Tips and Trick: making the most of your Outlook calendar

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Using Outlook to Manage your Diary

I have managed diaries across a variety of systems, including Google and Apple iCloud, but Outlook still comes up as my favourite diary management tool when working in a team environment. Over the years Microsoft have improved the functions to make planning and managing meetings easier. Here are five tips to help keep your diary in check.

Where are you?

Managing multiple diaries I often need to see at a glance where other members of my client’s team are.  The ‘show as’ function makes this a lot easier. This function is available on the appointment ribbon and there is a dropdown menu with five choices:

  • free
  • working elsewhere
  • tentative
  • busy
  • out of office

outlook calendar

Each option has a side bar colour which when viewed on the calendar or using the scheduling view makes it easy to see at a glance where you or your team are.

outlook calendar

Categories

Outlook categories work well if you’re a visual person but can appear messy if you’re not. When you set your categories in Outlook they apply to the whole system – so you can add the same category to an email or a calendar appointment. Categories use colour code.

outlook calendar

The categories option is available on the main home ribbon when you’re in your inbox, or under tags within the calendar appointment. By selecting ‘all categories’ you can add new ones or amend existing ones. From the image above, you can see I have set up four options: external meeting (blue), important (red), internal meeting (orange) and working time (purple).  In the image below, you can see how using these categories can work for your calendar.

outlook calendar

Scheduling View

This function does rely on other members of your team using the ‘show as’ function described above. It is a really quick and easy way to check everyone’s calendar without having to open them all. You access this view via the calendar appointment option ‘scheduling assistant’.

The blue area highlights the time slot you have chosen for the meeting. It then shows a list view of the attendees and their availability. At the bottom it gives you a reminder of the ‘show as’ options and on the right, it offers times when there are no conflicts. If you have meeting rooms set up in the resources section, it will also show which meeting rooms are available.

Information is Key

If you have a diary that is back to back with meetings, or you are trying to meet with someone who is always in meetings, you can make things easier by including information within the calendar appointment. The appointment itself has a free text box where you can add relevant information, a draft agenda or any other information the invite recipient may find useful. You can attach documents, emails or photos – whatever is relevant to the meeting you are scheduling. Do remember that your recipient’s calendar may be accessible to others, so be mindful of the information you include, especially if it is confidential. As a rule, I would avoid including confidential information within an appointment and would instead reference where the relevant information could be found.

outlook diary

BCC Recipients

With the updates Microsoft have made to Outlook, the bcc box has disappeared from the calendar invite. If you are wanting to send an invite to several external recipients, but it’s not appropriate for them to see each other’s email address, there is still a way to bcc them.

outlook diary

Set up your calendar invite as normal and click ‘to’ to reveal the address list box. Add the email addresses that you want to bcc to the ‘resources’ section.

Travel Time

This tip isn’t Outlook specific, but it is something I have seen people miss many times. If you are attending meetings in different locations, or arranging meetings for someone that will be in different locations, don’t forget to add travel time to the calendar.  When you do add travel time, check how long it will take to get from one location to another and add a little contingency time. It will be a lot less stressful for you (or the person whose diary you manage) if you have plenty of time to get from one place to another.

outlook diary

These are just a few useful tips for making the most of your Outlook calendar. What other Outlook tools do you use to help keep your diary in check?

Hints and Tips: Public Speaking

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Fear of public speaking is one of the highest ranking phobias.

Standing up in front of a group of people, whether they are known to you or not, can be incredibly daunting. However, as a business owner, public speaking can be a powerful way of getting across your expertise and an understanding of how your business can help others. Whether it is at a networking event, conference or presenting to a prospective client, how you come across can influence whether people use or recommend your services.

Presenting doesn’t need to be scary. Here are some tips to help you prepare for that big presentation:

 

Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance…

Try to make time to prepare for your presentation. You may well be a ‘seat of the pants’ kind of person, but even those who ‘wing it’ often take time to prepare. Think about the key points you want to get across and the best order to present them.

 

Less is More: content

Your audience is only likely to remember two or three of your key points. If you pack your presentation full of information, your key messages are likely to be lost. Why are you doing this particular presentation? Once you have that clear in your mind, decide what are the three key things you want people to remember and focus on those in your preparation.

 

Less is More: visual aids

If you decide to use visual aids in the form of electronic slides, whiteboard or flipchart keep the information you display to a minimum. As with your content, keep each slide (page) to two or three points. Keep these points short and succinct. Check your spelling and grammar – if that’s not your strong point, ask someone else to check it. There’s nothing more distracting than a typo on a presentation. Don’t be tempted to sneak in all the information you couldn’t cover in your content!

 

Practice Makes Perfect

Whether it’s in front of the mirror, a friendly colleague or family member, try to run through your full presentation ahead of the real thing. Check your timings. Practice with props or visual aids so that you don’t end up fumbling with them on the day.

 

On the Day

Remember that nobody, except for you, knows exactly what you plan to cover. If you miss something out, it is not the end of the world and you definitely don’t need to tell the audience you missed it! And finally, try to relax and enjoy the experience.

Taking a Break

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As a business owner it can be hard taking a break. Recent research has shown that many business owners are still taking little or no holiday each year. However, time out is vital for mental and physical wellbeing.

Here’s our guide to making the process a little bit easier:

  • Set up a strategic alliance with a business that offers similar services to you. Having a formal working relationship in place protects your clients and theirs, but also gives you a safety net if you’re ill or want to take a break.

