Microsoft Outlook is a popular email program used to send and receive emails, but as you might know by now, I’m often amazed by the amount of people who don’t know about all of the other things Outlook can do for you to make your life easier.

For virtual assistants in particular, the vast majority of our workload comes in via email, and as such, it makes perfect sense to be able to add tasks to a list as and when they come through so that you can keep track of them. In my opinion, the task list in Outlook is a frequently underused tool, most often because people just don’t know how to use it! If you are thinking “well it’s just a tick list” – you are not alone, but believe you me it can do so much more!

For example, did you know that with the task list you can specify start and end dates, order them by importance and change the level of progress to reflect how you are getting on with the task. You can also assign tasks to other people, or more to the point, if your client uses Outlook too, they can assign tasks to you! You can also customise the font, size, or colour of overdue or completed tasks so that they stand out in the Tasks view. Here in part one, we’ll look at how to format your task list to make tasks easily identifiable by progress, due date and client.

Formatting Tasks in Microsoft Outlook

First of all click ‘Tasks’, which is located in the navigation pane


Next go to ‘View’ > ‘Current View’ group > ‘View Settings’



This will then open the Advanced View Settings dialog box and from here you can format your tasks in a number of different ways. For example, to make overdue tasks stand out in bold red font, first select ‘conditional formatting’


In the resulting box, select the tick boxes next to the item you would like to format, in this case ‘overdue tasks’. Then click ‘font’. You’ll then see a list of default font settings. You can experiment here to format the font in which ever way you would like then click ‘ok’. You can also format completed tasks or unread ones in a certain colour, or make them smaller so they stand out less. In the same method as above, select the checkboxes next to the tasks you want to format and then click ‘font’.



Grouping Tasks by Category in Microsoft Outlook

You can also assign categories to your tasks so that you can group them, by client, for example.

To do this, you first need to create the categories. Select a task and then under the ‘home’ tab > ‘tags’ group click categorize > all categories. You’ll then see the dialogue box below where you add, edit or amend categories and assign colours to individual groups or clients. Apply the settings however you like and when you are done, click ‘ok’



Next follow the steps as before to go to the settings page by clicking view tab > view settings and then in the dialogue box choose ‘group by’. You then see the box below which gives you the option to group your tasks by a number of different options – we are going to choose ‘categories’ here, and then when you click ‘ok’, youwill see that your tasks are automatically grouped according the category you have assigned them to. It’s as simple as that!



These are just a couple of the simple things you can do with your Outlook task list. Next time in Part II we’ll look at how your clients can assign tasks to you and how you can keep them updated with your progress.