Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eliminate "whoops" emails forever

Have you ever sent off an email only to realize 3 seconds later that you just insulted the boss, or sent your receipts for your chronic halitosis treatments to the entire organization?    This article explains a little trick in Outlook rules I’ve discovered that has pretty much eliminated this problem for me.    After following the instructions in this post, any message you send will stay in your outbox for 60 seconds before it gets emailed.   Believe me, that 60 seconds is plenty long enough for your brain to realize that you just sent a career-limiting email and then do something to fix it. 

Here’s how to do it (you will need a recent version of Microsoft Outlook)

-          Create a new rule

-          Under “Start from a blank rule”, select “Apply rule on messages I send”

-          Click “Next”

-          Click “Next” again on the “Select Conditions” list

-          Outlook will warn you that this will apply to every rule, Click “yes”

-          In the “Select actions” list, check the box that says “defer delivery by a number of minutes”

-          Click “A number of” in the rule description box and select “1”.

-          Click “Next”

-          Click “Next” again on the exceptions list

-          Give the rule a name  and click “Finish”  (Outlook will warn you that it is a client-only rule)

How to use it in practice

You have to understand how Outlook works in order to take advantage of this rule-  

Let’s say that you’ve just hit send on an email.  You’ll see that your outbox  will have a number next to it like this:  Outbox [1].   This indicates that there is a message waiting in your outbox.  ( If you wait sixty seconds, you’ll see your message disappear as it is sent.)   If you click on the Outbox itself before the message goes away, you’ll see the message in there with bold italic text.   That font is a signal that the message is about to be sent.

-          To stop the message:  All you need to do to stop a message is open it.  Double click on the message in the outbox and you notice that the text in the outbox list will change to plain, unbolded text.   This is a signal that outlook is ignoring the message.  At this point, it will never get sent.  

-          To send the message again with altered text:  Double clicking on the message will stop it from getting sent *and* open it in a viewer.   Hit the “reply-all” button and you will get a new message with all the original recipients of the old one.   Now you can edit the text and press send and you’ll see a new message show up in the outbox.  At this point you can delete the original, unbolded message.

Customizations to consider

-          Sometimes you’ll want to shortcut the rule, such as when you need to quickly send a file to somebody.   You can add an exception to the rule that will cause it not to fire on messages that have some secret text in them.  For instance: “KWIK!” or anything else you like. 

-          For people who believe in not answering email too quickly, consider bumping up the delay to an hour.   I’m not brave enough to try this, but if anyone does, please let me know how it goes!



Monday, February 07, 2011

AF4 observances

Some things I’ve observed in the last few weeks using AutoFocus 4.

-          Combining my work and home autofocus lists has been clearly successful.  At first the list seemed too big, but the bigness of the list encouraged me to reduce the size and focus on those items that are truly important.

-          The amount of time I spend prepping my list at the beginning of the day is about 20 to 40 minutes.  This seems a bit long at first glance, but I feel like it gives me a solid start to the day and I never feel like I don’t know what to work on next.    Here’s my morning routine:

o   Run through my AF4 list and make sure things I worked on yesterday got crossed off

o   Take stats on my list (I love the numbers!)

o   Quickly go through my email inbox and put important emails in my todo folders

o   Run through the todo folders and add unflagged items to my af4 list.  Upon adding to the book, I flag the emails.  I also unflad and remove emails that are completed.

o   Run through my calendar and add today’s items to my af4 list.

o   Go through the list and put a light pencil mark by the items I deem to be important for today.

-          I’ve been hovering between 40 and 60 items on my active list at the end of each day.  I would like to push this down to 30-50 items as a way to simplify/focus my life.   I am getting better and tossing out the junk, but I can still see room for improvement.

-          I’ve stopped splitting my list between “backlog” and “open” lists.  It’s all backlog.   I also move around the list a little more freeform, depending on my mood.

-          I’m using double-columned pages and that keeps my whole backlog about 3 pages long.   I start feeling uncomfortable if it gets longer than that, and I use that pressure to get me to work on things or just drop them from the list.

-          I’ve started writing items down in the future.  My book is about 4 days/page.  If I think of an item that will need attention in about two weeks, I flip forward 3-4 pages and write the item down.   About 3 items from any particular day are added to my current list because I have “caught up” to something I wrote down earlier.



Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The principle of Charity as career advice

This morning, I happened on a book titled “Love it dont leave it: 26 ways to get what you want at work" by Dr. Beverly Kaye. I watched a video of the author and she said something that caught my attention. She talked about loving your job and equated it to taking action to make it the kind of thing you desire. She conveyed the idea that loving your job is not a passive thing, but rather a deliberate act, similar to how one would love their spouse. This strikes me as being in-line with the concept of Charity. The pure love of Christ is a motivating, energizing kind of love that one gives away. It is comprised of constant small acts of kindness, patience, perseverance, and faith.

As I think about this, I realize that I want to be the kind of person that loves everything- not necessarily because I like it the way it is, but because I understand my own power to build and lift as the love of God works through me. In particular, I want to take an improved look at my work and see it less as something that I like or don’t like, but something that I love unconditionally and work diligently to improve.