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?

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