Things I wish I knew earlier 3. Importing Excel into Outlook appointments

At work I use Outlook as my all-in-one software for emails, appointments, and personal task management.

All my meetings, appointments, and time I’ve chosen to specifically allocate to work on certain tasks – go into the Outlook calendar. Excpet for one very important thing – the desk roster. Until today.

Before I would consult a piece of paper with the roster printed on it which created discordance between my desk duties and other responsibilites which were managed electronically. This meant that:

  • I would occassionally double-book myself into a meeting when I’m meant to be on the desk, as it is harder to detect conflicts.
  • My availablity in Outlook would not represent reality, as colleagues would see me as free when I actually have a desk shift.
  • I would sometimes forget to go out to the desk, being too absorbed in my work and there is no electronic reminder pop up, so I’d either be late or the colleague that’s meant to hand over to me would need to remind me. This is pretty rude on my behalf and I’d like to be punctual to my desk shifts.

I hear you asking – why don’t you just enter your desk shifts into Outlook, like everything else? The answer is: the effort outweighed the benefit. It wasn’t a problem often enough to justify entering all my desk shifts into my Calendar, which happen several times a day and are not neatly recurring, so the data entry is a repetive task without good return on investment.

But – yesterday I had the sudden insight that it would be much better to put all my forseeable desk shifts into a spreadsheet and import them. You can import data via csv into just about any software these days. So I found this how-to and imported a week’s worth of rosters. Adding several individual appointments every day is too cumbersome, but doing it via excel is a 5 min task that I do every few weeks when the roster comes out and that will help my productivity and organisation immensely.

The guide I linked to above gives a quite detailed example, but mine is more simplistic.

2017-10-29 15_38_49-Calendar import.xls - Excel

You need to give your table headings that match the field names used in Outlook.

Subject: name of the “appointment”

Start date: self-explanatory

End date: put in the formula so it just equals whatever is in column B.

Start and end time: self explanatory

Reminder on/off : Entered TRUE to enable reminders

Reminder date: Did the same formula as the end date so whatever I put in start date automatically populates.

Reminder time: What I did was in column I, I entered how many minutes warning I wanted, usually 2 mins except for Refchatter (where I want a bit more time to get ready before I log in). The reminder time column has a formula which minuses that time from the start time. This is simpler than working it out for each row.

Save as an excel file so you can keep the formulas and overall template, so next time you only need to adjsut the dates and times. Then save it as a .csv and import into Outlook.

This approach has less manual data entry and is more customisable. (Outlook only lets you set the reminder time a minimum of 5 minutes prior, while I prefer a very short reminder of just 2 minutes).

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