top of page
  • Writer's pictureGavin Jones

Overloaded With Emails? How To Use Outlook And Microsoft ToDo

A friend recently started a new job where he had way more emails than he was used to dealing with.

He asked me if I had any tips, to which I replied:

1. Turn off emails 📧 for most of the day - schedule time in your calendar to “process” emails, start with 3 times a day but try to move to 1 over time by being proactive and NOT sending emails (as they come back at you like a boomerang)

2. In your “processing time” your sole job is to get your inbox to zero as quickly as possible. If something takes 2 minutes do it immediately, but if you time yourself there are not many things you can actually do in 2 mins so you should be archiving, delegating or if you actually need to do something, moving your emails to a task manager ✅ - Microsoft ToDo is a good free one

3. Schedule time each day to go through your tasks and decide which ones you want to do the following day and week. The benefit of these being in a task manager rather than your email inbox is that this can contain stuff of your list (email is just everyone else’s priorities - no one is going to email you to tell you to naff off and pick the kids up 👨‍👨‍👧‍👦).

4. Block off time in your calendar 📆 to do the tasks you already know you need to do - simple rule of thumb - proactive in the morning, active in the afternoon (e.g. reading stuff or doing corporate training)

I then made a video on how to do the first couple of steps with Outlook and Microsoft ToDo and how this now shows up in Teams too:

Struggling with too many emails?

By the end of this video you'll know how to use Outlook and Microsoft to do together to tame your inbox and get more done.

I've got new videos on Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 coming out every Tuesday so make sure you hit the subscribe button and the bell icon to get notified every time I post a new video.

I'm Gavin Jones a former transformation manager for a Fortune 500 company and I now help organizations of any size with modern workplace transformations. If you're interested in working together then stick around to the end of the video to find out more.

Part 1: Email Processing Basics

Okay so if you're struggling with emails before we jump in to look at Outlook or ToDo, you want to get some basics right first. So you want to schedule time in your calendar to do emails, so you start with three times a day and then try to get down to one time a day that you're doing emails and every other time you want to turn off incoming emails. So during that time that you scheduled, that's for processing emails and processing emails is to get everything out of your inbox either in to do a task or just to archive it or just to send it on to someone else and delegate it. That's all you want to do in your process time is just get stuff out of your inbox and the benefit of using a task management system like Microsoft to do is that then it's got your agenda in as well as everyone else's agenda.

So the Outlook inbox is just gonna be everybody else's wants of your time rather than anything that you want to do yourself so getting everything into one inbox in a task management system is probably the best thing I think you should do if you're struggling with too many emails.

So start with scheduling time for email first and then we'll have a look at some things in Outlook

So let's jump into Outlook and so the first thing you want to do, like I said, is most of the time come into Outlook go to send receive and click on work offline. That means you're not going to get any other incoming emails; you can still get notifications from your calendar when it's time to do email. If you've got any other meetings already planned and then when it's time to your email you can click that button again, it's going to synchronize with the server, update all your emails and then as soon as you've got everything for that day or for that time period you then want to click work offline again so you don't get anything more pinging in as you're trying to process your email.

So you can work offline on Outlook, obviously, and then when you click work online it's going to synchronize anything you've moved or reply to everything that you've you've sent.

Part 2: Outlook Tasks And ToDo Sync

So the first thing we need to understand about Microsoft Outlook and ToDo working together is if you're using the desktop app of Outlook on a PC and then click this little tasks button, that is going to show you all of the tasks that you've added in Outlook and tasks and ToDo are very similar but are not the same thing yet.

I think Microsoft presumably is trying to get To Do to integrate directly into Outlook but they have not managed that yet.

So Tasks have been around for ages, probably since Outlook was invented many moons ago, and can do a lot of the stuff, but it just looks a bit naff, hasn't got subtasks and stuff like To Do has; hasn't got a mobile app that works that well unlike Microsoft To Do.

So basically you'll try and get stuff in to To Do but Microsoft Outlook Tasks do sync automatically with Microsoft To Do and Outlook is a great program to have all your email, calendar and tasks all in one place, at least to get it in there.

So assuming we're in our email processing time and this email was something I needed to take action on, although it's a particularly boring email that happens to be in my inbox to process right now so I probably would just archive that myself. But assume we had an action on that, the quickest way to create an action in Outlook from an email is just drag it into this task list and let go.

It's then going to pop up another window and it's got all of the body of the email in there and we can put some start dates, due dates, status, priority if we wanted to or a reminder right there but for right now I think we just want to get it out of our inbox as quickly as possible and then we'll go back through To Do and put all this stuff in if we wanted to.

Best thing to do though, in the subject remember to make that an action. So say i needed to do an action on this, that then is not really telling me what action I need to do.

So it might be 'email IT back about this' because it's a pretty boring email. So click 'save and close.' If we go back into tasks that's created that one task in our task list and we can see it in Outlook tasks.

If we jump into To Do, and this is going to be the web version, but you can get a desktop app as well, then see there in my task list it's got the same thing.

So To Do and Tasks in Outlook are synced but what we can't do in Tasks and Outlook is when we click on it it's got subtasks.

So I might need to speak to, I don't know, Simon might need to arrange a meeting. Anything I need to do to complete that main task, I can do there. Also Tasks in Outlook doesn't have 'add to my day,' which is really useful.

