What's the use of Outlook's Journal?

Is Journal in Outlook of any use to you?

You might have noticed the Journal part of Outlook and wondered what it’s all about.

Possibly you’ve clicked on Journal and got no further than this dialog:

Outlook Journal opening screen image from What

In this article we’ll look at Journal and help you decide if it might apply to your needs.

Journal is a time tracking feature that will help you monitor the time you spend on tasks and allocate them to categories or clients. Many ‘charge by the hour’ professions like lawyers and accountants have a journal-like application in their organization. Often it’s a more powerful and integrated system than the basic offering in Outlook.

Outlook Journal configuration image from What

If you spend time composing or replying to an email from selected contacts, Journal will record the time spent.

Open a Word, Excel, PowerPoint document or Access database and the time the document/database is open will be recorded in Journal.

When you have a phone call or meeting Journal can record the time spent with space for you to take notes. There’s a timer to count up the minutes as they occur or you can enter a call/meeting afterwards.

Tasks can be recorded with the start and completion also recorded.

There’s various ways you can separate out Journal entries.

Each entry has a ‘Company’ field that for many purposes should read ‘Client’. Type the name of the client/company or any reference text into that field.

An alternative or companion to the Company field are the Outlook Categories plus the Private flag.

Over time you can build up an indication of how you are spending your time and for which customers.

Naturally, you’d expect there to be downsides and there’s plenty of them in Journal.

The document tracking works according to the time the document is open not just when you’re working on it. In these days of multi-tasking you might keep a document open for many hours while only actively working on it for part of that time. Journal will show you ‘working’ on the document for all that time.

Thankfully, you can change the time spent afterwards but you should not have to. Word is tracking the ‘editing time’ in each document so that number could be used by Journal.

The ‘Company’ field has no pull-down list or auto-complete of the most recently used entries. That means you have to type in the company/client each time which is time consuming and prone to error.

Journal might be worth considering, or at least keeping in mind. Even Microsoft seems to have given up on Journal. There’s been little change in the feature for the past few versions of Office. It doesn’t appear on the default Navigation Pane (you can turn it on from the options).

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