Two Outlook Tips for PMPs

The job of a Project Manager is diverse and varied. Running meetings, resolving issues, and making the complex simple all take an incredible amount of face-time and working with people. While gratifying, this face-time can become exhausting and sap us of our energy.

It’s no wonder that we look forward to that quiet time when it is just us and our calendar and e-mail program. Ah…Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is like comfort food to us. It’s our home away from home. It’s a haven that allows us to get our affairs back in order, have some sense of control, and recharge our batteries. Since we spend so much time with Outlook, below are some time saving tips that can help you get the most out of this powerful tool and get back into what’s really productive…face-time with your team!

I Am Buried by the Amount of Email I Receive Each Day

E-mail is pervasive. It is the essence of what keeps business going in this day and time. It can also negatively impact your productivity. Project Managers can easily receive up to hundreds of e-mails per day and have inboxes that are spilling over with unread messages. The sheer volume of e-mails becomes debilitating and can get in the way of your true Project Management work.

Here’s the math. Let’s say you receive 150 e-mails over an 8-hour period. This relatively common scenario would mean that on average you have the potential of being interrupted about once every 3 minutes with an incoming e-mail. One e-mail every three minutes, nearly twenty times an hour, hour after hour after hour.

What can be done? There is no doubt that 80% of the e-mail you receive are FYI’s, include you as the recipient in the cc: line, or are addressed to scores of other people in the address line. There is no action required on your part, somebody else can be held responsible for executing on this email and it is, quite frankly, a waste of your time.

Then there are the e-mails that are addressed ONLY to YOU. Now, that’s a different story. There may be other people in the cc: line or it may be an FYI…but someone took the time to send this note TO: YOU (and only TO:YOU) directly. These are the e-mails you need to give your utmost attention. Below are four steps you can use to quickly identify and act upon those emails that are addressed only TO: YOU.

NOTE: These directions are based upon Outlook 2007. The same functionality is available in earlier versions but the steps will be different.

  1. From Outlook 2007, Select Tools, and then select Organize.
  2. Click Using Colors.
  3. In the Show Messages Sent Only to Me list, select a color from the dropdown list
  4. Click on the Turn On button.

Now when you look at your Inbox, you can zero in on those messages that are in Red (or whatever color you have chosen), keep people moving forward and get around to the other 80% of e-mail when you have the time. A huge time saver!

Something else to keep in mind is that you will receive what you give. If you send out one email every three minutes yourself…chances are you will receive a high volume of emails back.

NOTE: View this post to read 10 suggestions from relationship expert David Nour on how to get control over your Inbox.

There’s nothing Standard about Eastern Standard Time

How many times has this happened to you? You schedule a meeting for 3:00 PM Eastern Time only to find out that your office in California really doesn’t appreciate the Noon-hour meetings. Or, you travel to a client’s site in another country and find yourself second-guessing if they are ahead five hours or behind five hours. Globalization is an amazing thing, but it can wreak havoc on schedules when you need to get groups of people together.

Outlook does it again. Outlook gives you the ability to add a second time zone to your calendar. If you are using Outlook 2007 all you need to do is:

  1. On the Tools men, click Options
  2. Click Calendar Options
  3. Click Time Zones
  4. Under Current time zone, type a name for the current time zone in the Label box
  5. In the Time zone list, click the time zone that you want to use and provide a Label

That’s it. You will now see your local time zone as well as the second time zone you have selected and never book another important meeting at the wrong time again!

We all agree that there is nothing better than spending some time alone with Outlook to regroup, collect our thoughts and get things organized. However, we also don’t want to get caught in the trap of plowing through scores of mind-numbing emails just because they or there, or missing important meetings because of a scheduling faux pas. Outlook can help you with both of these tasks and allow you to get back to your job of being a PMP!

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