Creating tasks using email

An email inbox isn’t the right place to keep track of your to-do list. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime and see if you don’t lose your list among the – what – hundreds? Thousands? of other emails sitting in there too. The consequences? Not doing the right things on the right days, losing track of great ideas that could form projects… the list goes on.

Most computers offer at least one place to keep track of task lists, and you should use it. For the purposes of this post, I’ll talk about Outlook and iCal, but they’re far from the only games in town.

The beauty of these two tools, though, is that they let you quickly create a task using the email that necessitates the task in the first place. And when you no longer need the email? You can get rid of it – file it or delete it – so one less message clutters your inbox.

One caveat: if the task takes two minutes or less (my limit – yours can be different), just do the task now (and get rid of the email).

from Microsoft Outlook 2007 (Windows)

From the Actions menu, choose Follow Up and the date you want to do the task. The task appears on that day of the calendar.

Also, you can drag the email onto the Tasks button in the navigation pane to the left. A window appears in which you can enter any other necessary details.

from Microsoft Outlook 2011 (Mac)

From the Message menu, choose Follow Up and the date you want to do the task.

from Mac Mail

In the email itself, right-click and choose New To Do. Check out this video at the 2:10 mark to see what this looks like.

Truth be told, the Mac iCal task list is weak. It’s a big part of the reason I use software called Daylite to manage tasks and projects.

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