I want to share with you a little-known feature in Outlook that you might not be aware of: it’s a task timer!
It’s a little out of the way so I’m going to show you where to find it.
- First, go down to your Outlook task bar in the lower left and click on those three little dots.
- This brings up some expanded navigation options. Click on “Folders.”
- You’ll see there are now some additional folders along the left side navigation list. From there, click on “Journal.”
- This brings up the Journal timeline. This is where your journal entries are saved and appear.
- When you’re ready to use the timer, click on “Journal Entry” there in the top left. This is where you find the hidden task timer!
- Now, fill in the details of your task or activity. First, select an entry type. I tend to use “Task,” but you have several options to choose from.
- Then give your entry a good description.
- You’ll see that the date and start time are already filled in for you. There’s a big note section below that where you can type anything you like. There’s also a company field where you might want to type in a client name (or, alternatively, you can start your description with the client name like I prefer; either way, you can play around and do whatever works best for you).
- Once you’re ready to begin whatever it is you want to track the time on, simply click “Start Timer” and away you go.
- When you wish to end recording, click on “Save & Close.” This will stop the timer and save the entry to the Journal timeline.
- To check the recorded minutes, go the timeline and click on the entry to open it. The total minutes recorded appear in the “Duration” field.
And that’s it, easy peasy!
A couple quick thoughts on task timing…
If you’ve followed me long, you know that I’m an advocate for ditching the timesheet, stopping the clock-watching and task-timing, and selling value-based solutions instead of hours.
So, in sharing the Outlook timer with you, I’m not suggesting you start tracking all your time and tasks for clients.
That just creates bigger administrative headaches, makes your business and billing more complicated and time-consuming, and limits your earning potential on top of everything.
However, there are certain instances when timing things is useful.
Sometimes, for your own internal use and frame of reference, you want to get an idea of how long certain common tasks or activities take you on average.
You also might want to track time when you are doing work that is separate from and not included in a client’s support plan.
For example, I work with attorneys and charge them a flat monthly fee for a body of administrative support. However, there are limitations to that support, one of which is litigation.
One of the activities that is sometimes (not always) needed in litigation is transcription.
A lot of times, an opposing party will provide pleadings in an uneditable format that a client must respond to.
If we can’t get them to send us an editable version (like Word) and OCR conversion won’t work or would be too time and labor intensive to clean up (quite often it’s easier and takes less time to simply retype something from scratch), that’s when transcription is needed.
However, transcription times can vary greatly, obviously. So, for work of that nature, that is outside the normal scope of a client’s regular monthly support plan, I use the Outlook Journal and timer to keep track of these additional activities so I can bill for them at the next invoicing.
So, I’m curious… did you know about the timer in Outlook? If not, do you think it will come in handy now for you? Let me know in the comments!