Category Archives: Productivity

Use a before filter to create an email DMZ

out.of.control.emailIf you’re like many the end of January marks the time when you realize that you haven’t kept up with your New Year’s Resolutions.

  • You haven’t been to the gym in a couple weeks
  • You’ve already cheated on the diet
  • That stack of paperwork is still sitting there
  • Your inbox is still out of control

While I can’t help with everything, your email inbox I can make a suggestion on – slim it down so it doesn’t look as large of a task.

First, I’m not going to suggest that you declare email bankruptcy and just delete everything. I’m also not going to suggest selecting everything and hitting the ‘mark as read’ and ‘archive’ buttons. I’m going to suggest you create an email DMZ that you can work through as time allows.

If use Gmail for your mail among the many features you have available to you is an outstanding search system (go figure). What we’re going to do is create an email DMZ for the year 2012 and then move everything prior to January 1st of 2013 into it.

First thing you need to do is create a new label for your DMZ, I would suggest 2012 DMZ as we’re looking to create a place for our left over 2012 emails to go. Once you have your label set up you need to then use the powerful search available to you in Gmail and grab all the emails prior to January 1st. As it turns out it’s a single search option with the right data point:


As you can see in the screen capture above the trick is to use the “before” option in the search. When you use this option it’s important to not the way the date is entered – four digit month first, two digit month, and then the two digit day. For a lot of folks that format is not what you’d expect and takes a bit to get use to but once you do it’s a rather powerful way to write the date (more on that in a later post).

Once you get the search results back you can apply your DMZ label and then archive the whole shooting match out of our Inbox.

I can hear you screaming at me now, “you said we wouldn’t archive all that email!” Ok, you got me, yes we did archive it out of your inbox but at this point it’s also all tagged with a label so you can find all of those emails in one place, a listing you can work through. Of course you may just decide to leave them all there and not touch them again – that’s a choice you’ll need to make yourself.

Do you use a DMZ for email or do you just declare bankruptcy and delete everything?

Moving to mySMS, sorry Google Voice

mysmsOne of the hardest things for me to deal with since I made the decision to diversify my online tool bag is what to do about Google Voice. The service is extremely useful and I definitely like everything the tool has to offer but it really feels like there’s just too much riding on this one tool. My biggest issue is that if you don’t have a data connection you can’t make a call – yes, I still make a phone call with my phone believe it or not.

So, after much consideration I decided to split the difference and move my texting away from Google Voice and move the family and close friends back to my direct phone number. I still have Google Voice for my non-family contacts and still use the service for voice mail. Remember this exercise isn’t about leaving Google, just diversifying the tool box.

The one thing I really liked about Google Voice for texting is that I could keep and archive of my text messages. I’ve frequently have had to look back to find a piece of information like an account number or a phone number I needed to call. I didn’t want to loose that functionality and after looking at the different options I settled on mySMS.

The service has been working without issue for me for almost three months now. Like Google Voice instead of selecting the native texting app on my Razr I select the mySMS app and text away and the system either uses the mySMS system, if the recipient uses it or, as the case so far, my providers network (not an issue given my unlimited texting package). It’s seamless to me and the best part is that I have it set up to archive my text messages to my Evernote account so I have them available to me no matter where I am and they are fully searchable.

I also have to mention that there is a web interface so, like when I used Google Voice, I can have a window up on my screen and be sending and receiving messages without the need to pull my phone out. A handy option when you’re sitting in meetings most of the day!

At this point I’ve shifted my browser, my primary search engine, and now my texting tool, not all have been without growing pains but I have to admit it does feel nice to not have everything tied to the same provider. I’m not sure what else I’m going to move away from Google, if anything, but I’m definitely going to keep my mind open to other tools.

Do you use Google Voice or mySMS for text messaging? What about voice mail? Why not sound off in the comments below?

Duck, Duck, Good-bye Google

duck-duck-goAs I’ve already mentioned, I’m in the process of diversifying my online tools. In my last post on this topic I talked about changing my default browser to Opera from Google Chrome and so far, with a few minor challenges, things are going well on that front.

After making that switch I decided that it was time to change my search engine and after considering the various options decided on

One of the biggest reasons I decided to go with is that they don’t track you; they don’t save your searches, and they don’t pass along that data to the site you click through to. I also have to admit their results still point me to what I’m looking for and the list includes sites I may not have already seen.

That was something that I had started to notice with Google, my searches had a tendency to hit the same sites over and over. I don’t think it was because they were pushing those sites but instead it was because their search algorithm had, over time, learned that those were the sites I preferred – all the more reasons to shift away from everything in one bucket.

