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Organizing Outlook by Converting Emails to Tasks

Microsoft Outlook has a straightforward function designed to help us convert emails into tasks so we can stay organized and productive.

Organizing Outlook by Converting Emails to Tasks

Our professional email accounts are filled with tasks, whether they’re assignments from our supervisor, action steps to take on team projects, or even to-do lists we email ourselves as reminders. During busy periods, extracting the tasks from these emails to prioritize them can be a daunting task. Luckily, Microsoft Outlook has a straightforward function designed to help us convert emails into tasks so we can stay organized and productive.

Flagging emails to convert them to tasks

When you open your Inbox (or another folder with emails representing tasks), hover over the first email you wish to convert. You’ll see a flag icon appear near that email (though exactly where depends on the View you’re using to check your Inbox. Right-click on this flag icon and take a look at the resulting dropdown menu. You can also find the flag icon on the Ribbon that appears when you open the message itself. The icon will be followed by the text “Follow Up.” Clicking on it will also yield the dropdown menu.

The first six options allow you to select a due date for the task. If something needs to be done today, then click Today. If it can wait till tomorrow, select Tomorrow. If there’s a specific date you’d like to select, select Custom Date. When you select one of these options, you’ll be taken to a dialog box that allows you to set a time of day as well. To keep yourself on task, use the Reminders option on the flag’s dropdown menu. The resulting dialog box will let you specify the time and day you’ll receive a reminder that your task due date is nearing.

Creating a task from an email message

If the email you plan to convert contains an attachment, try converting it by left-clicking and dragging the email message into the Tasks folder at the bottom of your Navigation pane. From the dialog box that appears, you’ll be able to add a deadline and set up a reminder for your newly created task. Best of all, your task will contain that attachment.

You can also do this by right-clicking your email message and dragging it to the Tasks folder. When you let go of your mouse, a menu will appear that gives you the options to copy the task to the folder along with the attachment (Copy Here as Task with Text) or copy the entire email message into an attachment that will be embedded in your new task (Copy Here as Task with Attachment). The latter option is especially useful if the email contains many task-related details that would be difficult or time-consuming to summarize.

You can also move the email out of your Inbox into Tasks from this menu while converting the entire email into an attachment inside your newly created task (Move Here as Task with Attachment). It’s also good practice to use this option, as it helps you keep your Inbox decluttered. Further, in the Tasks pane, you can create different folders to place these types of tasks. For example, you could create folders for tasks that require further input from a supervisor, those that still need to be reviewed, and those of different priority levels. When you convert emails to tasks and move them out of your Inbox, you can navigate your Inbox more quickly and keep your tasks better organized.

Editing your task’s details

When you create your task, its default title will be the subject of your email. However, the subject line of an email is rarely the best description of the task outlined inside. You can customize your task’s details, including its title, by selecting Manage all tasks, which should be visible in the lower right-hand corner of the application.

You’ll see each of your tasks on the following screen. When you select one, you’ll be able to edit its details in a pane that appears on the right. You cannot only add (or modify) deadlines and due dates, but you can also add related files using the Add file option. For tasks you must repeat, you can create duplicate tasks by clicking Repeat and indicating the frequency in the resulting dialog box. And you can further organize your tasks using the Pick a category option.

The difference between creating versus flagging a message

At first glance, it may seem that there’s no real difference between converting an email message by dragging it into Tasks or by flagging it. But there are slight, though important, distinctions. When you flag a message, you’ll see it appear both in the Tasks peek, in a Flagged emails folder in Outlook, and if you also use Microsoft To Do on your To Do List.

Using this application, you can also automatically convert email messages into tasks by simply clicking Flagged email from your To Do Live page. This option works for emails flagged within the previous 30 days and for a maximum of 100 emails. When using this option, you’ll be able to see both the subject line and a link back to the task in the To-Do List for easy access.

However, the moment you delete the email message, your task will disappear from both places. Alternatively, if you create your task by dragging your email into Tasks, you’ve created an item that is independent of your original email. If you return to your Inbox later and decide to delete the original email, your task will remain intact. Make sure you keep this in mind when creating tasks to avoid inadvertently losing them.

Converting emails into tasks is a simple yet powerful way your team members can become more organized or stay on task. And Microsoft has many tools that, when properly used, can help a team increase its productivity exponentially. However, many businesses and organizations using the Microsoft platform are just barely scratching the surface of what its applications can do.

At K2 Technologies, we know that every hour your employees save on routine tasks is an hour that’s best used to grow revenue. We specialize in helping businesses and organizations of all sizes save time and effort when using Microsoft products. And whether your business needs support using Microsoft products you already license or support implementing new enterprise-wide solutions for your IT needs, we’re ready to help. Reach out to us today, and let’s discuss how we can leverage technology to improve your business.