We’re all looking for ways to simplify our workday and get more done. Lucky for all of us, Office 365 has plenty of tools and short cuts to maximize your time and make your screen time easier to navigate.
Staying organized is the key to staying focused during the workday. Rather than jumping from task to task, stay focused and boost your productivity when you know what you need to get accomplished and when. Start simplifying your workday with these nine easy tips so you can make the most of your time!
Tip 1: Schedule Uninterrupted Work Time with DND
Use your Teams presence status to give yourself uninterrupted work time with Do Not Disturb. This will silence all incoming messages, calls, and reminders. Even better, you can set durations in Teams. So, if you want to work without interruption for 45 minutes, you can set the presence status duration accordingly.
To set up Do Not Disturb:
- Click on your photo in the top right corner
- Hover over your status and choose Do Not Disturb
- If you want to set a time limit, you can select Duration and set your time frame
Tip 2: Use Scheduling Assistant in Outlook and Teams
Microsoft’s Scheduling Assistant is a great tool to make scheduling meetings with coworkers a breeze. When you are scheduling a meeting, select your attendees, and see when everyone is free. This tool is accessible in both Teams and Outlook!
With the scheduling assistant, you can mark attendees as required or optional. The scheduling assistant will sort your attendees on the left side of the calendar, so you can search for a time when all required attendees are available.
To schedule a meeting with the Scheduling Assistant:
- Click Schedule a Meeting in Teams or New Event in Outlook
- Add your Required and Optional attendees
- Click Scheduling Assistant
- Search for a time when everyone is free
Note: On the left-hand side of the calendar, a green Available or a red Unavailable will appear under each attendee’s name indicating whether they are free during your selected time frame
Scheduling assistant in Outlook and Teams is an easy way to save yourself time and the headache of scheduling meetings with colleagues.
Tip 3: Use the Planner and To Do App
Microsoft offers various tools to stay organized such as the Tasks by Planner and To Do app. You can download the Tasks by Planner and To Do in Microsoft Teams for easy access to your planner tasks in Teams, and Outlook offers a To Do list. View, access, and organize all of your important (and not so important) tasks in one place with either application to stay on top of your work.
To Download Tasks by Planner in Teams:
- Select More added apps in Teams
- Choose Tasks by Planner and To Do from the list of Teams apps
To Set Up your To Do list in Outlook:
- From Outlook online, select the Check Mark from the left side of your screen to access your To Do list
- View, add, and complete tasks
Both Tasks by Planner and To Do allow you to set the priority of tasks, due dates, and even create recurring tasks so they repopulate on your task list however often you need.
Tip 4: Receive Planner and To-Do List Digest Emails
Using Power Automate, you can set a flow to send you an overview of your outstanding Planner or To Do List tasks. This is a great way to get a daily or weekly overview of your incomplete tasks so you can plan accordingly.
- Open Microsoft’s Power Automate
- Search for the template Send a digest email of all outstanding Planner tasks
- Sign into all required accounts
- Adjust your settings as needed
Note: The template is set to run on Mondays at 9:00 AM. If you click Show advanced options, you can set the day, time, and frequency of these digest emails.
- Click Save
- Run a manual test of this workflow to ensure it is running properly
This simple template will allow you to stay on top of any outstanding tasks on your To Do list so you don’t fall behind!
Tip 5: Add Tasks to your To Do List Directly from an Email
When you receive an email asking you to complete a task, you can do this all from your inbox. Rather than switching back and forth between your inbox and your To Do list, you can directly add this task to your To Do list.
To create a task from Outlook online:
- Highlight the text in an email you want as your task name
- Select Create task (check mark) from the icons above the text
- This will create a new task linked to the initial email
- Edit any task properties from the To Do list in Outlook
Unfortunately, this trick does not work as smoothly on the desktop app. In the search for easy ways to create a to-do item from an email in the desktop app, it seems the quickest way is to:
- Flag the email you want to become a task
- Right click the flag to select the task due date
- Go to Tasks and select the Flagged Emails tab
- From here you can view and edit your flagged email tasks
These easy steps will allow you to save time and energy when adding tasks to your To Do list in Outlook.