So if I click that it's going to have a short list in my day of stuff that I just want to do today.

Assume I had a big list of tasks, I could go and filter the ones that I just want to do and it's got priorities so you can star them and mark them as important and then remind me, due date, repeat. All the stuff that you would want to do and then all the body of the email's saved in To Do as well.

So if your task was to send an email back, in this instance, so 'email IT back about this.' I can't reply to the email from here, unfortunately, and even if we jump back into Outlook I can't then email back about this either: I need to go through (because this is the task and not the email) and find the email to then go and reply to it, which in this instance is quite easy because I've left it in my inbox.

If I was doing this and moving it out my inbox, I'd move into tasks and then hit archive and it would go into my archive and it'd be hard to go and find it.

So a quick way around that is once you've dragged your task in to here, so if I do it one more time and show you, it pops up and creates a task with all of that stuff in.

So if I do 'email 2' just to make it a different task, although that should be what the task is in terms of what you need to do, and then go back to your inbox and then drag that onto that task window again, it creates then a little attachment of that email and if I 'save and close' that, it's then still going to sync with To Do.

Give it a couple of seconds, okay so here it is, 'email 2,' and then it's got an attachment there which is the email that we've attached to it.

So now when we need to do the action, assuming that action was to do with emailing someone, we've then got this little attachment and if we click that it's going to open Outlook on the web and we can then just get that email right there and reply or forward it on or whatever action we need to take straight from that task and then go back once we've done that then go back and mark that task complete and get a satisfying little ding as well.

So hopefully that's a nice little tip get your emails out of your email inbox and into a task management inbox and also have that email attached so you can go back to the original email if you ever need to forward it on reply or do anything with it.

So if this is resonating with you and you are struggling with too many emails before this video let me know in the comments below or just hit the like button to let me know that this is making sense so far.

Part 3: Outlook Web And ToDo Integration

So then a couple of other things. If we use Outlook on the web rather than Outlook desktop app then we get direct access to To Do. So if we start by bringing up our calendar and task pane, calendar and To Do, we can see To Do right there with all the same benefits of bringing in To Do rather than Outlook Tasks.

So in Outlook on the web, To Do is integrated into Outlook rather than it being Tasks, bizarrely, and again you can get To Do down here and it's going to jump straight out into the web app.

So if we go back through the browser back button there and click this little sidebar we can then see tasks and we can change which folder we're looking at, so we could just look at the ones we're going to do today and then similarly, if we needed to use this email to create a task, we just start dragging it over as long as we've got this right-hand sidebar done we can either then add it as an event or add it as a task.

So we're going to add it as a task and it does the same thing, it creates that task for us, then if we click on it we can then put on our task description there which again should be an action and if we click into that task we can then view that email straight from To Do so we didn't need to do that double embedding trick like we did in the desktop app.

If we jump out to To Do proper and go into 'email task three' we can then see it's got an 'open in Outlook' button rather than it being a sort of work around where it attached that email as an attachment. It's not thinking it's a file it's got it straight and Outlook. It does the same thing, pops open a smaller window for us to reply from or forward on or do whatever, but that is the original email that it's got.

Part 4: Teams And ToDo Integration

And then finally, if we jump out into Teams and go into 'Tasks by Planner.' If you can't see that on your sidebar it'll be in these three dots. If you don't see in here you would click on more apps and go find it but it should be there and you can pin it to your sidebar, if it's not pinned, by right clicking and doing pin it.

For me, it says 'unpin' because it is already pinned and there we can see the exact same thing. In the top bit it's Microsoft To Do that's showing up straight in Teams.

So in the Team's view we just have some other limitations. So in the 'email IT back about this,' which is where we dragged it in the outlook desktop app that created the body of the email as the notes section, so you can see everything in the email from there as well as our subtasks that we've added into Microsoft To Do afterwards.

If we click on the 'email task three' one which is the one that we've just done from Outlook on the web, where it's got a little button for us to jump back to the original email, that is not visible in Teams because that's just To Do with the functionality on the web apps at the moment.

If we looked at stuff that we had completed and went into 'email two' then that's where we had the body of the email and then does an attachment which you also can't see in Teams.

So Teams is good that it's got the basics visible for you without leaving Teams but not everything's fully aligned in functionality yet between Outlook desktop app, the web app, To Do desktop app, on the web app, and Teams and To Do.

Although what is beneficial is you get all of your actions from To Do and then you also get all the actions from Planner. You can just jump straight to stuff from Planner in any Team and any channel where you've got a Planner embedded in Teams.

So all of your tasks, whether organizational ones, or personal ones once you've got it out of your inbox and into To Do, you can see everything you need to do in one place in Teams.

So Outlook and To Do are great together for personal productivity. If you want to find out how to supercharge your entire organization with a complete digital transformation then book a call using the link below to find out more about working together.

So check out these videos next and remember to click the like button, subscribe, and if you really like the video, consider buying me a beer using the link below in the description, it really does help support the channel and keep the content free on YouTube.

Thanks for watching so far and we'll see in the next video.

Okay so check out these videos next and remember if you like this video click the like button, subscribe and if you really liked it consider buying us a beer it really does help support the channel and keep me making free content on YouTube.

Thanks for watching this one and I'll see you in the next video

106 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page