Technology Advisor Blog

3 Things You Probably Didn't know about Microsoft Outlook Tasks

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/15/11 4:11 PM

At the beginning of the year, I made a New Years Resolution to get rid of all the paper on my desk.  Two and a half months into the year, I'm proud to say I haven't had a single single post-it reminder on my desk in all this time!  Where did all the post-its go?  I eliminated all my paper reminders by finally getting serious about using Microsoft Outlook Tasks.

In our business, we use a sophisticated ticketing system to handle all our customer service requests and customer relationship management (CRM).  These are great tools for the bulk of my work, but I still ended up with a lot of other "lists".  Now, each morning I walk into my office and find a completely clear desk. 

Here are some of the things I found helpful in Microsoft Outlook Tasks that may help you save time and get more productive too.

(1) Microsoft Outlook To Do BarYou can see your tasks listed right in your main Outlook view enabling you to read your email and view your tasks in one place.  In Outlook 2010, go to "View", "To Do Bar", and check off "Task List".  Your top "to dos" will be right in front of you all the time (if you want!).


(2) You can choose a wide variety of "views" of your list - a simple clean "to do" list, or a detailed list with all your completed items crossed off.  Sometimes seeing all the completed tasks in one place is a big boost.  Choose between "Detailed", "Simple List", and "To Do List".  You can sort by status, due date, completion date, and more...  try doing that with a piece of paper!

(3) Tracking Time with Outlook TasksYou can track billable time and mileage in Outlook Tasks. Create a new Task, and select "Details".  You'll be able to add information for total work, actual (billable) work, mileage and billing information.  For solo professionals this could be a great tool without needing to invest in a more sophisticated third-party tool.  Since you already have Outlook, see if it works for you.

Next time you have a few moments to spare, explore Outlook Tasks and see if there's a way to improve your own productivity.



Tags: paperless, Microsoft Outlook tasks, productivity

8 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Scanner

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/11/11 11:13 AM

ScanSnap 1500 ScannerOne of the key technologies for your small business is a good document scanner.  Getting all your paper into electronic format is big step for getting organized.

If you're ready to go paperless, there's a lot to know so you can pick the right scanner for your business.  Document scanners can range in price from under $100 to thousands of dollars, so its worth knowing a few things before you start shopping.

1.  Flatbed vs Document Handler.  Decide what kind of scanner you need.  Flatbed scanners have a glass plate and a lid, and document handlers have a feeder mechanism to load the paper, many sheets at at time.  Many scanners have both capabilities.

2. Speed.  Look for how many pages per minute the scanner can handle.  You'll pay more for faster scanners, but if you plan to work with large volumes of paper, you'll need the speed.

3. One-sided vs Two-sided.  Can the scanner handle two-sided scanning or do you need to scan the back of pages separately?  This is also referred to as simplex vs duplex.

4. Print / Copy / Fax?  Does the scanner need to perform these other functions?  In many cases, the best solution is a dedicated scanner, but if you have tight space in your office, you may want to look for a combination unit.  If you're looking for a multifunction unit, consider if you need color printing.

5. Maximum Paper Size.  What is the largest paper size you need to handle?  Look for the maximum paper size - standard letter size (8.5"x11"), legal (8.5"x14"), or larger sizes (11"x17"). 

6.  Resolution.  Each scanner scans at a certain number of dots per inch (dpi).  For regular documents, 600dpi is fine, but you may need higher resolution if you work with photos.

7.  Network Connectivity.  Do you need just one computer to have access to the scanner or will you need networking capability to multiple computers?

8.  Software Capabilities.  With optical recognition software the scanner can save a machine generated document as an Word or text file that you can later edit, saving a lot of time.

Plan ahead, learn what the features mean, and you'll be happy with your purchase.

Tags: paperless, small business technology, scanner

Going Paperless in 2011

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 12/28/10 10:28 AM

We've worked with many of our clients to go paperless - law firms, accounting firms, medical offices... and now its our turn.  In a classic example of "the cobbler's family has no shoes", we're the last to update.

The first thing we double checked is the IRS requirements for record keeping.  The IRS has actually been accepting electronic records as far back as 1997 as referenced in Rev. Proc. 97-22.  The electronic storage system must "ensure an accurate and complete transfer of the hard copy or computerized books and records to an electronic storage media".  The electronic storage system must also "index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the electronically stored books and records".  The full document is 36 pages, but the relevant parts for electronic records is covered in pages 9-11 so its not too much to read.

Like many small businesses, we were faced with either adding a new filing cabinet, getting a crow-bar to squeeze in some more paper records, or finally taking the plunge to go paperless.  We set up a Xerox scanner with a good feeder and a combined flat-bed scan capability, and also ran some tests on our backup to double check that our scanned documents were safe.  Without the safety net of paper records, the integrity of our data backup is more important than ever.

We found a local mobile shredding service that will help us clean out the old records after scanning and with a deadline of two weeks, we'll be motivated to work fast!  We're looking forward to starting 2011 more organized than ever!

Tags: small business, paperless, electronic documents, backup

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