Tasks To Go


Think | Act


One in a series of Leadership Articles to cause you to think and perhaps to act. Read other articles.

I’m a dedicated Outlook user and a follower of Getting Things Done (GTD). I routinely add tasks to my to-do list that have been collected while in meetings or on the road. It’s easy to do—you can use your PDA or mobile phone (that synchronizes with Outlook) but during those times when it’s either not convenient or there are a long list of tasks to add what do you do?

CSV SVP

I use a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file that exactly matches what Outlook expects as input. You can get a sample here though it’s pretty easy to create your own from Outlook.

Create your task input file

Using Outlook 2007 as an example:

  1. Open Outlook
  2. Open the task pane
  3. Select File | Import and Export…
  4. Select Export to a file
  5. Click Next
  6. Select Comma Separated Values (Windows)
  7. Click Next
  8. Select the Task folder you want to export
  9. Select where you want to create the file and it’s name
  10. Click Next
  11. Click Finish
  12. Select the date range {to limit the number of tasks} and then Click OK


Other versions of Outlook may be different but should follow a similar process.

Importing your tasks

Using Outlook 2007 as an example:

  1. Open Outlook
  2. Open the task pane
  3. Select File | Import and Export…
  4. Select Import from another program or file
  5. Click Next
  6. Select Comma Separated Values (Windows)
  7. Click Next
  8. Select the Task folder you want to import
  9. Select Do not import duplicate items (ensures you do not overwrite existing)
  10. Select what task folder you wish to import to (generally I have only one task folder)
  11. Click Next
  12. Click Finish
  13. Click OK


Other versions of Outlook may be different but will follow a similar process.

On the road

As I travel I keep a copy of the CSV file on my laptop and I also keep a copy in Google Docs. When I update the CSV file with new tasks I usually just email it to myself for later processing. This process eliminates most of the drudgery of trying to read your scribbled notes to extract any follow up items. Another benefit is that using this process disciplines you to fill in the details of a task as they are being considered. Furthermore, if these task will ultimately be delegated or shared then getting them in Outlook makes these steps easy to do.

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