Manage Tasks in Outlook: Flagging Emails as Tasks

My primary goal for switching to Microsoft Outlook was so I could track requests that I send to co-workers through email. If I don't flag the requests shortly after sending them, there's a good chance that I'll forget to follow up. Let's take a quick look at how I currently use Outlook to stay on top of these types of requests.


The following directions are based on Microsoft Outlook 2010 for Windows 7. Note that the post assumes you have the To-Do Bar and Task List panel enabled. For directions on how to enable these features, check out my post titled "Manage Tasks in Outlook: Categorizing Tasks".

Flagging Emails

When I ask someone to do something via email, I've been trying to get into the habit of flagging the message so that I remember to follow up. To flag the message, you can go into the sent mail folder, right click the email's category column, and select the category (see Figure 1).

Microsoft Outlook screenshot showing how to assign an email to a task category
Figure 1. Assign Category

Selecting the category is all I remember needing to do, but lately the emails stopped appearing in my task list. Apparently, you also need to set a follow-up date by right clicking the flag icon (see Figure 2).

Microsoft Outlook screenshot showing the follow-up options
Figure 2. Choose Follow-Up Option

Dragging Emails

The benefit of having problems with my usual way of adding tasks is that it forced me to look at the alternatives. Instead of manually flagging a category and setting a follow-up date, you can drag the email message directly into your task list. You just need to drag it under the desired category (see Figure 3).

Microsoft Outlook screenshot showing an email being dragged to the task-list column
Figure 3. Drag Email into Your Task List

Final Thoughts

Whether dragging an email to your task list or assigning it with the category column, a new entry should appear in your task list. The task automatically contains the information from the email for easy reference. The email's subject, for example, is used for the task title.

Of course, you've likely received emails where the subject isn't very useful. An email subject like "Website Update" isn't going to make very descriptive task title.

Luckily, Outlook let's you change it. You just need right click the task title and choose "Rename Task" (see Figure 4).

Microsoft Outlook screenshot showing how to rename a task that was created from an email
Figure 4. Select Rename Task

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