As of a couple months ago, Outlook is my current organizer of choice. I’ve decided to start eating my own dogfood (I’m a developer working on Outlook). It’s been an eye-opening experience so far, and I hope I can share some of the things I’m learning in this blog.
First, a little about where I’m coming from. I spend more time than the average person thinking about being productive. It may not make me any more effective, but I won’t know unless I try 🙂 I tend to be pretty picky about the system and tools that I use to organize my life and time. I know there are many add ons to Outlook to help you manage you time and information better – FranklinCovey’s PlanPlus, David Allen’s GTD addin, newsreaders, spam filters, etc. – and I admit that I don’t use any of them, in part because they’re all to over-specified. Of course, in my ideal world, Outlook would meet the needs of all users in this regard, through well designed defaults, clean and simple user interface, and easy customizability. It makes sense to be able to customize Outlook in ways and to an extent far greater than Word, or Excel, or Powerpoint. Outlook should be organized around my system for managing time and information, not someone else’s. I know that its not always easy to make Outlook do what you want. I know that Outlook is often overqualified for the job, or its missing the exact feature you need. I know that Outlook can only be one part of any solution. That solution must also include a mobile device, some back end storage (backup at least), and an overriding system for managing yourself (e.g. Getting Things Done, or FranklinCovey, or I-remember-everything-so-I-only-use-Outlook-to-recieve-mail).
Before I start going over ways to customize Outlook in future posts, let me describe my current setup. I use Outlook at work and at home. I take advantage of the RPC-over-HTTP feature to access all my email, etc. in one Exchange account. I also download my email from four other email addresses (all POP accounts) to the exchange server. I recently purchased a Dell Axim, that I sync to my work and home computers. I use PocketInformant as a replacement for Pocket Outlook. I pick and choose principles and strategies for time management from the different systems I’ve studied – mostly David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. But I also realize that its a lifelong process because it really is about creating habits that work, and creating habits is hard.
Going forward, I’d also love to hear about how others use, or don’t use, Outlook to manage their time, as well as how you customize Outlook (or wish Outlook could be customized). Hopefully we can all learn a little bit from each other.