Track Emails, Phone Calls, And Tasks With Outlook Journal

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outlook journalOne of the most common complaints from people with very busy jobs is that there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for everything. The only way to make time is to somehow fit more tasks into less space.

It sounds impossible, but it’s not. A lot of time management comes down to time logging, and through monitoring how you use time, come to understand how you might be wasting time as well. Here at MakeUseOf, we’ve covered lots of tools and tips you can use to track your time throughout the day. This might include installing software like Klok to literally “clock” every second of the day, or it might include using something like the more advanced Chrometa tool that Dave covered.

However, if you’re working in a typical office, the odds are pretty good that you have a Microsoft Office package installed on your computer. The odds are also good that the Office software you have includes Microsoft Outlook. And if that’s the case, then believe it or not you already have a very cool time tracking application built right into the Microsoft Outlook tool set.

Since Outlook is about as common as Word and Excel on most work computers around the world, I’d like to share with you a few tips about how you can use the really cool Journal tool in Microsoft Outlook to track your day – including every task, every email, every phone call and everything that you do throughout the day. This is a one-click time management system that pretty much beats almost anything else that you might download for free.

Using the Outlook Journal to Log Your Day

What’s amazing is that a lot of people use Outlook and never even realize that this little tool is available. People are so accustomed to using the calendar, task list, and e-mail client that they don’t even bother to look down at the lower right corner of the left navigation bar. There’s a small little green notebook icon – that’s the Journal app.

outlook journal

When you open this little app, you’ll realize pretty quickly that it’s not so little at all. If you leave the Journal open in one corner of your screen, you can use it throughout the day to keep track of all your activities just by clicking one button – the Journal Entry.

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When you launch a new journal entry, you just give it a name (subject), choose a type of entry like a phone call, an email or a task that you’re working on, and then click on the “Start Time” button. That’s it. Just get to work. You can type a description of the work so that later when you view your journal, you’ll have a detailed record of what you did on that day, but really the value of this tool is the ability to keep a daily log of your activities with very little effort at all. Just open and click.

track tasks

From inside the journal entry, you can also quickly kick off any other Outlook app like an email message, an appointment, a new task and more.  In other words, this actually makes the Journal tool the best project management center for each of the projects you might be working on at your job. What better way to keep track of the overall hours you’ve spent on each project, plus have the ability to tie all of your activities like tasks, email messages and more, directly to the project record?

track tasks

If you want to see how much time you’ve devoted to the project, or whether your project is falling within the projected timeline allotted by your boss, just click the “Timeline” icon and you’ll see the journal entries laid out over a calendar timeline.

track tasks

You can also focus in on the timeline and view it by the hour, not only by the day.

Best of all, if your boss keeps asking you what you’ve been working on, all you have to do is right click on the project Journal and select the “Share” option. Just share out the Journal to your boss, and he or she can quickly monitor your progress and how much time you’re devoting to the project, without the need to keep pestering you about what you’re working on. A good boss-worker relationship really boils down to openness and communication, so offering this sort of collaboration and visibility with your boss would easily score some pretty big points.

track emails

 Of course, you don’t have to view your entries over a long timeline. If you just want a quick snapshot glance at everything you’ve been working on lately, you can just switch to the “Entry List” view and sort by date.

track emails

Once your list of journal entries gets obscenely long, have no fear – you can just right-click on the timeline or entry list and choose “Go to Date…”  This gives you the ability to see all of the entries you made on a certain day.

outlook journal

So the next time your colleague says, “Hey, do you remember that project we were working on last February?” – you can just flip open your super-handy Journal app, go to that date, and recall all of your notes and activities from that time. You’ll blow everyone away with your ability to remember everything you’ve ever done, and every project you’ve accomplished.

That’s the Journal app in theory anyway. How people actually put it into practice is a whole other story. And how you put it in practice is completely up to you, but just be aware that the tool is there should you ever need it.

Have you ever made use of the Outlook Journal tool in Outlook? How has it made your job easier? Share your experiences with it in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Leather Notebook Via Shutterstock

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Comments (9)
  • gonesail

    Thank you for this insight. Very useful,


  • Lucy Jackson

    Journal is easy to use in Outlook 2013.
    Just go File>Options>Customize Ribbon>All Commands>Journal.
    On the right column, click one of the main tabs and add New Group.
    Now click the “Add>>” that is in between the columns.
    Now you can open it from the Journal link in the tab you added it to. It will open the full Journal menu on the ribbon.

  • Anne Currie

    Journal is absolutely great, but unfortunately Microsoft have deprecated it. It is still available in Outlook 2010, though you have to search around a bit. In 2013 though it is fairly completely hidden.

    Microsoft have not introduced a replacement, which is a pain, but add-ins that will replace the function do exist, for example Qlockwork (full disclosure, I’m a Qlockwork developer).

  • pat

    can this be used to set an alarm for an event, for example task 1 started at 09:00 and needs to be finished by 10:00, can it flash up if the activity is not closed?

  • Dominic Chang

    With windows 8 being crossed platformed I see this article may come in really helpful soon.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.