A word about subtasks

Let me start by saying that the next version of Outlook 12 will not have sub-tasks. However, there are some new ways around this. First, categories will be much more prominent, and people can use categories as the headers of their projects, for example "Garage Clean Up," "Errands," etc., and then sort the To-Do Bar by Category. Another tactic is to use a task as the main "project" task and then list out each of the subtasks within the master task. In Outlook 12, you will be able to use bullets and standard word formatting in tasks which will give you the ability to neatly list out your tasks and cross them off when you are done.

You can also use a combination of techniques: you could have a category called "Projects" where you list your "master tasks" that contain subtasks within them and then a list of "Next Actions" categories under which you can list your next actions (ala Getting Things Done, Take Back Your Life!, etc.) You could then pull out each next action from the master project task. As you move toward completing the overall project, the number of underlying tasks will decrease. Also, because multiple categories can be applied to the same item, you could apply both the project category and the appropriate next action category to the item. For example, if I have a task where I need to clean out my garage, which involves the following set of sub tasks:

  • Find rental truck company
  • Take recyclables to recycling
  • Take old boxes for donation to Goodwill
  • Sweep floor
  • ...

I could create a task called "Garage Clean Up" with the list above as a bulleted list inside the task. I would then mark the task "Garage Clean Up" with the category "Projects" so that it appears in my "Projects" grouping in my To-Do Bar (which in this case, would be grouped by category.) I would then copy "Find Truck Rental" into its own task and mark it with the new category "Garage Clean Up" and the next action category type "@Online" since I will most likely find a rental truck company online. After I find a truck rental and set up the appointment, I will mark "Find Truck Rental" complete and then pull out the next task (or two in this case) from "Garage Clean Up" task, and likewise mark it with the appropriate project category ("Garage Clean Up") and next action category ("@Truck").

This is just one approach of many. For more sophisticated task management, I highly recommend Microsoft Project as the way to go - that is what it is for!!! And now Project tasks will integrate into Outlook, so you will now get the best of both worlds! For more on Project, check out the links to the right, including Dieter Zirkler's blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/dieterz/.