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Using Microsoft Outlook for Time Tracking

written by: Tricia Goss • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 12/22/2010

You need to manage your time in order to complete a project, but you don't necessarily need new software. This guide will teach you all you need to know about time tracking in Microsoft Outlook.

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    Make Use of Tasks

    Delegate Tasks 

    One of the keys to becoming a successful project manager is to learn how to delegate effectively. Entrusting tasks to the appropriate team members assures that each assignment will be completed in a timely manner. You can use Outlook's Task feature to both assign duties to others and track them through to completion, enabling you to track the time spent on each task and guarantee that important milestones are reached as planned.

    Perhaps the easiest way to create a new task no matter what version of Outlook you are using is to use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+K. This opens a new task window into which you can enter a subject and details, set the level of priority and a due date, and then delegate it to a member of your project team.

    Once you have created the necessary tasks and assigned them to the appropriate team members, you may wish to create a separate Outlook folder in which to keep the tasks. Doing so helps you locate the tasks more quickly in order to view progress and track time accordingly. You can even create status reports for the tasks, which you can incorporate into team meetings and action plans.

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    Create Rules to Organize Emails

    Email 

    A fair part of your time may be spent crafting, reading and responding to emails related to the project. If you wish to track this time, you can use Outlook's rules to automatically organize messages. To create a rule, go to the Tools menu in Outlook 2003 or 2007 and click on Rules and Alerts. In Outlook 2010, click Rules in the Move group of the Home tab and select Manage Rules and Alerts.

    To use rules for time tracking in Microsoft Outlook, you can create a rule that instructs Outlook to move email messages from specific senders or with certain words in the subject line to a specific folder you have created for the project. You can also create a rule that tells Outlook to forward emails meeting specific criteria to appropriate project team members.

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    Don't Overlook the Journal

    Timer 

    Many Outlook users are unfamiliar with the Journal, but this feature is perhaps the most valuable when it comes to time tracking in Microsoft Outlook. You can access Outlook's Journal from any version of Outlook using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+8.

    The Journal is effective when used to track time spent on emails or Outlook tasks. You can simply drag the item to the Journal button on Outlook's navigation pane -- it looks like a little green notebook -- and drop it there. Dragging and dropping an Outlook item to the Journal will open a new journal entry with the subject line and other information already completed.

    However, the Outlook Journal enables you to track time spent working in Word, making phone calls and even sitting in meetings.You can drag and drop all sorts of files into the Journal to create an entry and begin tracking the time you spend on it. To do so, open Outlook and navigate to the location of the file you are working on, such as a Word document, an Excel worksheet, an Access database, a OneNote note or practically any other type of file. Do not open that file, but rather click on it and drag it to the Journal button on the Outlook navigation pane.

    You can use any of the default entry types or even create custom entry types to suit your needs. Once you have set up a Journal entry with the information you require, a click of the Start Timer button is all it takes to begin tracking your time.

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    Outlook Add-Ins and Other Software

    Success 

    Finally, there are other tools you can use to track time in Outlook that are not included with the application by default in addition to separate time tracking programs that are compatible with Outlook.

    Outlook add-ins are small, third-party programs designed to perform a specific set of tasks. Qlockwork, available at www.qlockwork.com, is a plug-in for Outlook that automatically tracks the time you and other team members spend on certain tasks.

    Other programs, such as Chrometa, are not add-ins but full-featured time tracking applications that work with Outlook and other Office programs to help you track time.

    Whether you decide to use the built-in features alone for time tracking in Microsoft Outlook, download an add-in to enhance those features or utilize an additional program, you are sure to find that Outlook is quite beneficial for managing your project team's time.