Tag Archives: email

Project Reboot – September Check-in

It’s been about 6 weeks since I started Project Reboot and I thought I would check in and let folks know how things are going.

Task Management

I’m still rocking the Evernote solution I decided on. I’m still not using it as consistently as I would like but I do find it easier to use it than some of the other solutions I’ve used in the past. I did sign up for another solution a couple of weeks back to check it out but caught myself before going to far down that rabbit hole. It’s the common problem of “productivity porn” and I’m still working on not falling into that trap.

Social Media

So far I’ve managed to keep this from ruling my life, I’m still trying to iron out all the wrinkles though. I’m not living in it like I use to and I’m not constantly trying to keep up with it either. I spend very little time with Google+, facebook is limited to just family and friends (and then only once, maybe twice a day max). LinkedIn and Twitter are seeing more emphasis but between the two I’m only dropping about an hour or so.

RSS

In my last update I mentioned that I was going to tackle my RSS backlog and look at my options for keeping up with it. The first thing I did was look at my feeds and realized that there were a number of them that were either not updating any longer or I wasn’t reading so I decided to drop those. Then I looked at the remaining volume and found I had a couple that were being updated so often everything else was getting lost in the mix. I nixed those as well as I found I was reading only a few articles out of the whole feed – I can go to those websites for that (they are topic specific or series).

The final decision I made was on the reader. After giving it some thought I decided to roll my own with Tiny Tiny RSS. Does it have all the features of Feedly or the now defunct Google Reader? No. Does it give me what I need without the fear of being shut down or the need to pay to use it? Yes. Okay, there is a mobile app that costs $2 but at least it’s not a monthly subscription.

Email

Along with the need to bring my RSS under control I started work on email. I know I’m not as bad as some but I’m averaging about 1200 inbound emails a month to my main account so it needed attention. The first thing I did was switch the bulk of the mailing lists I’m on over to digest mode – instant reduction. I’ve also been going through and unsubscribing to those that I no longer read or no longer want.

One of the changes I’m working on is to move to other forms of communication where I can. Obviously phone calls work along with text messages and I’m using both where I can – going to try and push more folks to using those along with messengers and direct messages through Google or Twitter (check out this post recommended by Greg in my last post).

My Office

I’m not talking about my work office or the office I have as Secretary for the Masonic Lodge I belong to, I’m talking about my home office. The best way to describe it – controlled chaos. Most of the time I have to move something to get to something else or have to go digging for hours to find it. So, while I was on vacation the last couple of weeks I’ve been spending a few minutes here and there to try and eliminate some of the chaos. I know there are those that would say I’m doing it wrong, that I should block a few days, empty the office and then ‘rebuild it.’ Wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to actually enjoy my vacation and, to be honest, emptying my office wasn’t going to work as you need somewhere to put it all. So I’ve been scanning (storage in Evernote), shredding (that whole security/privacy thing), tossing out (yeah!) and rewiring (zip ties anyone?) – it’s a work in progress but as least now I have a bit more open desk space and don’t trip over something every time I get up.

Things are far from complete, some of the things I still need to iron out:

  • My social media policy
  • A clean up and refresh of the blogs I work on
  • Tools – make some decisions and get rid of the rest

I also need to finalize what constitutes the completion of this project (and put a date on it) as if there’s no criteria for completion it’s really a process not a project.

7 Ways to Manage Email So It Doesn’t Manage You

Is it just me or does email always seem to be able to grow like weeds in your inbox? I know it does in mine, in fact it’s next week item for my Project Reboot.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, shared seven of his tips to manage the email onslaught today. His first is something I wish a number of folks I know would follow.

1. If you want to receive less email, send less email

As ridiculously simple as it sounds for such a pervasive problem, I’ve found this to be the golden rule of email management: Send less of it.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve received multiple messages about the same topic – usually because the sender didn’t take a few minutes to collect all their thoughts before sending.

Tip number five is a good one too.

5. Give some thought To: the recipients

It seems like for many people, the To: and Cc: fields in email have become largely synonymous. They’re not

Jeff talks about making sure the right person is on the To: line – I’ve experienced the opposite issue, having been called out in a meeting for not responding when I was on the CC line, go figure.

If you have a few moments you should check out the whole article on LinkedIn.

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:

filter

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?

Post-vacation Inbox Triage

As I mentioned in my last post, Gmail’s Priority Inbox – a great tool, I recently took a vacation during which I managed to almost completely keep my efforts of separating work and home going – just one short call with my boss towards the end so I wouldn’t be blindsided when I returned.

Unfortunately that meant a backlog of email to deal with and I thought I would share how I triaged it.

  1. Delivery/read receipts – I started by sorting my inbox for these and then deleted them.
  2. Meeting requests – next I sorted my inbox for meeting requests and deleted those that had already passed. I then reviewed the remaining and accepted as appropriate.
  3. Forwarded items – typically these fall into one of two categories – items for my information, which were immediately moved to my reference folder, and the second those that required me to take some sort of action. The action items are flagged and filed as appropriate, more on this in a moment.

    Sidebar – I should note here that when I triage my inbox after a vacation I do not follow the two minute rule of David Allen’s GTD system (if you can do it in two minutes or less just do it) instead I’m trying to get to Inbox Zero as quickly as possible.
  4. Response emails – you know the ones, they have an RE: at the beginning of them. I plow through these fairly quickly as most are in reference to emails I sent prior to vacation in most cases these are items that allow me to close out outstanding projects. Like forwarded items I do have to pay attention to those that create new projects as I am frequently copied into an email thread for an already existing project.
  5. Remaining emails – at this point I’m left, for the most part, new items that need to be read and dealt with – delete, file for reference or tag for action.

Now, in item number three I mention that I flag and file action items, this due to my requirement to use MS Outlook (at least for now). I realize that in true GTD implementations these items would get moved to an action list and tagged with appropriate contexts but for me working entirely in Outlook at work just make more sense and is quicker.

So, when I need to take action on an item:

  1. I hit Control-Shift-G which brings up the flag dialog box where I set the flag type and due date.
  2. Control-Shift-V to bring up the ‘Move to Folder’ dialog box where I select where I want the item to live going forward – typically a folder for the associated project
  3. Refer to my ‘For Follow Up’ folder search which pulls in all the items flagged in item 1.

So that’s how I go about the triage of an unwieldy email Inbox when returning from vacation – how do you handle it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!