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?

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.

Happy New Year – 2018 is here!

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Welcome to 2018!

The first full working week of 2018, how are things going for you?  

Last week whizzed by for me, with an on-site day with one client and an excellent meeting with another, reviewing the past three months and planning for the coming months. My feet barely touched the ground.  Unfortunately, I was suffering with a cold (kindly donated by my nephew over Christmas, he was happy to gift it to me, my Mum and Dad, we have taught him to share well!).

This meant I wasn’t able to join my walking group on Saturday, however, I snuggled up at home and went slightly mad with de-cluttering rooms, updating music on i-tunes, putting the Christmas decorations into the loft and generally filling my recycling bin to the brim.  It felt very therapeutic, almost worth missing the walk!

I also reviewed my categories, which I have blogged about previously and thought it may be helpful to re-share with you, “Must Do”; “Should Do”; “Will Do”!

Must Do: for me, are things that have been outstanding for some time, not necessarily important, though items I would like to complete for my own sanity.

Should Do: are daily or weekly tasks that will be completed regularly and will always be there.  Identified in Outlook, my reminders keep these in hand.

Will Do:  are goals we have set for 2018, to assist Holly and I, in continuing to develop and grow Virtual Angels.

Take a look at your own task list, identify tasks that fit into each category, then book out regular blocks of time in your calendar to tackle them.  January is a great time to review processes and tickling completed items off at the end of the day provides a sense of achievement.

Make this full working week count and take a little time each day to identify and complete some Must, Should and Will Do tasks.  Let me know how much you enjoy ticking them off at the end of the day.

Staying Safe At The Christmas Party

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An extra blog from us this week, a topical post from Charlotte Allfrey, Principal HR Consultant at Metro HR:

‘Staying safe at the Christmas party’.

Charlotte Allfrey founded Metro HR because she really enjoys sharing her knowledge and expertise with clients across all sectors, helping them to build motivated and successful businesses.

Continue reading “Staying Safe At The Christmas Party”

Onsite or Offsite Business Support?

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Are you beginning to think that you can’t manage your workload, juggling too many things at once, it seems as if there is never enough time to plan ahead, contact possible new clients, think about planning and income for the next six to nine months? It may be the right time to consider business support. Continue reading “Onsite or Offsite Business Support?”

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”

What can I do to be more organised?

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“What can I do to be more organised?” Is a question we hear often at Virtual Angels, when chatting to people.

Before we can answer, we need to ask some direct questions, also known as the ‘mini-interrogation’. Continue reading “What can I do to be more organised?”

Holiday support: is it time to think about it?

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The last half term has passed us by for this school year and it will be the summer holiday in ‘only’ six weeks’ time, seven for some!  Not long, is it?  While children, no doubt, are looking forward to the time off, it can be a frantic time for parents who are employed, let alone run their own businesses. Continue reading “Holiday support: is it time to think about it?”

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!

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Over the past few months, I have been helping a client move offices, relocation, relocation, relocation! Moving from the Isle of Wight to the mainland (a real change of scenery). I have visited both the Isle of Wight and the chosen area in the UK during the past few months, so some on-site work rather than virtual for a change!

However, initially, the sourcing of the new office was started by searching the internet for possible options and making lots of telephone calls. Continue reading “Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!”