Microsoft Outlook: Reminder Enhancements Needed

I have a suggestion for the designers of Microsoft Outlook, which I have thought for some time, but was recently enhanced when I saw that it was actually implemented by the Smart Diary Suite.

There are an increasing number of Outlook users who are upgrading their Scheduling and Listing skills, and working directly with their calendars.  In prior posts, I spoke about this upgrade and how it allows professionals to deal with a greater number of time demands.

When you work directly with an Outlook Calendar, the Reminder function becomes quite useful as a tool for Interrupting.  You can set the reminder to go off a the moment a task is supposed to start, or for some time period before it’s due to commence.

However, Outlook only gives you a few methods of disposing of a Reminder.  It pops up in a list, and you can ignore the pop-up altogether and continue what you were doing.  To dispose of it, however, you need to either
a) click on Dismiss, which removes the reminder and leaves the item in your calendar, never to return to your awareness
b) delay the reminder for a few minutes
c) open the reminder and reschedule the task for a later time

What it doesn’t do that it should is allow you to mark the item as “completed.”

There should be an extra box that allows this option, much in the same way that it does in the Smart Diary Suite.  If the item could be marked as completed, it could then be crossed out in Outlook, showing that it was successfully done.

This would be a benefit in a few ways:

1. there’s a psychological boost that we get by crossing out items that are complete.  It simply feels good, and looking over a calendar of completed items that are crossed out would also feel good, as you can see in the diagram above

2. it would provide a record of what actually got completed, which would help people like me who keep track of their time each week.  If it also kept a record of when the item was marked as complete, that would be even better.

This would represent a small programming change, but as I have said before, this kind of upgrade is not simply a matter of adding another feature.  The truth is that Outlook, Gmail and every other email/calendar program is built around an underlying philosophy of time management, which is nothing more than an assumption about how people manage their time (or should manage their time.)

When the philosophy is not clear, then the features follow suit.  These programs have some nice doo-dahs, but they aren’t built around the fundamentals of time management, so they don’t fit the time management needs of many professionals.  Check out my series on articles on Outlook’s shortcomings, or do a search on the keyword Outlook for more.