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How to Multitask in Outlook to Increase Productivity?

A musician/writer, a compassionate human, and over a decade of IT experience, Paul hopes to help the world recover - one article at a time.

As the technology world emerges, so should all, but not all can adjust. With too many options, most are confused about how to use them. I’m Paul, your local Tech Guy. Either you’re working from home or in the office or anywhere in the world, I'm here to help you become Technology Productive!

In this tech recipe for today, let me show you how to effectively use Microsoft Outlook to increase productivity. First stop, for those of you who do all things manual in Outlook (like this guy below), keep reading because this will solve your Outlook management problems.


Let's Start

Generally, your tasks are divided into 2 types – Regular & Ad hoc. Regular tasks are repetitive tasks, while Ad hoc tasks are an as-needed basis. The same applies in Outlook – there are repetitive email communications or meetings & there are as needed once.

With that, the solution to your Outlook’s regular tasks is to automate them, while the solution to the ad hoc tasks is to prioritize them. How to do it? Read on below.


  • Task Listing
  • Priority Matrix
  • Outlook Inbox Rules
  • Outlook Quick Steps
  • Outlook To-Do Bar


1. Automate Repetitive Tasks

Audit Your Tasks

First thing first is the critical part. Audit your regular repetitive tasks – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly. Straight & forward, just create a list of those tasks. Once done, create a second column showing the steps you do in Outlook to perform each task. Something similar in this table below.


Choose Your Solution

Once done, proceed in choosing either to setup Inbox Rules or Quick Steps. What’s the difference?

In Inbox Rules, the Outlook task automation is triggered as soon as an email is received (no user intervention is needed). While Quick Steps, the tasks automation is triggered manually (user intervention is needed). There are differences between the two features like you can't automate tasks & schedule meetings in Inbox Rules, so kindly consider those as well. Here’s how to access the features below.

  • To access Inbox Rules in Outlook 2003 to 2007, from the menu, select Tools & select “Rules and Alerts”. For Outlook 2010 to 2019, from the File tab, click "Manage Rules & Alerts".
  • To access Quick Steps in Outlook 2010 to 2019, in the Home tab's "Quick Steps" group, select "Create New". You can even assign a shortcut key to it. So, when you’re reading your email, all you have to do is press the keys instead of clicking the Quick Steps’ icons.

Create Your Automation

Now that you’ve chosen which repetitive tasks use Inbox Rules or Quick Steps, then it’s time to create them in Outlook referencing the sample table above. Be sure to test them out first. And for Inbox Rules, since the trigger is automated, ensure that the value is consistent. Meaning, it should come from either the same email address or subject line or body message keyword. There are other trigger options, so check out the Inbox Rules settings in Outlook. Here’s an example of "Quick Steps" below.

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2. Prioritize Task Reminders

Apply Priority Matrix

Next, prioritize your ad hoc tasks in Outlook. As per the Priority Matrix table below (inspired by Steven Covey's Eisenhower Matrix), prioritizing tasks depend on how important & urgent they are.

If urgent & important, do it. If urgent & not important, delegate it. If not urgent & important, schedule it. If not urgent & not important, leave it later.


Create Quick Steps

With that, create new 4 Quick Steps in Outlook following the parameters below. So, when you start your day reading your emails, all you need to do is trigger the Quick Steps to set the priority & act on the Outlook alerts accordingly.

By the way, you might need to create & assign colors to the “Categorize message” first. For Outlook 2013 to 2019, in the Home tab’s Tags group, click Categorize > All Categories > click New.


Prepare Your Task View

So, once you have created the Quick Steps above, prepare your To-Do Bar by following either of the steps below.

  • For Outlook 2007, the To-Do Bar appears in all Outlook views by default, so just Click View > To-Do Bar > click Normal to ensure it’s not turned off. In the To-Do Bar, click “Arrange by” > select “Categories”.
  • For Outlook 2010, The Tasks List is at the bottom of the To-Do Bar, below Appointments, so just expand the view or in the Navigation Pane, click Tasks. To arrange by Categories, click the view style in the Current View group in the Home tab.
  • For Outlook 2013 to 2019, click the View tab > in the Layout group, click To-Do Bar > select Tasks. In the To-Do Bar, click “Arrange by” > select “Categories”.

Manage Your Tasks

And once your To-Do Bar is displayed side-by-side with your Inbox folders & is arranged by Categories, you are good to go in managing your tasks. To manage your task, kindly refer to the steps below.


If you noticed the Task Category 3 or 4 above table, part of the awesomeness here is that you’ll automatically receive Outlook Alerts as you go. Not just any Outlook alerts, but alerts that followed the Priority Matrix. At this stage, here’s what you’d probably look like now.


In A Nutshell

An effective way to multitask in Outlook is to maximize Outlook’s automation features correctly by following the proven methodology of Task Listing & Priority Matrix.

This tech recipe just automated your regular tasks & prioritized your ad hoc tasks. Automation is just a part of the solutions to increase productivity. And in Outlook, there are more solutions available including other productivity solutions out there, so I need your help.

Any Suggestions or Comments?

Write your suggestions or comments down below & let me know what you'd love to read in my future articles.

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© 2020 Paul Abayon III


Paul Abayon III (author) on July 07, 2020:

Thanks Claire. If you know someone who can benefit this article, feel free to spread the words. Cheers!

Claire Hoffman on July 04, 2020:

I'm an Outlook user for years & I never though of this approach. I will definitely follow your advice. Thanks.

Perry on July 04, 2020:

Awesome stuff!

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