Use Outlook To Organize Email And Projects

Q. I have to keep track of my interactions with more than two dozen people, groups and projects, including meetings, e-mails and reports. It can get pretty confusing just finding the relevant material. I’ve created separate folders for each person, group or project, but that barely addresses the problem. What do you suggest?

A. There are many software solutions to this common problem, but frankly most are more complex than the problem they’re designed to solve.

I’ll tell you how I solve the problem with Outlook—the multipurpose Windows application. I use Outlook to send, receive and track all my e-mail messages. I also use it to keep my calendar, to-do list, reminders and memos. If I was on a network I could even use it to make (and cancel) group appointments with others on the network and even to share and work together with other colleagues on files.

One of the Outlook functions, called the Journal, can be programmed to track all my interactions with a person, group or a project. For example, let’s say I’m working with a colleague on a specific task: The Journal will track the progress by recording and grouping every e-mail, meeting and document.

Here’s how easy it is to set up the Journal. Open Outlook and click on Tools, Options . On the Preferences tab, click on Journal Options .

Then, in the Automatically record these items box, check the boxes for the items you want recorded. You can track e-mail messages, meeting requests or cancellations, task requests and more. In the For these contacts box, select the ones you want automatically tracked. Click on OK .

In addition, the Journal will track all files you open in whichever applications you select in the Journal Options menu left. To select the applications, check them off under Also record files from . When you want to see what file you opened on a given day, click on Journal in Outlook’s Outlook Bar or Folder List and you’ll get this condensed screen:

Click on any of the + (plus) signs designating an application and the Journal will expand to this:

Notice that the files are arranged by date. To open a file, just click on the icon.

There are many other organizing functions in Outlook. It’s well worth exploring.

Do you have a technology question for this column? Send it to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881. We regret that we cannot answer letters individually. If a reader’s question is deemed to have sufficiently broad interest, we will answer it in a forthcoming Technology Q&A column.

—The editors


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