The normal way that Outlook handles completed tasks leaves something to be desired. By default, when you mark a task as completed, it remains in view with a line drawn through it, in effect “crossing it off the list”. While crossing an item off of a printed or written list serves well enough, in Outlook we can do better.

One key to an effective task list is its ability to provide FOCUS: you want the format and construction of the list to allow you the maximum focus on those actions you need to attend to. Forcing your brain to look at and thus process tasks that you’ve already completed has the exact opposite of the desired effect – it hampers you in focusing on those active tasks that still need doing.

Fortunately, Outlook allows you to modify the view of your tasks so as to hide your completed tasks. Making this change is not difficult; just follow these steps.

1. In Outlook 2007: From the main Outlook View menu, select Current View > Customize Current View.

In Outlook 2003: From the main Outlook View menu, select Arrange By > Current View > Customize Current View.

2. In the Customize window that’s displayed, click the Filter button.

3. Switch to the Advanced tab.

4. Click the Field button, and select All Task Fields > Complete. Click the Add to List button. Then click OK to close the Filter window.

5. Click the OK button to close the Customize window.

Your completed items will now be hidden in that view. You can perform the above steps on any Task view that you use.

Does this mean your completed tasks are gone – deleted? No, they’re not – they’re still available on a list of Completed Tasks within Outlook. Even better, Outlook records the date you marked a task complete and shows you this date on this Completed Tasks List. To view this list, switch to your Tasks folder, and from the Current View list, select Completed Tasks.