The challenge was on the mobile side of my life as can’t be configured to be your default search engine in a mobile browser. So I’ve added it to my list of links on the main page of my mobile browser of choice, Dolphin, and shifted the default browser to (the lesser of the evils).

Do you use a search engine other than Google? Why not share your choice in the comments below?

Goodbye Chrome, Hello Opera

Opera BrowserIn my last post, I talked about how I was going to look at the tools I use and diversify them a bit as I have come to rely on one company, Google, for nearly everything I do.

And that’s not good.

So, since a large percentage of my time is spent online I figured the logical place to start is with my browser. I’ve been a Chrome user almost since the day it came out. I’ve enjoyed the tight integration with their other products and the speed at which is runs but it’s also the basket that holds all the other eggs so out it goes.

With Chrome off the table I looked at the other possible browsers out there. I crossed Internet Explorer off the list right away as I wanted to maintain a certain decoupling with my operating system and as I work in Windows most of the time I also decided to cross off Safari as well (that whole Apple vs. Microsoft thing).

Next on my list was Firefox. Before my days as a Chrome user I was a Firefox user and spent many hours toying with the different extentions and add-ons, constantly tweaking it. I’m also concerned with the way that Firefox has hogged memory in the past (like Chrome does now) as I typically have a lot open on my desktop. So while it stayed on my list for a while and is installed as my backup browser I decided to pass on it as my primary browser.

So, where did that leave me? With a list of off-shoot browsers and the one that I decided to go with – Opera.

If you read the above statement and don’t know anything about the Opera browser, don’t feel bad, according the stats over at Netmarket Share Opera has about a 2% market share – that’s right not a lot of folks are using it.

So why go with the #5 browser in the market? I think it goes back to this older post. In that post I mentioned that I needed to get back to what I enjoy, puzzling things out, solving problems and trying new things. I’ve used all of the browsers mentioned above and had never really tried Opera so I thought I would make a go of it on this switch.

To be honest, as I write this I’ve been on Opera for my personal browsing for over a month now (I still use Chrome at work) and other than a few minor inconveniences things are going well. I’ve had to adjust to not having instant access (via extensions) to some of the services I use but that also made me take a look at those services to determine if I really needed to have that access or use them at all.

Do I miss some of those things? I did at first, but as I use Opera more, adjust my work flows and change up my tools, the pain of those changes lessens.

I’m still learning my way around Opera and haven’t really dug into all it’s capable of yet but I’m peeling back the layers a bit at a time and so far I’m happy with my decision.

So, what browser do you use? Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, something else? Why not share about it in the comments below.

Thanks Sandy, I’m Diversifying Now

Did you ever have one of those moments when you realized that you’ve been sitting in the same place for so long that you stopped caring about moving?

I had one of those moments a few weeks ago when I was sitting in the dark after Superstorm Sandy took out our power. It wasn’t the power outage itself that caused this sudden realization, it was when I went to call the power company and add us to the growing list of houses without power and my data network connection was out.

That’s right the little 4G icon was not there, not even a 3G, and without it my initial call didn’t go through as I couldn’t access the Google Voice system.

That’s when it struck me, not only had I become reliant on Google Voice, but a quick rundown in my head revealed that I am using pretty much just Google products and almost nothing else. The thought process didn’t stop there though, I also realized just how much I’m dependent on that data connection and the need for it to power what I do with my phone.

I have always prided myself on exploring software, figuring out problems and being willing to not “run with the crowd,” and what I began to realize is that I had become the very thing I had been trying to avoid from the word go.

So, where to begin? How about with the immediate need? As soon as I was able to get some kind of data connection up and running I did a quick search and got Twitter updates from the power company to start showing up as SMS messages – no more data connection dependency. It’s a great option and I’m now using it to follow selected brands and individuals, instead of bringing up a Twitter client I just wait for the SMS – it feels more efficient this way and I know I’m not going to miss something.

That was an easy one, the more difficult and potential painful part then started and is still going – moving beyond the Google-sphere I’ve grown accustom to and diversifying my tools and applications.

This isn’t a quest to remove all of Google from my life, it’s about picking a tool that will do the job well enough that I don’t have to use something from Google. Will I still use Google products? Yes. Will I be all in with Google going forward? No, that’s the challenge and the goal.

First up, my browser. I’ve been a Chrome user almost since the day it hit the Internet but if I’m going to break my Google dependency I feel I should start at the core. I’ve been experimenting and trying things out and will post about my choice in the coming days.

So, do you spread yourself around or are you ‘all in’ with just one company? Have you kicked the Google habit entirely? I’d be interested in what you’re using and how you did it.