applied tips : april 2009

microsoft outlook : working in multiple time zones

For those who travel across time zones, Outlook has some specific features that can save us time and reduce the confusion associated with appointments.

Your Workstation's Time Zone

You should first understand that your desktop or notebook computer, and your mobile device, have a time zone setting.  When you change this setting (usually the same place you would change the system time), your computer will adjust the system time forward or back accordingly.

In other words, when you land in Hawaii don't change the time back a few hours. Instead, set the Time Zone to the appropriate setting (GMT -10 for Hawaii). When you land back in California, change the Time Zone back (GMT -8).

Your laptop and mobile device will then show the correct time. (Most mobile devices with cellular connections will automatically adjust their time zone.)

Likewise, Outlook (and your mobile device's calendar) will automatically adjust the display in its calendar and all of the appointments will reflect the proper time.  For example, if an appointment was to start at 2:00 PM (and created while set to PST), and you adjust your time zone to show CST, Outlook will now show the appointment to start at 4:00 PM.

Creating an Appointment for a Different Time Zone

Outlook 2003: Whenever you create an appointment in Outlook 2003 you should create it for the time zone you are currently in. For example: if I am currently in New York City and wish to create an appointment that will start at 11:00 AM in San Francisco, I would enter it in Outlook as starting at 2:00 PM.  When I land in San Francisco I will adjust my computer and mobile device to show that I am in PST, and the calendar will change to show that the appointment starts at 11:00 AM.

Outlook 2007: When creating an appointment in Outlook 2007, you can click the Time Zones button from the Appointment tab on the ribbon.  This will display additional choices for setting the start and end time of your appointment.  Chose the appropriate time zone(s) and Outlook will keep track of everything accordingly.

Note that this method of scheduling works seamlessly with meeting requests.  If I invite someone to a meeting, Outlook will automatically adjust the start time based on each recipient’s time zone when they look at the invitation.

Displaying Multiple Time Zones

If you want a little help managing your life in two time zones, Outlook’s calendar can be configured to display two time scales along the left side of the appointment screen.

Right-click on the time scale and choose “Change Time Zone”.  From here you can display an additional time zone and label it whatever you like (such as “NY” or “EST”).

Note that from this window you can also adjust your local time zone and swap your local time zone with your secondary time zone.  This will change your Windows time settings (you might still need to adjust your mobile device).

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