Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Outlook?

For over a decade, my Day-Timer and I were inseparable. After a great deal of thought, I made the switch and went digital. Outlook became the tool which managed my life. The Palm became the "satellite" that allowed me to take my data everywhere. That was 2001.

Ten years later, I still manage my life with Outlook. My BlackBerry is now the satellite. Yes, there were other options back then, and yes there are even more options now. Why Outlook then?
Why Outlook now?

All the Eggs in One Basket
I have never been one to embrace lots of tools. Let's keep it simple. Give me one tool that can do it all. I hear so many conversations that go something like this:

I use Outlook Express to manage e-mail.
I use Google Calendar to keep up with appointments.
I use ToodleDo to keep up with tasks.
I use (fill in your own blank) to manage phone numbers.
I use (fill in another blank) to manage e-mail addresses.
I use Pad of Notes to manage miscellaneous reference information.

That's all well and good. I prefer a different route.
I use Outlook to manage e-mail
I use Outlook to keep up with appointments.
I use Outlook to keep up with tasks.
I use Outlook to manage phone numbers.
I use Outlook to manage e-mail addresses.
I use Outlook to manage miscellaneous reference information.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Because I have everything in one program, all of the data "talks to" the rest of the data. Using "drag and drop," when I receive an e-mail with information about where I am supposed to be, I drag it to the Calendar button. Outlook creates a new appointment and includes the entire body of the e-mail message in the note section of that appointment.

When the e-mail concerns something I am supposed to do, and I don't want to do it right then, dragging the e-mail to the Task button creates a new task. It fills in the subject line of the task with the subject line of the e-mail, which I can then edit. It puts the entire body of the e-mail message in the note section of the Task.

I can drag a Note to the Mail button and instantly create an e-mail. The text of the Note appears in the body of the of the e-mail message. Drag and drop saves tons of time and allows me to get the e-mail Inbox empty on a daily basis.

Outlook is Readily Available
If you have Microsoft Office, you have Outlook. Admittedly, you can buy stripped down versions of Office for home use that do have include Outlook, but the standard Office program is going to give you Outlook. There is nothing else to buy.There is no annual fee. There is no "free for the basic version but here's the charge for the upgraded model" to worry about.

Outlook Has Stood the Test of Time
I have been using Outlook for 10 years, and it has been around a good while longer than that. People have put it through its paces time and time again. Because it has been around so long and is so popular, there are countless help resources on the Internet and countless people who can help out with best practice.

Outlook Will Carry the Heavy Load
Sure, you can fine plenty of programs that will let you make a to-do list. Entering half a dozen tasks is one thing. When you really and truly use one program to keep up with all of your tasks, repeating tasks, and goals with their various steps and supporting information, you are looking at over 1,000 tasks, and that's a conservative figure for most people. Yesterday, I renewed my driver's license. I already have a Task in Outlook reminding me to renew again--in 4 years.That's what I mean when I say keeping up with all of your tasks.

Will the task program you are considering carry that sort of load? Can you search it quickly and pull a bit of information that is embedded in the note section of a task? How quickly can you reschedule dates on 100 different tasks? Outlook makes it look easy.

Here to Stay
You and I see companies go belly up every day. I just don't see Microsoft being one of them. We also see companies hook you with a "free" services that one day become not so free anymore.

What are you going to do if and when the company that hosts your valuable data in the cloud goes out of business? What are you going to do if and when they say, "Sorry, but we lost all of your data," and then point to something in the user agreement that says they are not responsible in case of loss of data.

Every bit of my Outlook data resides in one file. Every appointment, every to-do, every contact, every piece of reference information, every sent e-mail--It's all in one file. Every week, I back up that file with a copy on my hard drive and a copy in the cloud using Dropbox. Every month, a copy of that file goes onto an external hard drive.  

Have I considered going with other options? Not for more than 5 seconds. Not when something has worked this well for this long. That's my answer. That's "Why Outlook?"

What are your thoughts? Anyone have other reasons you like Outlook? Are there dissenting opinions?
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