One of the issues I encountered in my transition to team leader at Vertica is that the number of tasks grew to a number which I was unable to keep organized in memory. Previously keeping everything in memory was an option because it was simply a matter of one task after the other. Now I am faced with many parallel tasks making my old approach impractical. I thought I would share how I go about handling the numerous concurrent tasks using Outlook 2003 and 2007. The main difference between 2003 and 2007 is that colored flags are not available in 2007 so I have switched to using categories instead. Here's how is goes:
The most obvious way of organizing the tasks in Outlook is using the task list which I did but it turned out to be impractical when you receive every task in the form of an e-mail. Also switching to the task list just did not do it for me, I want to have everything available at a glance and the 2003 implementation of the task list did not provide that.
What I ended up with is using my inbox for organizing tasks (each task corresponding to an e-mail). Using categories (or flags for 2003) I distinguish what I need to get done and what others need to get done: High Priority (mine), Work Items (mine), Awaiting Internal (a colleague), Awaiting External (a customer), and Deferred (basically I never get around to these but it is nice to know what I keep pushing in front of me). Each has its own color to make them easily distinguishable at a glance in the inbox.
This way I know not only what I need to do myself but also what members of my team is doing and what I need from our customers. I created the Awaiting External/Internal because I want to keep the ball in my court so to speak. I want to be able to follow-up on a request I have made of a customer and not leave it entirely up to customer to get back to me. The same thing goes for internal stuff. Basically the goal is to avoid a single point of failure. With only a single person keeping track of a task it only takes same person to forget about it and it is gone. My way a number of people need to forget about it for it to disappear; in essence it is distributed task management :)
Additionally I have created a search folder for each of the categories in order to have a nice count of what I have going on. It is a nice reminder of the stuff needing to get done but it also allows me to get my folder organizing on and have tasks residing in other folders without them buried. Right now I do not really need it but it allows me to scale up easily.
Finally I want to mention the To-Do Bar of Outlook 2007 which makes the whole thing make even more sense as e-mails. I simply flag the e-mails I want to deal with at a specific time and it is added to my task list which is available at all times to the right of my screen. Also the e-mails and Outlook tasks are nicely integrated this way.
TIP: Setting up Outlook to do this is pretty easy but I did run into one thing which is not obvious, at least not to me. I wanted the search folders to display total items not just unread items. To do this you need to right-click the search folder and change the radio button from "Show number of unread items" to "Show total number of items". Obvious once you know how.
I would love to hear how you go about managing your daily tasks.