Daily Practice Technology

Using Microsoft To Do as my task manager

microsoft to do

Introduction

I’ve kept my personal life organised within OmniFocus since they launched version 1. That purple icon in my dock has been a safe haven for the many things that I pin down on my to-do list every day. I’ve climbed onto (and fallen off) the GTD bandwagon many times, but recently all my work-related to-do’s have found a new home. And whilst I might occasionally miss that purple OmniFocus icon in my work life, I’m glad I made the shift.

Groups, Lists & Tasks

Keeping tabs on what I need to do at work does not require the sheer horsepower that OmniFocus possesses. Furthermore, our school recently shifted to Office 365 which means we have access to the full suite of Microsoft products. And once I found out that Microsoft had absorbed Wunderlist into its new app “To Do”, I decided to check it out. And I’ve not looked back.

The simpler structure of organising your tasks into groups and lists is more than sufficient for how I go about my day. Groups hold my core responsibilities, whilst lists offer enough granularity to keep a clear overview. For example, I have a group called “Pupils” which holds lists for every single pupil I’ve currently got to-do items for. Clear, simple and no frills.

Office 365 integration

Another element of Microsoft To Do is the ease with which it integrates with other Microsoft products. Take Outlook for example. Every time I flag an email, it becomes a to-do item in Microsoft To Do. So I’ve created a folder in Outlook called “00 ToDoEmails” (the 00 ensures it’s at the top of my folder list). Every time I flag an email, I drag it into that folder and pick it up from Microsoft To Do. It helps me reach the fabled “Inbox Zero” almost every day, and, as Merlin Mann says, nobody should be working from within their mailbox. This simple action helps me to achieve this with no friction. As soon as I complete the task in To Do, the email is unflagged in Outlook and I can move it to my Archive. Smooth.

Another integration which I quite enjoy is with the calendar. Now, don’t get me wrong. I quite like Outlook, but I really don’t rate their calendar part of the application. So I continue to use the excellent BusyCal for just that purpose. BusyCal syncs with Office 365 without any issues and automatically highlights my priority tasks for me and shows me those satisfactory ticks for all my completed tasks. So within the triumvirate of To Do, Outlook & BusyCal, I manage to stay (mostly) on top of my work. Combined with keeping my professional journal up to date, it gives me a strong option to review progress I’ve made over a given period of time.

Wishlist

That’s not to say Microsoft To Do is a perfect product. There’s definitely room for further integration with something like Teams. The OneNote integration is there, but then, when it comes to sharing, collaboration and teamwork, OneNote in itself could do with some drastic changes. (The inability to share and collaborate just one section from my notebook baffles me. Every. Single. Time.)

Another small request I’d make is the ability to upload custom photos to be used as backgrounds. I love the feature where every single list can have its own photograph or colour scheme. But I’d love to look at my own holiday photos, not someone else’s.

So, Microsoft, if you’re reading this, please make this new user of To Do an even happier one.

In closing

If you’ve never looked at Microsoft To Do, I can definitely recommend that you do. It’s free and seems perfectly tailored towards those of us who use Office 365 in the workplace. It’s available on iOS, Android, Windows & Mac, so your tasks are synced wherever you look at them. Sync has been incredibly stable and fast for me, which is a godsend when it comes to ensuring you trust a system to capture your tasks and keep them safe. I look forward to seeing where this little app goes next!

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