute, to days or weeks in advance. There’s even a *snooze* function that allows me to postpone or procrastinate if needed.
My favorite Outlook feature is its To-Do Bar. This customizable list-making device sits just to the right of my e-mail window; its width can be sized according to the screen space; and it’s divided into six sections: Today…Tomorrow…This Week…Next Week…Next Month…and Later. On it I can jot down a quick note to make a phone call, create a small errand/shopping list, schedule a recreational outing, or make a list of goals for the day. And much like the calendar, I can also note future tasks or events. Tasks may be color-coded for organizing and prioritizing; and the drag-and-drop feature allows me reshuffle the tasks on the list, or move leftover tasks forward to another day. Best of all, Outlook’s To-Do Bar has almost eliminated my need for Post-It Notes.
Outlook has become such an integral part of my daily life that I also use it to compose drafts of all my writing. To begin a blog, article, or even a book, I open up a new e-mail document and use it like a word processing program. If I need to take a break, I can close the document and store it in my Inbox or in a separate e-mail folder for that specific project. I create all my research notes, outlines, timelines, and drafts as e-mails in Outlook, and I send myself a copy of the e-mail to leave on the server for safekeeping. Once I’m done with the project, I create a permanent document in MS Word and save it to my hard drive and back-up drive.
No doubt, there is an array of similar programs out there for both PC and Mac that will function in much the same way, but for my purposes, Outlook has everything I need in one facile suite. It’s the first program I open in the morning…and the last one I shut down at night. I’d be lost without it.
Celeste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine (http://www.amazon.com/Turn-Your-Freelancing-Machine-ebook/dp/B008LOX1MQ), the creator of the LoveBites cookbook series for Kindle Fire (http://lovebitescookbooks.com), and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children (http://pottypalsbook.com). She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press (http://thingsasianpress.com); and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema (http://chopstickcinema.thingsasian.com)