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Blog: Technology As An Organizing Tool
The Real Problem with Electronic Calendars



My last post was an easy one to write. After all, the advantages of using an electronic calendar are so obvious, and so plentiful! Yet, I knew that I'd been struggling with this issue, and it was time to sit down and think about why.

The fact that I no longer have my Pocket PC means that I don't have access to my calendar when I'm away from my computer, but since I work from home most of the time, that's seldom an issue. I have compensated by carrying a small calendar in my purse where I indicate the days I have appointments or meetings, so that when I'm out at networking events or elsewhere, if someone wants to schedule something, I can do a quick check. Worst case scenario is that I have to call or email them to reschedule, but that hasn't happened yet.

For someone who is more mobile than myself, the ability to synch your calendar and to-do list with some kind of PDA is crucial, but I think most people in that situation already have a Smart Phone, Blackberry, or similar device.

So really, the calendar itself is rarely going to present an issue. You can even print calendar pages in your choice of daily, weekly, or monthly format, and insert them in a binder that you carry with you.

When it comes to task management, it's a lot more complicated. In fact, I recently learned that although Marcia Francois, "the Organising Queen," is an avid user of the Outlook calendar, for tasks, she strictly uses paper. I can understand why. In Outlook 2003 and earlier views, it's difficult to view your tasks in a truly helpful way. I tried FranklinCovey Plan Plus for Outlook and loved the fact that it allowed me to prioritize tasks within my high, medium, and low priority lists, but stopped using it when I had some technical issues and never installed it on my new computer.

As I learned from Sally McGhee's Take Back Your Life! Using Microsoft Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized, Outlook Tasks work best when you create your own categories to reflect the way that you work. For example, having a Phone Calls category will let you easily group those tasks and complete them all at one time. If you set aside a certain period of time each week for marketing activities, a Marketing category will be useful. Maybe you need to break it down further and have a Website category and an Ezine category - the important thing is to remember that you can create whatever categories will help you to manage your time effectively.

Outlook 2007 has made task management even easier with the introduction of the To-Do bar, which I described in my last post, so I had to ask myself why I was thinking I could work more efficiently with paper.

I knew that the difficulties I'd been having were the result of having multiple projects on the go for different clients. I would complete a step and email the client for comments or further instructions, and if I didn't hear back from them on a timely basis, completion of those projects would be delayed, and I felt this was impacting on the level of service I was providing. Once I pinpointed this, I realized that the problem wasn't with Outlook, but with the way I was using it.

I've now implemented a new system where every time I send an email that requires an answer, whether it's a response to an inquiry from a prospective client, a question about a current project, or a simple question, I flag it for follow-up. The email then automatically appears in my To-do bar on the appropriate date, and if I haven't received a reply, I can easily follow up. Since I've started doing that, my stress level has decreased, because I no longer have to try and keep track of everything in my head, and I know I'm in control of my workload.

Very often we think the problem is with our systems, when in fact, we haven't developed routines for using them effectively.

posted on: 9/25/2008 8:30:00 AM by Janet Barclay
category: Business


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Technology As An Organizing Tool


by Janet Barclay

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Janet Barclay is a Master Virtual Assistant and the founder of Organized Assistant. Specializing in supporting entrepreneurs in the Organizing and Career Services industries, Organized Assistant provides top-notch Internet marketing services to business owners of all shapes and sizes.

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