Outlook treats recurring appointments and tasks differently. Recurring appointments come in sets that begin with the first appointment and end with the last; each appointment is visible on your calendar. In contrast, only one recurring task is visible at any given time. Outlook displays the next recurring task after you mark the current one as complete. If you skip a recurring task, you can mark it as completed or skipped and continue to the next recurring task. However, that won't always be the case. In this article, I'll show you how to avoid problems that can arise when you need to reset a recurring task.
To create a recurring task, you can start from nothing or you can drag a recurring appointment to the Tasks icon. Either way, you'll have to set the recurrence properties. To learn how to do so, you might want to read Office Q&A: How Outlook's recurring tasks really work before you continue. In this article, we'll move beyond the basics discussed in that previous article. Specifically, we'll address problems that can arise when you postpone the current task.
I'm using Outlook 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can apply what you learn in this article to earlier Ribbon versions. Recurring tasks are available in Outlook Web App. There's no demonstration file for this technique.
Create a recurring task
Let's suppose you get an allergy shot every Monday. Then, you miss one. You could skip that shot (task) completely. Or you might get the shot on Thursday and adapt the recurring task accordingly. You must do so because the new task is contingent on completion of the current task. To work through this example, let's first set up a recurring task for each Monday. Then, we'll change it to a Thursday task. To create the recurring task for Monday, do the following:
- Create a new task named Allergy Shot and open it.
- If necessary, set the Start date. (The example displays Monday, July 10, 2017.)
- In the new Task window, click Recurrence in the Recurrent group on the Task Ribbon.
- In the resulting dialog, set the recurrence pattern for a task that repeats every Monday (Figure A).
- Click OK and then click Save & Close in the Actions group on the Task tab. Figure B shows the first shot in the series in the To-Do list. Outlook displays only the current task. Outlook won't display the next shot task until you mark the current one as complete.
Set recurrent properties for a weekly allergy shot.
Outlook displays only the current recurring task.
Skip a recurring task
Now, let's suppose you miss the current Monday's shot. When this happens, you can mark the missed shot as completed as your normally would. Or you can mark that task as skipped:
- Open the Allergy Shot task.
- In the resulting Task window, click Skip Occurrence. As you can see in Figure C, Outlook updates the Start date to the next Monday.
- Click Save & Close and Outlook removes the missed task and displays the next one in the To-Do list.
Outlook resets the start date when you skip an occurrence.
Keep in mind that a skipped task isn't the same as a completed task, even though Outlook displays the next task either way. When viewing task details, Outlook won't display a skipped task but it will display completed tasks. Skipped doesn't mean completed but on a different date; skipped means you didn't do it!
If you completed the task, but you did so on a date later than scheduled, and you don't want to change the recurrence pattern, simply mark it as complete in the To-Do list. Outlook will remove it and display the next day in the pattern.
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Change the recurrence pattern
If you can't pick up where you left off, you might have to adjust your recurring task by setting a new recurrence pattern. To demonstrate, let's change the completion day from Monday to Thursday as follows:
- Open the Allergy Shot task.
- Click Recurrence.
- Uncheck Monday in the Recur Every 1 Week(s) On section. Don't skip this step. If you don't uncheck the current day, you'll end up with a pattern that repeats twice a week—once on Monday and again on Thursday.
- Check Thursday (Figure D) and click OK. Outlook will set the next task for Thursday, July 13.
- Click Save & Close.
Change the completion interval from Monday to Thursday.
If you miss completing several tasks in a row, you can open the task and click Skip Occurrence as many times as necessary. But it might be more efficient to simply delete the original series and generate a new one based on your updated needs. The alternative to both is to click each new recurring task as completed until you're up to date, which can be tedious.
When working with recurring intervals, Outlook tasks can show up in unexpected ways. If you can't fix the problem, simply open the task, click Delete, and start over. If Outlook displays the Delete All or Delete This One confirmation, click Delete All. In addition, remember to to uncheck options when resetting intervals or Outlook will add the new settings to the existing pattern instead of creating a new pattern.
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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.