Avoid Losing Emails Flagged as Tasks

A downside of flagging emails as tasks in Outlook is that they are one in the same. If you delete the task, for example, the email will also be deleted. Outlook at least warns you before something like that happens. However, I found a way to delete several tasks / emails without any warning from Outlook. Luckily, I was able to recover the lost emails with a bit of work.


I currently use Microsoft Outlook 2016 for managing tasks. More information about my process can be found in previous blog posts, starting with "Manage Tasks in Outlook: Categorizing Tasks." One area I was looking to improve is the ability to share tasks that are assigned to a co-worker. Then during our project meetings, my co-worker will know exactly which projects will be discussed.

Instead of sharing the tasks one by one, I created and shared a task folder based on the "Share a custom task folder with specific people" instructions from the Microsoft website. I then dragged my co-worker's tasks into the folder as shown in Figure 1.

Outlook screenshot showing a task being drug into a shared task folder
Figure 1. Drag Tasks to Shared Folder

This causes the tasks to appear in both my default task folder and the new shared folder (see Figure 2). Editing the task in either folder causes both entries to change.

Outlook screenshot showing how the tasks appear in both the default and shared task folders
Figure 2. Tasks Synced between the Default and Shared Task Folders

The Problem

The shared task folder didn't quite work as I hoped. I figured I could delete the shared folder since the tasks still appear in my default task folder. Or at least Outlook would warn me before deleting the tasks, like it does in other situations.

Deleting the folder didn't result in any errors. The Deleted Items folder was also empty, except for some emails I deleted earlier in the day. So I figured everything was back to normal…until I emptied my Deleted Items folder. That's when all the tasks disappeared. And I couldn't just re-flag the emails as tasks since the corresponding emails were also deleted.

Luckily, I was able to recover the lost messages with the help of the Microsoft website (Recover an item that's no longer in your Deleted Items folder).

Final Thoughts

It turns out that the shared folder and tasks were in the Deleted Items folder. However, I needed to click the three dots in the Outlook Navigation Bar and switch to Folders view (see Figure 3 and 4).

Outlook screenshot showing the Folders option being selected
Figure 3. Select Folders in the Navigation Bar
Outlook screenshot showing the shared task folder in the Deleted Items folder
Figure 4. Deleted Items Hidden from Normal View


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