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The Office 365 guide: tips for maximum productivity in 2017


Calendly, June 01, 2020

Outlook remains the standard email and calendar platform for millions of businesses. But as common as the Microsoft calendar may seem, it’s also packed with a surprising number of hidden features that help you manage your time more effectively.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing over 70 tricks to help Outlook users  —  and, specifically, Office 365 users  — navigate their calendars like experts.

Whether you need to better manage client meetings across the globe or simply eliminate back-and-forth with colleagues in the office, here’s how to get it all done in Office 365.

The Office 365 Guide, Chapter 1: 23 beginner tips

In this chapter:

  • Getting started: tips for beginners

  • Scheduling easily with others

Getting started: tips for beginners

1. Customize your Office theme

Visuals are powerful mood influencers, so use this feature to your advantage. Add a theme to your account that keeps you motivated, focused or calm.

Office 365 Blog post screenshot

2. Organize your calendar with color categories

You’ve got a lot of plates to keep spinning, so creating a different calendar for each area of life (day job, side project, personal goals, etc) can help you understand which areas you’re spending the most time on, and how they intersect with each other.

For example, you might assign personal appointments to your green calendar, and all work events to your blue calendar.

Office 365 Blog Calendly Screenshot

3. Create a “work week-only” view

You may not need to see all 7 days of the week if you work a Monday-to-Friday schedule. In Settings > Calendar Appearance, you can set which days of the week to show to remove visual clutter.

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4. Change the start day of your week

If you work nontraditional hours, you can customize the start day of your week to make your calendar more relevant to your schedule.

Office 365 Outlook Calendar 4

5. Change your working hours

Navigate to Settings > Set Your Working Hours to change the time blocks shown on your calendar.

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6. Get notifications when an event is about to start

IFTTT lets you connect your apps (like Office 365) with your physical devices using “if this, then that” statements. For example, "If an event on my calendar is about to start, then send me a notification."

office 365 notification calendar calenly

7. Jump back and forth between your calendar and email

Sometimes you need to be able to switch back and forth quickly between your inbox and calendar appsIn your Outlook desktop app, these shortcut keys can help with that:

  • Ctrl + 1 (Command + 1 on Mac):

    takes you to Mail

  • Ctrl + 2 (Command + 2 on Mac):

    takes you to Calendar

8. Create a shortcut to Outlook on the web

If you typically use Outlook on your desktop but need to easily access your account from a browser (e.g., when you’re on a different computer), here’s how to find your account’s web address:

  1. Click File

  2. Click Info

    (If your company does have Outlook on the web, your web address will appear here.)

  3. Click the link to open it in a browser window.

  4. Bookmark the link to easily return to it in the future.

9. Sync your calendar and email on the go

In your phone settings, add a new email account. Select to add an Outlook or Exchange account, then enter your information to sync your Outlook calendar, contacts and email.

This Office guide covers the specifics of Android, Apple and Windows phones.

10. Share your calendar with a group of people

If you’ve created a calendar for a specific project that includes multiple people, you can grant everyone access in a few clicks.

Right-click the name of the calendar, then select Sharing Permissions. From there, you’ll be able to enter the email addresses of everyone who needs access.

Office 365 Outlook image Calendar 7

11. Delegate access to your calendar

Let’s say you’ll be out of the office for a while, or need to spend the next few weeks on extremely focused, heads-down work. While you’re gone, you can temporarily let someone else manage your calendar and email for you.


  • You’ll only be able to set this up from your Outlook desktop app

  • Your delegate must be using the same version of Outlook as you

  • The items you want them to access must be stored on an Exchange server

On the Tools menu, click Accounts.

outlook 1

Click the account that you want to add a delegate to, choose Advanced, and then select Delegates.


From there, you’ll be able to add delegates and set their permission levels.

12. Manage another person’s calendar for them

If a colleague has made you a delegate of their account, this Office guide will help you manage their mail and calendar items.

Scheduling easily with others

13. Set up a team meeting

From your Calendar view, select New > Calendar Event. From there, you’ll be able to set the details of your meeting and invite all team members to join by email.

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14. Turn an email thread into a meeting

Some email threads would be better off deleted in favor of a real meeting. To eliminate the back-and-forth and get everyone together on the calendar, you can respond to the thread with a meeting request.

This will invite everyone on the To line as Required Attendees, and everyone on the CC line as Optional Attendees.

From your inbox, select the dropdown arrow next to Reply. Choose Reply All By Meeting.

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15. Turn a note into a meeting or calendar item

If you write a to-do list in OneNote, you can easily convert it to a series of tasks with deadlines and reminders on your calendar.


16. Let people schedule a meeting straight from your signature

To remove the “when are you free?” back-and-forth, sign up for Calendly and add your Calendly link to your email signature.

You can set availability preferences within Calendly to ensure meetings only happen on your time, and keep all details of your existing appointments private.

Plus, every new meeting scheduled through Calendly is added to your Calendar automatically  —  no need to type it in yourself or generate an invite to others.




17. Windows users: instantly create new appointments from your desktop

Even if you don’t have your Calendar or Inbox open, you can create new appointments from your desktop in a few clicks with the New Items dropdown on the Home tab.


Image source

18. Set up a Quick Step shortcut for meetings you regularly schedule

If you regularly perform a series of actions (like inviting a specific group of people to a meeting), you can create a Quick Step shortcut to automate some of the work.

  • In Mail, on the Home tab, in the Quick Steps group, click the Create New Quick Step.

  • Click an action type from the list or click Custom.

  • In the Name box, type a name for the new Quick Step.

  • Click the icon button next to the Name box, click an icon, and then click OK.

  • Under Actions, choose an action that you want the Quick Step to do. Click Add Action for any additional actions.

  • To create a keyboard shortcut, in the Shortcut key box, click the keyboard shortcut that you want to assign.


19. Make your time zone clear to everyone

When you’re traveling or scheduling with colleagues in different timezones, keeping everyone’s time zones straight can get frustrating fast. This trick makes it easier for others to remember which time zone you’re in by displaying your local time on email timestamps and calendar events.

  • From the Settings menu, select “Calendar” under Your App Settings

  • From the menu bar on the lefthand side of your screen, select General > Region and Time Zone


20. Keep track of multiple time zones

Do you repeatedly schedule with a colleague in a different timezone? Here’s how to easily keep track of their local time:

  • Click File > Options

  • On the Calendar tab, under Time Zones, check Show A Second Time Zone

  • In the Label box, type a name for the second time zone

  • In the Time Zone list, click the time zone that you want to add

Note: you’ll only be able to set this up from your Outlook desktop app.

21. Use Calendly to avoid the time zone headache completely

When someone views your Calendly link, they…

  • See your availability in their time zone automatically

  • Only see times you’ve chosen to be available

  • Can select the time that fits their schedule, without having to go back and forth with you


22. Use CompanionLink to sync Outlook + Google

If you spend your workday in Outlook but your personal time in Google Calendar, CompanionLink works as a bridge, syncing updates across both platforms. While a one-time purchase or monthly subscription are required, signup includes a 14-day free trial.


23. Use Zapier to sync Outlook + Google

Another syncing option: with Office 365, you can use Zapier’s Google Calendar + Office 365 integrations to automatically add new events to both calendars.

Whenever a new event is added to Office 365, Zapier can copy it over to Google Calendar  —  or vise versa. It can then send Office 365 emails about events, or update existing events in Google Calendar. Get started here.

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While you're maximizing your calendar's capabilities, you may want to see if it integrates with some of these other productivity apps. You could save even more time!

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