Most of us use Microsoft Outlook on a daily basis to keep our work and personal lives organized. Often we have all of our appointments in the same calendar so that we know when we can take an early meeting, when we can run a quick personal errand over lunch, and maybe when we need to leave work on time to make it to a dinner, movie or networking event. Events are often draped around important meetings and conference calls.
Outlook is kind enough to send us reminders and keeps us on track, all we have to do is make sure all commitments are in the (same) calendar.
I started using my Outlook calendar a long time ago also to schedule time with myself to complete the action items assigned to me in meetings, or work contributions I am committed to. I am booking time to get those work assignments completed. And of course, I frequently have to move those “meetings with me” to accommodate a team or client event. So, how do I make sure they do not fall through the cracks? I color code them.
Color coding your calendar in Outlook
When I am setting aside time to work on a deliverable I just enter it into my calendar as busy time with no color coding (8 am on Monday below). When I need to move it to allow time for something else I move the appointment and change the color to green (Tuesday at 9 am). Should I have to move it yet again I am changing the appointment color to yellow (Wednesday at 8:30), and in the cases where I reschedule myself a third time – you guessed it – I am changing the appointment to red (Thursday at 12:00 noon for real).
At this point when I look at my schedule for the day or the week, I know that something has been moved three times already, and I am at risk of dropping the ball. Instead of “snow plowing” my committed work assignment in front of me I have a visual reminder that I need to just stop on red, and get it done. I feel organized and much less stressed knowing that I have an approach that helps me be efficient and effective, manage my time well, and lets me keep my promises and commitments.
More useful color coding in Outlook I am applying: marking internally initiated meetings in a different color then externally/client initiated meetings and calls. This helps with making quick decisions about which meeting to attend in case of conflicts, and whether I spend the majority of my time with the right client-centric focus.
And for anyone who also fills out a time card at the end of the week, this color on the calendar makes that a much faster activity, by having accounted for all my work on the calendar in the first place.