Tip 6: Color Code Your Inbox
You can color code your Outlook inbox by applying a conditional formatting rule to your messages. When you have a flooded inbox, it can feel overwhelming. Rather than opening every email, especially after a day or even week away, you can tag emails you are Cc’d on with a different color. When you see an email with the color tag you chose for Cc’d mail, you will know that this is not a top priority, and you can circle back to it later.
To tag Cc’d emails in Outlook online:
- Click Settings and then View all Outlook settings
- Select Rules and then Add new rule
- Name your rule
- Add the condition I’m on the Cc line
- Add the action Categorize and then select the color tag you want
- Save your new rule and click the Run button
Note: You can change the names of the categories by navigating to the General Settings and selecting Categories.
To color Cc’d emails in Outlook desktop app:
- Select View Settings
- From settings, click Conditional Formatting
- Click Add and choose a name for your new rule
- Select Font to access more properties
- Choose the color and any other properties for cc’d emails
- Click OK to return to your Conditional Formatting Rules
- Make sure your new rule is still selected and click Condition
- Check the Where I am box, and select on the CC line with other people from the dropdown menu
- Click OK, and once you return to the Conditional Formatting Rules click OK again to save
Note: If you set up tagged emails in outlook online, they will also be tagged in the Outlook desktop app, but the conditional formatting in the desktop app will not appear in Outlook online.
While this is just an example of one way to visually organize your emails, you can continue to explore other conditional formatting options to color code more of your inbox.
Tip 7: Use Your Channel’s Email in Teams
If you are in a role where you receive reports or other documents from a specific tool that you then need to share with a larger group of people, we’ve got a tip for you. Rather than receiving a report and uploading it somewhere for everyone to see, or forwarding it to ten other people, try using a channel in Teams. Once you have established a channel in Teams, you can have reports and documents emailed directly to the channel and cut out all the other steps.
To get your channel’s email in Teams:
- Click the ellipsis next to the channel name
- Select Get email address from the drop-down menu
- Copy the channel email
Note: If you want an external tool or resource to send emails to this address, make sure to click advanced settings on the flyout window to customize the email address permissions.
Tip 8: Add Items to the Approvals App in Teams
Are you constantly needing to approve content or submit content for approval for your job? If so, the Approvals app in Teams is a great tool to consolidate ready-for-approval content into one space. Your colleagues can upload content for you to approve within Teams, and you can do the same in just a few easy steps.
- Select More added apps in Teams
- Choose Approvals from the list of Teams apps
- If there is content for you to approve, it will appear on the main screen of the Approvals app
- From the Approvals app, you can select the New approval request button in the top right corner. From here you can add the content, approvers, and any other details about the request
You can create submission templates to make approval requests easy to review on your end. You can also sync e-signature applications to the Approvals app for easy access to all content that is ready for approval.
Tip 9: Start an Approval Process Through SharePoint Lists
Another way to start the approval process is through SharePoint. Power Automate has a workflow template in place that sends content to a selected person for approval when it is added to a specific SharePoint list. This same workflow will email the approver when content needs approval and email you once the content is approved or rejected so you are always in the loop!
This can be used for anything from approval of blog posts to purchasing orders. As long as you have a SharePoint list for approvals, you can use this workflow.
- Open Microsoft’s Power Automate
- Search for the template Start approval when a new item is added
- Sign into all required accounts
- Select your SharePoint site and the list that will trigger the workflow
- Select the person who will need to approve content
- Adjust any other settings
- Click Save and run a manual test of the workflow
This workflow template can be used for multiple lists, and you can assign different lists to be approved by different people. This simple workflow allows you and your coworkers to stay on top of approvals, so nothing falls through the cracks.
Start Simplifying Your Workday
We threw a lot of tips and tricks your way today. Maybe you love them all or maybe you only see a few that could help you. Wherever you are in your workday simplification and organization process, it is always important to be on the hunt for new tips and tricks to make life easier for you.
Nine new tricks are a lot to take on at once, so start small with just one or two at a time and see how they stick! To learn more about Office 365 simplification solutions, contact PEI today!
Anna Ross, PEI