Category Archives: Productivity Tools

SpeedFiler Featured on the Cranky Middle Manager Show

I recently had the good fortune to be invited to talk about SpeedFiler and the problems it can solve, in a special Productivity Tools broadcast on Wayne Turmel’s Cranky Middle Manager Show (part of The Podcast Network).

The Cranky Middle Manager Show is an irreverent but insightful look at the world of middle management. Host Wayne Turmel vents, offers humorous commentary and talks to the smartest people in the field about management techniques, career strategies and just keeping it together day after day. If you ever feel stuck between the idiots that make the decisions and the morons who won’t do as they’re told, this is the show for you.

Thanks, Wayne, for the opportunity to participate in your show.

(Tip: listen to the show if you’d like a discount coupon for SpeedFiler.)

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How Many Inboxes Do You Have?

This is NOT my inbox!The feeling of information overload is proportional to the amount of unprocessed information we have. I have a name for places where this unprocessed stuff piles up: “inboxes”. The email inbox is the obvious one, but there are others too.

Here are my inboxes:

  • Email inbox
  • Voicemail
  • Freehand notes taken via my Palm
  • In-tray on desk
  • Notebook (old fashioned pen and paper)
  • RSS and newsgroup reader

All of these have a plentiful supply of information to assimilate and decide how to handle. I resist anything that threatens to increase the number of inboxes I have. For example, I tried out OneNote and EverNote. These are cool products, but not having a tablet computer, the most useful feature to me was the ability to capture snippets from web pages for later reference. After using these tools for a while, and accumulating loads of snippets, I realized that I had unconsciously added yet another inbox. This was one too many, as I had to make a conscious effort to remember it when cranking through my other more visible inboxes. So how did I replace it? Continue reading

Small Change Makes Big Difference to Email Prioritization: How to Color-code Your Messages

Color-coding your messages can help you significantly with triage, the process of prioritizing your messages.

The most significant improvement for me is the rule that colors messages blue, if I am the only recipient on the TO: line. Such messages are most likely to be more important that the rest of the stuff that fills up my inbox, because:

  • They have not been sent to a bunch of people, but specifically to me.
  • They are therefore more likely to relate to my area of responsibility.
  • They are also more likely to require action.
  • If I don’t answer, nobody else will. (Read some interesting background information about this.)

In Microsoft Outlook, it’s very easy to define such a rule. On the menu in the main Outlook window, just click on Tools | Organize. This will display the following panel above the messages:

Color Messages Sent Only To Me

You can create additional rules using the Automatic Formatting… link at the top-right of the panel.

Are Better Tools the Solution to Email Overload?

207291_multi_purpose_knife.jpgEmail overload and ways of fighting it are being discussed more and more as time goes on. Many vendors are selling tools that are aimed at making our email experience more productive. Some of them are very well thought of, e.g. ClearContext Inbox Manager.

Even though I’m a tool vendor myself, I want to make it clear that better software cannot solve email overload. Better software can just alleviate the dire situation we’re all in. Two quite varied examples are anti-spam products and automatically color-coding your messages according to various criteria.

Don’t be fooled by any marketing message that says [product] will solve your email overload problems. It won’t. It can’t. Only you can solve your problems.

Continue reading