Track Emails, Phone Calls, And Tasks With Outlook Journal

Ryan Dube 27-12-2012

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 Capture Missing Time In Your Work Schedule With Klok Time Tracking Over the past few months, I've discovered a very strange phenomenon creeping into my work schedule. I seem to keep losing time. How do you lose time? It's easier than you might think. You get... Read More to literally “clock” every second of the day, or it might include using something like the more advanced Chrometa tool Effectively Track Your Computer Time (And Bill For It!) With Chrometa Read More 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.

Track Emails, Phone Calls, And Tasks With Outlook Journal journal2

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.

Track Emails, Phone Calls, And Tasks With Outlook Journal journal6

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.



 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

Related topics: Microsoft Outlook, Time Management, Timer Software.

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  1. Sue
    August 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Can you share all of your journal and not your outlook calendar? I want to use it for recording received calls and have others in office view entries made but i dont want them to view my calendar.

  2. Gini
    May 4, 2016 at 3:52 pm


    Microsoft seems to flag my favorite tools to "deprecate" (which does not mean "to remove or eliminate" by the way!). Briefcase, which I used daily, is gone. I've been using Journal for years to keep track of my work day (In my field, we charge our time to different projects over the course of each day. Journal is really handy for quickly logging time.

    I really wish they would survey users before eliminating tools. :-(

  3. gonesail
    May 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for this insight. Very useful,


  4. Lucy Jackson
    April 26, 2015 at 12:17 am

    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.

    • Steve Hughes
      February 14, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Thanks for this hint! Great :)

  5. Anne Currie
    March 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    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).

  6. pat
    June 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    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?

  7. Dominic Chang
    December 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm

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

  8. Douglas Mutay
    December 28, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Thank you very much. I use Outlook everyday and never used the Journal. Your article has just showed me how this can be important. I have turned it on and will come back with feedback after a few days.

    • Steve Hughes
      February 14, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Dear Douglas, what is your feedback after using it for 4 years now?

      • Douglas Mutay
        February 14, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        Well, good question Steve. The fact is that I couldn't use it longer although it has great and appealing features. My work environment was not the good area for practice. We have a certain amount of storage allocated for active work and the journal was taking a lot of space because the things I was interested in see it capturing was just taking more space than the actual work. I couldn't keep it for long and had to deactivate it. I suppose it's a great feature when you don't have that limitation of storage. Thanks anyway for your follow up. It just reminded me of how great is makeuseof. I haven't come back for a while.

  9. Chew Jian Yue
    December 28, 2012 at 4:20 am

    I want a linux version of this article :*(

  10. Junil Maharjan
    December 28, 2012 at 4:12 am

    I use thunderbird and want to know if there is anything like this in it. may be there is an add-on

  11. Daniel Huss
    December 28, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I never really looked into this before. I'll have to give it a try when I get back to work next year...