Microsoft Planner is pretty simple to use, but some of its more useful features aren’t front and center. If you’re just creating and moving tasks, here are six ways to get a bit more out of Planner. Here’s everything you need to know.
Get Notifications About Tasks
If you’ve already connected Planner to your Outlook, you’ll already be getting notifications about due dates. But if you haven’t—or if you want to know when items have been assigned to you—there is an additional notification feature.
Click on the Settings gear in the top right of the Microsoft Planner and then select the “Notifications” option.
This will open the Notification options panel. Choose one of the notification preferences and then select the “Save” button.
If you choose “Someone assigns a task to me”, this will alert you through email, Microsoft Teams (if you have Teams), and with mobile push notifications (if you’ve installed the mobile app, which we’ll show you later on in this article). This feature is very useful when you’re working in a team, even if that’s just you and your partner using Planner to sort out the chores.
If you haven’t already connected Planner to your Outlook, then the “A task assigned to me is late, due today, or due in the next 7 days” option will alert you through email if you’re tardy with your tasks. This feature works really well, but it is persistent in telling you that a task is late. This may be great if you struggle to make deadlines and need reminders, but it may also be too much if it makes you feel demotivated.
We’re fans of systems that help you get things done, so we prefer the latter option, but this choice is definitely a personal preference.
Add a Plan to Your Favorites
When you start using Planner, your plans will show up in the “Recent Plans” section of the sidebar.
If you only have one or two plans, this is fine, but if you have multiple plans—and especially if you’re in a corporate environment where people may add you to plans unexpectedly—the “Recent Plans” section can get unwieldy pretty quickly.
You can add plans to the “Favorites” section of the sidebar instead. This gives you control over what plans you see, which makes finding your important plans much easier.
To move a plan to the Favorites section, click on the star icon next to the plan name.
This will immediately move your plan to the Favorites section of the sidebar.
To remove a plan from your Favorites, click the star icon again, and the plan will move back to the Recent Plans section.
Change the Task Groupings
By default, your tasks are grouped in the buckets you use: To-Do, In Progress, Done, and whatever other buckets you’ve created. This isn’t the only way to group your tasks though, so Planner gives you the option to group tasks based on their properties, such as Due Date, Assignee, Priority, and more.
To change your task groupings, click on the “Group By Bucket” button in the top right of the interface.
Choose a different property to group your tasks by, and they will automatically rearrange. For example, if you choose “Priority”, your tasks will be grouped into new Priority buckets.
To go back to viewing your tasks in the original buckets, just click “Group By” and choose “Bucket”.
This feature is really useful for seeing tasks in date order, or, if you’re working in a team, by assignee, so you can see who’s overstretched and who doesn’t have enough work. If you use the colored labeling system to track a project, this can show you all the tasks for that project just by choosing to group by labels.
Filter the Tasks By Specific Properties
Grouping is one way of organizing your tasks, but you can also filter them to show just the tasks you want to see. In a team plan, this is useful to see just the tasks that are assigned to you or just the tasks for a specific label.
To filter the tasks, click on “Filter” in the top right.
Click on one of the property names to choose a value to filter on. We’re going to filter on the “Urgent” value in the Priority property.
The plan will now show just those tasks that have a priority of “Urgent”.
You can apply as many filters as you want at the same time, so you can filter for Urgent tasks with a Yellow label assigned to Jane and due next week, for example.
If the properties aren’t specific enough, you can also filter on keywords within the tasks.
This will show any task that has the keyword anywhere in the title. To clear down the filter, click “Filter” again and then select the “Clear” button.
The more tasks in your planner, the more useful filtering becomes.
Generate Stats About Your Plan
If you’re a manager who needs to report on your team’s work, you’ll know the importance of stats. Planner provides some basic charts to help you understand the current state of your plan in a way that makes it easy to report.
To access the Planner charts, click Charts at the top of the plan.
This gives you some visual representations of the plan as it currently stands.
It also gives you a breakdown of tasks based on Priority and Assignee further down the page. These charts are useful to a point, but they aren’t particularly detailed or customizable. For that, you need to export your plan to Excel, where you can do the charting yourself, or plug the spreadsheet into a tool like Power BI to draw out the stats for you.
To export the plan, click the three dots at the top of the plan and then select “Export Plan To Excel”.
This will create a spreadsheet containing a snapshot of the data about the plan and the tasks, which you can use to create visual representations of your plan using whatever tool you want.
Install the Planner Mobile App
If you want to be able to check your plans on the go, you’ll need the Planner mobile app. Microsoft has made it very easy to get it without having to go to your app store; just click the “Get The Planner App” link at the bottom of the sidebar.
This will open up a panel where you can enter your phone number. Microsoft will then send a download link to the proper app store. If you don’t want to use your phone number–or it’s a tablet that doesn’t have a phone number—you can provide an email address instead.
Install the app as usual, and now you’ll be able to keep an eye on your work without having to haul a laptop around with you.