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Using Outlook categories to gain overview of Task list

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  • Using Outlook categories to gain overview of Task list

    I attended the Roadmap seminar and I must say it was wonderful!

    Ok, I have an attorney who is the lead attorney for our corporate/commercial group. He has approximately 13 attorneys who he delegates work to. After speaking with him, I explained to him that he needs to be managing the Project and not the Tasks. He was delegating Tasks to his delegates, but either due to poor use of Outlook, poor description of the Next Action, or the delegate dropping the ball or not reporting back to the lead attorney properly, he gave up and is no longer sharing his tasks (through Outlook.)

    I have given the lead attorney the GTD book, but he hasn't been able to read it yet. He's interested, so there is hope.

    My question is this:
    Do you think it would be possible to use the Category field in Outlook Tasks to define the Client/Matter OR delegates name (it depends on whether he can do the work or if the delegate is solely responsible) in order to give him a view of the whole playing field?

    I don't believe that he can use the traditional @Office, @Calls, contexts because of all the items that he has in the air at one time for MANY different matters.


  • #2
    I'm not an attorney, but I am in the software business so I end up in the position of delegating tasks from a project plan fairly often.

    First thing I've found is that Outlook is a profoundly inadequate tool for managing a project of any complexity. Depending on the complexity of the project, I usually opt for either MS Project (which is so complex that I usually stay as far away from it as I can -- unless the project extends beyond 6 months) or MS Excel.

    That said, I do use Outlook for tracking delegated tasks (as well as my own next actions). I try to be fairly course-grained about the task that has been delegated. In other words, I don't necessarily care what the next action is... I just want the delegatee to accomplish an outcome, so the outcome is what goes in my @waiting list.

    From there, I meet with the delegatee on a regular basis (dictated by the size of the task and my perception of their progress). If I feel that they aren't making adequate progress, then I get all GTD on their a$$ and ask them if they know what the next action is (if not, I help them figure it out).

    I also find that posting the project plan with everyone's names and dates (along with highlights for those who are late) in a very public place helps keep everyone on track.

    Aside from this, I think it's critical to ensure that the delegatees fully understand what is expected of them. I've seen a number of projects fall way off course simply because the delegator had different expectations than the delegatee.

    So... long story, short...
    1. Don't manage projects with Outlook
    2. Do track delegated tasks in Outlook
    3. Don't track delegated tasks at the 'next action' level
    4. Do meet regularly with the delegatee to ensure adequate progress

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by jknecht; 07-27-2007, 09:02 AM.


    • #3
      Oh... and one other thing... I wouldn't use Outlook to delegate the task. This allows the delegatee to mark when they're complete. I don't always agree with them, and I don't want stuff to come off my list until I say so.

      Using technology to track progress on tasks can be seductive, but there is no substitute for a good old fashioned conversation.

      Just my two cents.


      • #4
        Use @Waiting or Projects-Delegated category to track delegated tasks and projects.