Recently, I watched a user create
new tasks from email messages in her Sent folder. When asked, she responded
that the messages were time-sensitive and that the reminder would help her
remember when to contact the recipients again, if they didn’t respond. After
sending these messages, she opened her Sent folder and dragged each,
individually, to the Tasks shortcut, where she added a reminder date and then
saved the new task. She had several emails worth and confided that she did it
often and the process was tedious. I’ll bet it is, and fortunately, that
tedious process isn’t necessary. You can add a reminder to new and sent emails.
Doing so will add an item to the To-Do Bar and is a basic task in Outlook, so I
was surprised to see someone working so hard to do something that’s so easy.

New message

When you create a new email that
requires a time-sensitive response, add a reminder when you create the message:

  • Open a blank email message and create the email as you
    normally would.
  • With the message still open, click Follow Up in the
    Tags group. If you’re using Outlook
    2003, choose Follow up from the Actions menu. Then, choose Add Reminder.
  • From the resulting menu, choose Add Reminder.
  • In the resulting dialog, choose a reminder date and
    time. In this example, I chose Tuesday, October 15 at 9:00 AM. On this day
    and time, Outlook will display a reminder. Use the dropdown arrows to
    access the settings. To choose None for the Start Date and Due Date, click
    the dropdown arrow and click None. You don’t have to change the default
    dates, but they’re not necessary in this instance.
  • Click OK to return to the message window, which now
    displays the reminder information in the header.
  • Click Send to close the message window.

Once you actually send the message (whether automatically or
manually), Outlook will add the item to your To-Do Bar. Outlook displays a
reminder icon so you can visually see what the item is.

These settings get the job done, but the item doesn’t sort
properly with the other To-Do Bar items. If that detail is important to you,
use the Due Date setting. Just repeat the reminder date in Due Date, and
Outlook will sort your reminder by this date.

Note: You can accidentally remove a reminder from the To-Do
Bar by right-clicking the item and choose Remove From List. Doing so doesn’t
just remove it from the To-Do Bar, but it deletes the reminder!

After the fact

It’s easy to forget to set a reminder when you’re creating a
message, but adding a reminder after the fact is easy:

  • Open the Send folder and
    find the message.
  • Right-click the Follow Up
    flag for that message. If you’re using Outlook 2003, right-click the message
    and choose Follow Up.
  • Select Add Reminder and
    create the reminder as you normally would.

If you happen to have the message window open, you can use
the Follow Up Option in the Tags group.

If you don’t see the Flag Status column, you might need to
reset your folder view:

  • Right-click the header
    cells in the folder (From, Subject, Received, and so on).
  • Choose View Settings at
    the bottom.
  • Click Columns.
  • In the Available Columns
    list, highlight Flag Status.
  • Click Add. Click Move Up
    to position the field, if necessary.
  • Click OK twice.

The Field Chooser option won’t work with the Flag Status

Not on my system

If you’re one of the unfortunate users who can’t access a
reminder through the Follow Up option because you are using IMAP, you can still
add reminders, but it isn’t as intuitive or easy. You’ll need to add a Quick

  • Click the Home tab.
  • Click Create New in the Quick
    Steps group.
  • Change the name to Add
  • From the Choose an Action
    drop-down, click Create A Task With Attachment. You can also choose a
    Shortcut Key, but doing so isn’t particularly helpful in this situation.
  • Click Finish to add the
    new Add Reminder quick step to the gallery.

To add a reminder to an existing email, select it and then
click Add Reminder in the Quick Steps group. There’s the monkey wrench in the
works – you can only add the reminder to an existing mail item.

Bottom line

Never work harder than you have to. If a seemingly easy task
seems impossible to complete, you’re probably going about it wrong. Adding a
reminder (a special type of flag) to a message is easy if you take the right