Matt Allington the well known Power Pivot, Power BI and Power Query expert and author has recently posted a great off topic article How I Manage My Day with Microsoft ToDo on using Microsoft To Do effectively. It’s really worth a read. I think his setup is brilliantly simple and practical. Basically, he describes a set up that has buckets of monthly and weekly tasks that are then consciously scheduled into week day lists that allows you to focus on a realistic action for each day.
I also came to use Microsoft To Do about a year back – I have found none of the To Do list tools are perfect and all have pros and cons, but I have found MS To Do to be a pretty good compromise. OK it doesn’t really allow for complex project planning but for most things the steps feature helps with simple projects. If you want more complex project planning, I use Trello for this which works well (in the past I have also used the awecome kanbantool.com). But I think Matt’s approach and his Microsoft To Do set up is really brilliant for personal task planning so you should check it out.
So here are my 5 tips in using Microsoft To Do that I hope might be helpful to you too.
- Priority – Microsoft To Do is a bit weak on handling priority – its either Important or Not Important by selecting a star. Anyone familiar with one alternative made more recently famous by Stephen Covey’s best known book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the the Eisenhowser Matrix as one of the habits highly effective people adopt is “First Things First” which means constantly reassessing Important tasks vs Urgent tasks. Sure sometimes they are both. How can you do this in Microsoft To Do? Well one work around is you get in the habit of prefixing each task with #1,#2,#3 or #4
#1 for High Importance & High Priority -DO
#2 for High Importance Low Priority – PLAN
#3 for Low Importance Low Priority – DELEGATE
#4 for Low Importance & Low Priority tasks – ELIMINATEwhich relate to the 4 Eisenhower Matrix quadrants. If you set the Microsoft To Do list alphabetically, it will help you keep focus on the more important things.
- Use Tags – I live a fairly long way from shopping centres so I have to make sure I make the most of errands so I add a tag after the description in the task title say #Jaycar for cables and PC stuff I need to buy from this store – in the search bar #Jaycar brings up all the Jaycar tagged items from any list (unfortunately also the completed ones) but its a great feature. You could add a tag #ClientABC after the description and so on to tasks so you can quickly find all tasks for that client.
- Emails are often tasks so for new To Do items from emails coming in – you can add the New Task tool to your Outlook Folder Pane go to the Navigation Options and add Tasks if not already there. You can select an email with the left mouse button and drag it over this tool and it drafts a new Task for you to Save and Close and it then is available in the default MS To Do Task list for you to move elsewhere easily.
Or you can create a clean New Task from adding the New Task command to your QAT (Quick Access Toolbar office produces have either above or below the ribbon) and then use this to create a new Task which you can copy and paste to from your email then Save and Close so it is available to you in MS To Do Tasks.
- Completed Tasks might have notes or links of information you might want to look up in the future, move all into a Completed Tasks list and then mark them completed, rather than leave them completed in the day they were done making them a bit harder to find later on.
Note one little quirk on this is once a Task is completed, it won’t let you just move the Task to this Completed Tasks List with your mouse – instead you have to right click on the completed task and use the move option.
- There is no “Week” view in MS To Do which would be great for Matt’s above setup, but as a workaround, you can add each day’s list to the Taskbar and set it to “live” and so Mon, Tue etc which will then be live tiles on your Taskbar and you can get a “Week” view of the first few tasks depending on your tile size which you can make bigger. Right click on the Task in MS To DO and choose Pin to Start and then on the Task List you can fiddle about with the icon size and width and ensure that the tile is “live”.