It’s been my experience that most of us use Outlook, but not everyone realizes how many tools it contains to manage the daily workload. Here at Clark Computer Services we provide IT support to over 300 small businesses, completing at least 400 jobs a month. In order to stay competitive in this industry, and deliver service that exceeds our client’s expectations, we must be organized and efficient in our business processes.
While growing Clark Computer Services I started each day by opening Outlook to reply to email, create reminders, put appointments on my calendar, and generally organize my day. I discovered that by going through my inbox and organizing my day I was more efficient, and I was able to provide more reliable services to my clients. In the IT support business, reliability is a key factor to success.
Personally, I’ve always loved figuring out the little tricks that make computing easier, so naturally I’d look for tricks to be more efficient in Outlook and better manage my inbox, calendar, contacts, and notes – which are the four things I rely on the most. I learned how to turn email into calendar appointments, use automatic formatting to make emails from an important client or that contained key words stand out, and color code my calendar to easily see how my day and week were organized. Since I found them to be so useful, I began to teach those tricks to my clients. Over the years, I believe those tricks have helped many people to stay organized so that they could better manage their time.
As the business has evolved, I’ve found myself spending most of my time either in the office or on sales calls. As a result, I don’t get to go out on jobs where I can directly pass on my tips. The purpose of this blog is to give me a medium where I can still share what I’ve learned. I’m excited to have this medium and in the early posts I’ll lean heavily on the various Outlook tips I’ve discovered over the years, eventually moving onto other tips to make your computer use more efficient.
For my first blog I’ll start with something I do every single day which is turning an email into an Outlook calendar appointment.
I have 71 appointments on my Outlook calendar this week and so far this has been just an average week. To most people this would be overwhelming – some days it is, but long ago I became accustomed to how demanding it is to provide IT support to small businesses. I also learned that staying organized was critical if I wanted to succeed.
My daily routine is to get to the office before everyone so I have time to focus. One of my top priorities is to go through my inbox, replying or forwarding email and scheduling appointments, tasks and reminders.
I create appointments on my calendar for everything.
- When a client wants to meet with me, I create an appointment.
- For vendor estimates, I put an all-day appointment on my calendar to remind me that I should have received it.
- Should I need to call my accountant to ask a question, I put a 15 minute appointment on my calendar.
Most of my appointments are generated through email. During my morning routine I place them on my calendar as I make my way through my inbox. I could do this manually by going to my calendar, clicking on the new appointment icon but instead I take a faster route by converting the email into an appointment. It’s quick & it’s easy.
Here’s how it works…
When you come to an email that you want to convert to an appointment simply drag it to your calendar icon at the bottom left side of your screen.
After you drag it to your calendar icon an appointment will be generated with the subject of the email as the Title of the appointment and the email body as the detail. I usually right click the email, select copy before I drag it to the calendar icon – after it generates the appointment, I click in the body of the appointment, right click and select paste. Now the original email is an attachment so I can open it if needed from the appointment – this is handy if the appointment is a reminder to reply to the email.
Now you just need to clean up the appointment – I usually leave the subject alone except I put something at the beginning to let me know what I’m doing like “CALL” and then I type a note on the first line of the body to remind me what I want to do like “Call Bob and ask him what time we’re meeting and where.”
That’s it. That’s how you turn an email into an appointment.
Bonus: Do the reverse, try dragging an appointment to your mail icon in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. Or, if you use Notes or Tasks, drag an email to either one & see what happens.
I left big business to start Clark Computer Services in 2003; not because I had a grand vision, but because I had three young children who needed their Dad around. Knowing I had to replace my salary, I went door-to-door visiting small businesses to introduce myself and ask if they needed IT support. I heard story after story from business owners and office managers about IT companies not returning calls and emails, grumpy technicians showing up late or not at all, and systems being down for days, weeks, and in some cases…months. I realized quickly that there was a clear and pressing need for reliable, honest, and professional IT support completed pleasantly and on time.