Let me put first that there is no possibility of using any other software outside of MS Office.

What would be a good way to document day-to-day activities ? We are a reporting team in a large enterprise and we each work on a good number of reports. Typically, we can divide in three categories:

  • Low implication : report changes minimally every few months to once a year - roughly 100 of those;
  • Average implication : report changes frequently but never drastically or very small project - roughly 10 of those;
  • High implication : drastic / very frequent changes or small to average projects - roughly 2-3 of those.


Print almost every e-mail and put them in folders. This has the advantage of being thorough but it's also very wasteful and risks being overwhelming in the case of high implication projects.

Make folders in Outlook. No waste this time but limitations on inbox size means that I have to create archive files and juggle with those as I need e-mails. Also, Outlook is not very good at searching e-mails (it's slow and not very helpful) and it means that all e-mails need to be categorized (rules would be hard to use since a contact can be working with you on multiple different reports / projects). Also, when I receive paper documents in meetings I find it harder to match my electronic documentation and my physical documentation.

Bonus question: how do you track your activities (todos) ? I currently use tasks in Outlook but again it's hard to attribute tasks to their parent project / report.

I'm sure part of the answer would be to use more fitting software but I believe there is a good part of personal organization.

(Not sure if I should ask on Productivity.SE. Feel free to move there if OT on Workplace.SE).

  • 1
    Not sure why -1. I think this is a legit question and included as much detail as possible. – ApplePie Sep 15 '14 at 17:37
  • 1
    For what purpose? For your own activities? Your team's activities? Do you need to provide visibility? What works for you (or your team/company) may not work well for others. Though I didn't downvote. – Telastyn Sep 15 '14 at 17:39
  • Mostly for my activities and I do not need to give visibility to anyone. I want to develop habits that will make me able to better answer questions related to past events. For example, "why was change X made", "when was change Z made ? I think this problem could be met by most office workers. – ApplePie Sep 15 '14 at 17:55
  • Can you edit your question and make a stricter definitions of "documents"? Are these only email attachments? Do they have to be stored with the emails? I also don't get a good idea of the number of documents per e.g. year. – user8036 Sep 15 '14 at 20:38

Make folders in Outlook.

This is the approach I use.

For each new year, I make a new Archive. Within the Archive, I have a folder for each product my team support.

Each day, I spend a few minutes reading incoming email, and either deleting it, or replying. I then file it away in the appropriate folder within the current year's archive. (I also have a few rules set up to automatically file away some of the more repetitive and routine emails.)

Since Archives don't count toward inbox size limitations (at least in my company) that's not an issue. I have a virtually "clean" inbox every day.

I'm not sure why searching is so slow in your shop. It's very quick in mine. You might wish to talk with your system administration folks.

Bonus question: how do you track your activities (todos) ? I currently use tasks in Outlook but again it's hard to attribute tasks to their parent project / report.

I use a combination of Outlook Tasks and emails-to-myself. Since I bring either my laptop or my phone (which has Outlook access) to every meeting, I shoot notes to myself as needed.

At the end of the day, or the beginning of the next day, I go through the process of cleaning my inbox, and I dispose of any TODOs which are done.

Works for me. Your mileage may vary.


One approach could be to use OneNote. OneNote can be subdivided into notebooks and sections, and Outlook provides built-in functionality for moving emails into OneNote. Your entire team could use the same notebook, and it would also be a great tool for keeping track of other information related to your reports - documentation, requests, etc.

There are virtually no size restrictions on OneNote notebooks, and they have a good built-in search capability. OneNote would also a great way to keep track of your to-do list.

If it's included with your Office installation (and it should be), I highly recommend giving it a try.

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