what's on your Office:Mac to-do list?

For those of you who aren't following Mac Mojo, the MacBU team blog, or following us on twitter @officemac, you've been missing out on a chance to win a customised colour Macbook and a copy of Office:Mac 2011 when it's released[1].  We're asking a series of questions in our blog about your usage of Office:Mac.  Respond to us on twitter, or post a comment to one of the relevant threads in Mac Mojo, and you're entered into the contest (and make sure you read the rules for the contest while you're there, too!).  The latest question is this:

This week we want to hear how Office for Mac helps you regularly stay on task. From the frequent requests that land in your email inbox, to the ongoing projects that you are working to wrap up – Office for Mac helps us stay productive. So for this contest question, we want to know:  “What’s on your current Office for Mac to-do list?”  Let us know how you are using Office for Mac to get things done!

I'm not eligible to enter the contest, but I'll answer anyway.  For me, keeping on top of things is almost exclusively managed through Outlook:Mac.

  1. I have a big address book (currently 818 entries in it).  All 818 entries in my address book have a category assigned to them.  My categories are mostly based around the applications that are here in MacBU, so there are categories for Outlook and PowerPoint, as well as for my User Experience team.  I also have a few categories for business contacts and personal ones, plus things like travel.  In all, I've got 14 categories right now.
  2. Since all of my contacts have a category assigned to them, when I get an email from one of them, their mail is automatically assigned that category.  This allows me to glance at my inbox and see what's going on.  If I see a lot of red in there, that means that I've got a lot of PowerPoint mail.  If it's all purple, then that's my UX team.  More than 90% the mail in my inbox has a category; if it doesn't, then I look at it and decide whether I need to add it to my address book.
  3. Likewise, every event on my calendar is categorised, which means that I know at-a-glance what I'm spending most of my time on this week.  
  4. I have several recurring tasks to remind me to do things that I'd probably forget otherwise.  For example, I have a task named "install dogfood" which fires a reminder at 9am to remind me to download the latest version of Office:Mac and install it.  On Friday afternoon, I have another recurring task called "close blinds" to remind me to close the blinds on my window in my office, which helps to reduce Microsoft's use of air conditioning on the weekends.  
  5. The new conversation feature in Outlook, which we announced last week, has been a boon to my productivity.  If there's a lot of related mail in my inbox, I can see more of the mail that's in my inbox without scrolling.  An unexpected side effect is that if there's a lot of stuff in my inbox that I don't really need, deleting it is a lot faster.
  6. I'm one of those Inbox Zero people.  It's my goal at the end of every day to have nothing left in my inbox.  I manage this through a mix of rules so that only things that are addressed directly to me end up in my inbox (everything else gets routed to other folders), which means that my mail is pre-triaged for me.  Then I ruthlessly handle the contents of my inbox.  If I can respond immediately, I do.  If I can't, then I figure out what is needed before I can respond, and I do it.  If there's a task that I need to do as a result of that mail, then I move it to my task list and give it a deadline.

Make sure that you share your answers at Mac Mojo -- sharing your answer here doesn't enter you into the contest!  I don't mind if you comment here too, but if you want the Macbook and Office:Mac 2011, you've got to post in Mac Mojo or respond to @officeformac on Twitter.  Now go forth and share your productivity secrets!

(Speaking of twitter, you can follow me here, but be warned that I don't just talk about Office:Mac stuff!)


[1] Random trivia: that picture of the Macbook was taken in the little nook that I often use as my office when I'm in Redmond. In fact, here's a picture I took of that nook when I was using it on an earlier trip to the mothership this year.