How to Set Time Management Priorities in Outlook

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Outollok Desktop Icon (Image: Screen captures used with permission.)

If you are learning to manage your time using priorities and are an Outlook user, you may want to use this organization tool to help you with planning. You can set priorities on your personal tasks or to do list of low, normal (medium), or high. With newer versions of Outlook, you can establish high or low priorities for appointments and meetings as well. You can also set priorities on your desired responses to emails going out or that came in.

Things You'll Need

  • Outlook Software Application
  • Internet/Intranet Connection

To set a priority for a task on your personal to do list, create the new task or choose to edit an existing task. From the task window, click the drop-down next to the Priority field to select High (important to do functions), Normal (medium level or typical necessary actions), or Low (unimportant or nice to do work). If you do not select a priority the default is Normal. Be sure to set start and due dates. Once you save the task, the task will appear in your task pane or to do list indicating the priority only if you have chosen to display the priority field in this view. High priority displays as an exclamation mark (!), Low priority is indicated with an arrow pointing down, and no symbol is shown for Normal priorities.

NOTE: To add the priority field to the view, right-click on the task pad to get a pop-up menu. Select Customize Current View from the menu. When the dialog box comes up, choose the desired Fields using the button and then the Add option in the Show Fields window.


To set a priority for an appointment, event, or a meeting, schedule the new appointment, event, or meeting using the appropriate window/form and setting the dates/times. To establish a High priority, click on the Exclamation Point icon to set a priority, otherwise the default is a Normal priority.

In older versions of Outlook, there is not a Low priority icon on appointment or meeting windows. This may be due to the time management principle that you should never commit your time to low priority items. However in 2007 and newer versions, a Low priority may be set using the Down Arrow icon.


For email messages, you can set priorities on outgoing or received emails. To set a priority on an email you are sending, start the new message and before sending it you need to determine if you wish to set a priority. If the recipient has a priority feature in their email tool, they will see your priority as an indicator in their inbox. If you need an urgent response to your email, you can set a High priority by clicking on the Exclamation Point icon. Urgent usually means you need a quick response, perhaps sometime within the business day or a 24-hour period. If an email is marked Urgent or high, the recipient should be given a time you need the response by within the email body, typically at the top or bottom of text. If the email is for information only, then you may want to set a Low priority using the Down Arrow icon to indicate the recipient may read it at their leisure. Normal emails that can be responded to at anytime and therefore should not have a priority set on them.

To set a priority on emails you have received in your inbox, you must right-click on the email to get a pop-up menu. From the menu you can choose Options in order to get a Message Options window where you can reset the email priority to whatever you want. You can also set the email as private or to other Sensitivity settings from this window. Or if you prefer from the pop-up menu, you may choose to Flag the message for follow-up with a date or Mark it as Unread to re-read later in the day. However, time management principles typically recommend handing mail only once, this usually means you should decide to reply then, give yourself a dated task to send reply if it is not urgent, file it in a folder if it is informational, or trash it.


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