Outlook calendar: Beyond scheduling

There’s a gold mine of information in your calendaring data, whether you use Google, Outlook, Lotus Note or GroupWise. If you can see, or export, your calendar data in a list, you have some great decision-support data. Let’s take a look at Outlook.

If you can view it, you can use itLocation

In Outlook, from your Calendar window, click the View tab. In the Current View group, click the Change View button. Here, you’ll see a list view. If you regularly archive your older items, you may not see everything here. To see older items, click an Archive folder. Depending upon the features of your calendaring software, you will be able to add more column titles to the view. Then use those to sort and filter. For example, if you use Categories to identify different types of events, you can sort by Category. Let’s say that you code appoint­­­­ments and meetings that require travel with a Travel category. You will be able to accurately report how much you traveled and make decisions about travel budgets or alternatives to travel for the coming year. An easy way to filter down to just what you need is to click on the Expand/Collapse button after you sort. You’ll find this on the View tab, too, in the Arrangement group. Once you collapse all of your categories, then you can expand whichever one you need to take a closer look at.

Maybe you want to know how much time you spent at various locations and organizations. For this, right-click any column title and choose Field Chooser. In the list, you’ll find an entry for Location. Click and drag this onto your view. Then, sort by it. Unlike categories, you may not be able to automatically collapse by the location grouping. To do that, click on the View Settings button in the Current view group. Click Group By, and select Location in the Group Items by field. If this is just a temporary need, you can click the Reset View button in the Current View group to reset everything. Otherwise, clicking Change View will allow you to save this view to use again.

Crunch it in Excel

Not all calendaring applicationExcels let you see your data as a list on the screen. For these, you will usually be able to export to a comma separated value (.csv) file, which opens quite nicely in Excel without any special maneuvers. Now that you have your data in a place where you can really do some analysis, let’s take a look at how you can use it.

Sort by subject to see where you spend most of your time. (HINT: If you track tasks in the same application, you should be able to export these, too.) You can even do a little date/time math in Excel to determine the precise amount of time you’re spending. Simply subtract the start time from the end time and add 1 for multiple day events or multiply by 24 to get the time, for same-day events.

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