Focus on Your Work, Not on Your Email

How to Display Tasks (or Any Other Preferred Folder) “on Startup” in Microsoft Outlook

When you install Microsoft Outlook right out of the box, the program nearly always is set up to display your Inbox on start-up. So it’s tempting to begin there every morning. But as you know, starting with your Inbox almost compels you to focus on the emails you haven’t seen yet, or the ones with an approaching deadline. This frequently-bogus “sense of urgency” can bog you down and start your day off with a feeling of overwhelm and frustration.

Relax. Those emails will be there when you get back to them later in the day. They aren’t going anywhere.

I strongly recommend that you tell Outlook to take you to a place that’s less daunting and measurably more serene, so that your day doesn’t feel as though it’s running away with you before you’ve even settled into your chair. By doing this, your renewed sense of control will keep your stress levels low, your heart beating at a more normal rate, and your job satisfaction will escalate. It feels great to know you’re sailing your own ship.

Open Outlook with the Tasks Folder Displayed in Seven Simple Steps

From the Main Menu:

  1. Select “Tools”
  2. Select “Options”
  3. Select “Other”
  4. Select “Advanced Options”
  5. Next to the “Startup in this folder” field, select “Browse…”
  6. Scroll down to the “Tasks” folder, or any other folder you prefer, and select it.
  7. Click OK three times as the system backs out of the dialog boxes and you’re done!


Now you can enjoy coming to work, getting things on your own Tasks list underway (and actually completing some of them) before you take on the cares and concerns of others. In fact, if you share this set-up idea with co-workers and they adopt the practice, you may find everyone feeling a renewed sense of control and fulfillment, and thanking you for it.

C’mon now. You know that if anything in your inbox were truly time-sensitive, as in “I need this in an hour!” your phone would ring or a colleague or superior would stop by your work station to let you know it. So remember: Email is a convenience, a tool, a way to communicate in a more leisurely manner. It is almost never as IMPORTANT as your other tasks!

I bet you feel better already. Have a productive day!


  1. Fred said >

    Hi Taco,

    I’m a long time fan and promoter of your approach to managing email and work via Outlook. I bought your book several years ago and made great use of it. I have since moved on to Outlook 2010 and wonder if the current edition is written for the 2010 release, or at least the 2007 release. When I started using your approach I was running Outlook 2003 but when we upgraded to 2007 I found that a few of the shortcuts didn’t work the same way as in 2003. Before buying your new book I’d like to know if the new version of Outlook is supported in the text.

    Thanks for your consideration!

  2. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Fred,
    Thanks for your kind words. The new Dutch version of my book has just been released – it has been reworked to support Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010. You can find it at
    We don’t have an English version ready yet and I don’t know what the exact timetable for that version is going to be right now. It is a major project and right now we would be looking for a client that would want a few hundreds or even thousands of copies to fund this version.
    The e-book that you can buy on this site is written for Outlook 2003 and 2007, but I don’t know that it is any different from the book you already bought.
    If you run into any shortcut key problems, just ask here in the comments and I’d be happy to help. I don’t know of any shortcut key problems in my book yet – most of the time different language versions are what causes the problems.
    All the best,

  3. Fred said >

    Thanks for the quick reply!

    Given my Dutch is non-existent I’ll have to await the English version. 😉

    I’ll dig out my older version and give it a shot on 2010. I’ll let you know.

    I also just downloaded Fingertips. It’s looking real good for me thus far. Thanks.

  4. Fred said >

    Taking you up on your offer of help.

    2010 does not seem to allow changing the names of Toolbar buttons (in the Ribbon) to make them text only, and add the &1 to the name to allow Alt+1 key combinations. In the Quick Steps toolbar it’s simple enough to set up the Toolbar buttons but no name changing and activating the hot key requires Ctrl+Shift+1/2 vs. Alt+1. Am I missing something?


  5. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Fred,

    Microsoft has changed Outlook 2010 a lot in this regard. There is a workaround to get the keys working again, that I have described in ‘Elke dag je hoofd en inbox leeg’. Unfortunately as I said the English version is not ready yet.

    Can you read Dutch?


  6. Fred said >

    Sorry, no Dutch. It’s not a big deal so please don’t go out of your way to address the issue.

  7. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Fred, check your e-mail. I’ve answered you there. – Taco

  8. Dawn said >

    I have Outlook 2010 and would love to be notified when you have a book that supports 2010. Any ideas on when that might be?


  9. Taco Oosterkamp said >

    Hi Dawn,
    No concrete plans for Outlook 2010 yet, but some vague ideas to start working on this a bit more this year. Maybe I’ll wait for Outlook 2012.
    But if you send me an e-mail at, I’ll send you a small PDF with some instructions for Outlook 2010. The process I describe in my current e-book on this site works very well for Outlook 2010, but the setup is a little different. That is spelled out in the PDF.
    I’m afraid that is the best I can do right now.
    Cheers, Taco

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