Converting E-mails to Tasks on a Mobile Device (with an Excerpt from the New Outlook Book’s 3rd Edition)

May 8, 2011

I was talking with the managing director of a large (100K+ employees) management consulting company at a social event the other evening and he described their main problem with e-mail these days. He said that their managers who travel a lot skim through their Outlook-based e-mail on their smartphone quickly, and then end up leaving messages marked unread that then never get the action they need—they don’t get revisited in a timely fashion—so lots of things drop through the cracks.

This is so familiar and it’s a classic case of needing to convert action e-mails to tasks—a key teaching of the MYN system. But how do you convert action e-mails into Outlook tasks on your mobile device?

Well, it greatly depends on your task server and what mobile OS you have.

But in my mind there is only one really good solution: TouchDown—the rest are merely workarounds. However, you must have Exchange and an Android device to use TouchDown. If you do, Touchdown is by far your best solution because it allows you to convert e-mails directly to tasks, and they show up immediately in your Outlook tasks list. And the TouchDown tasks view on Android formats well for MYN. TouchDown is the only mobile app I know of that allows converting e-mails directly into Outlook tasks, and in my mind it is a great reason to favor the use of Android over iOS or BlackBerry.

But if you do not have Android or Exchange, here is more advice from page 135 in my new Outlook book:

…not many other mobile systems allow [converting e-mails to tasks]. So, here’s the alternate solution I mentioned earlier. If you get an e-mail on your mobile device that has an action for you in it that you cannot do now, just forward the message back to yourself and put the word “TASK:” (all caps) at the beginning of the subject line. That way you will know to convert it to a task when you see it back at your primary computer.

If that is too much work, you can also use the Mark as Unread command inside the e-mail before you close it. Hopefully, the bold appearance will pull the message back into your awareness when at your full copy of Outlook later.

If all you need to do is remember to write a longish reply to the e-mail later, TouchDown lets you flag e-mails too, and the flags show up back in Outlook for later action. Deferred replies are the only case I recommend using flags. If you cannot set flags on your mobile device, a workaround for this is to (like above) forward the e-mail back to yourself but this time put the word “REPLY:” (all caps) at the beginning of the subject line.

And finally, if you are open to using another application other than Outlook to manage your tasks, then use ToodleDo as your task server. It allows you to convert e-mails to tasks using a simple forward and it works on all mobile devices and their mail systems.


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14 Responses to Converting E-mails to Tasks on a Mobile Device (with an Excerpt from the New Outlook Book’s 3rd Edition)

  1. If you use Windows Phone7 you can flag the mail for follow up, and it will then appear as a task in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010. It will not be a task, and it will not be assigned a priority, but at least it will be on you rradar when you came back to your PC to follow up on the mails you read on the phone.

  2. That looks pretty awesome. I just bought an iPhone, and perhaps I should have gone the other way around from the sounds of it.

    That said, Toodledo is working nicely with the email forwarding. But it’s an extra step, of course.

    I do like the cloud available anywhere including on apps nature of Toodledo, not corporate IT support required.

  3. admin says:

    Yes, a flag is a good temporary workaround if you cannot convert to a task!

  4. admin says:

    ToodleDo is great software. My comment about TouchDown as “the only way to go” is for those using Exchange. Keep using ToodleDo!

  5. Wrike is a fantastic system, we found it far better than ToodleDo for tasks where there are others who need to be involved. The amazing thing with Wrike ( is that you can simply forward the email to a specific email address in the Wrike system, add a word in the subject line which relates to your Wrike folder structure, set a due date and it’s there. Wrike also has integration to Outlook. We LOVE Wrike and are now using it with everyone in my company (~34 users).

  6. Charlie says:

    Windows Phone 7 does not support synchronization with the Exchange Server and your Outlook Tasks at the moment. But there is an app which synchronizes with your Exchange Server mailbox to make your task list available on the phone.

  7. Following my own analysis, billions of people on our planet receive the business loans from different banks. Thence, there is good possibilities to find a term loan in every country.

  8. With the new “Mango” release of Windows Phone 7, you now have very good task support. See example here:

  9. Jason Robinson says:

    @Timothy Seward

    I am also using Wrike and generally think it is a great system. I actual received the recommendation to use the system from Michael. I need to be able track tasks assigned to employees and be able to show Gant Charts for projects to upper management. I’m interested if you have been able to manage your tasks by the MTD prioritization system. I have not come up with method to do this in Wrike.

  10. Dmitry says:


    Wrike and Bitrix24 are probably the best project management solutions our there, despite receiving very little media attention.

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  12. Blair Friesen says:

    I’m wondering if anyone has tried TouchDown for iOS (different developer). It costs $23, so I don’t want to buy it without someone’s opinion on it.

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