 

  • Approximately one month before your holiday, let your clients know you’ll be away. Tell them what cover arrangements will be in place. If there won’t be any cover, let them know if they will be able to contact you if something urgent occurs.

 

  • Prioritise and plan what needs to be done before you go away and what can wait until your return.

 

  • Consider which areas of your business you might be able to outsource.

 

  • The week before you go away, plan the tasks that will need your attention immediately on your return. Set up reminders so you don’t have to think about them while you’re away.

 

  • Check your accounts, pay outstanding bills and set up invoices if appropriate.

 

  • Create a handover document for any work you are outsourcing.

 

  • The day before you head off on holiday set up an out of office on your emails and update your voicemail.

 

  • Take a break!

Taking Meeting Minutes

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The style of minutes has changed a lot over the last ten years – there is less emphasis on verbatim notes and more focus on actions.  The saying goes, “prior preparation and planning can prevent poor performance” and this applies as much for taking meeting minutes as it does for any other task.  So, if taking minutes for meetings leaves you in a cold sweat, here’s a few tips to get you ahead of the game:

Agendas and Papers

If you’re not the person preparing the agenda and papers, ask for copies along with previous minutes and make sure you review them before the meeting.  This will help you anticipate the discussion and decisions that need to be made.  It will also give you a guide as to what actions might arise.

Templates

Use previous meeting minutes and/or the agenda to create a template for your minutes. Most meetings will follow the order of the agenda and often the meeting papers will outline the decisions or actions to be taken. You can prep these in your template, meaning you can better focus on what is said in the meeting.

Speak to the Meeting Chair

The Chair will be able to guide you on how formal the minutes will need to be. They will also be the person who has the final sign off on the meeting minutes, so can give you guidance on the level of detail and format they expect.

 Choose your Technology

Some people still prefer to take minutes using paper and pen. Others prefer going straight to the laptop. Personally, I prefer to take minutes on the laptop as I type quicker than I write and if the agenda order changes, it’s easier to shift things around. If you are planning to use a laptop make sure it is fully charged or that there’ll be a plug close to where you are sitting. It’s also helpful to keep your original typed document, creating a new document when it comes to the editing process.  Always make sure you have a notebook and pen just in case your technology doesn’t work!

Arrive Early

Be the first one in the meeting room. Make sure any technology you plan to use is working and, as above, if you’re using a laptop, choose a seat close to a power supply. As people arrive, if you don’t know them, introduce yourself and make yourself a seating plan – this will make it easier to note who said what and who has received actions in the meeting.

Minute taking is a great skill to have, regardless of your role within a company, and it needn’t be daunting.

Dead Time – what can you do?

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I’m really busy……………..

People seem to be increasingly busy these days. Increased connectivity keeps us online and tuned in more than we have time out. When you’re on the move, whether traveling for business or between meetings, sometimes it can be frustrating when you have time waiting around. Here’s some ideas of what you can do in those short gaps:

Focus on a small project or task

When I’m travelling on a train, it is often my best time for writing blogs or thinking through a problem I need to solve for a client.  The lack of connectivity and restricted access to distractions makes it perfect thinking time.  Don’t force it though, go with your though flows – sometimes not thinking about something at all will help it come together in your head in the quiet times.

Catch Up

If you’re stuck at an airport, or have an hour to kill before meetings, it can be a great time to clear some of those emails that have been sitting around for a while. It can also be a really good time to read those blog posts or newsletters that looked really interesting when it popped in to your inbox.

Breathe and Take Time Out

Life is busy and actually, sometimes it is good just take some time out.  Whether it’s reading a book, knitting, meditating or taking some form of exercise. Whatever helps you wind down, try to find a way to take that with you when you’re travelling or away from the office going from meeting to meeting.

Working with Pets

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This week we have a blog from Holly about the furry Virtual Angel, Reggie!

One of the joys of working from home is spending the day with my four-legged furry friend.  Reggie is a Brussels Griffon and I have to say there are days when I wonder if he is more cat than dog. However, since he came to live with us last year, he has had a huge impact on my working day.  We don’t have a garden, so he needs to go out for walks on a regular basis throughout the day.

Continue reading “Working with Pets”

Email etiquette – what grinds your gears?

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Email has become an essential part of everyday communication. Some people love it, others hate it, but there is no getting away from it. Personally, I think email is a useful tool, working virtually it is a key part of my communications with my clients. That said, there are a few email habits that do make me grumble, here’s a list of my email pet dislikes. Continue reading “Email etiquette – what grinds your gears?”

Using Social Media

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Social media has become a big part of our everyday lives personally and professionally. As a police officer, my social media profiles were locked down with limited public information. However, leaving the police and running my own business, I’ve had to learn to be more open about connecting with people and keeping the information up to date. Continue reading “Using Social Media”

Making the most of the Summer months

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Summer holidays can mean two things for businesses depending on the product or service they provide. It can be one of the busiest times of the year for the hospitality or tourist industry, but for those providing business to business (B2B) services, it can be an incredibly quiet time. Often clients will take time off over the summer or reduce their required services. Some may even review the services over these quiet months and decide to stop using them altogether. Continue reading “Making the most of the Summer months”

Tips and Tricks: Gmail Settings (personal or business)

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Today, it’s Google’s turn for our ‘tips and tricks’ spot. Google have a range of apps for business under their GSuite subscription. One of these is Gmail, which is also available free as personal email. Continue reading “Tips and Tricks: Gmail Settings (personal or business)”