Posts from July 2005.

IM Killing Email???

I was going to write something about the Forbes article that concluded email was dying due to teen’s preference for IM (The Beginning of the End of Email), but Jason Clarke said it just about perfectly – teens prefer IM because they don’t have a need for a less immediate medium like email.  Just wait until they get into the business world.  Read Email Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.

“File” Is Not Spelled D-E-L

Slipstick publishes an informative, biweekly newsletter devoted to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Issues called the Exchange Messaging Outlook. This newsletter is always a good read – to subscribe, sign up here

The latest issue has an article on the perils of using your Deleted Items folder for filing important messages:

"I understand why they do it – they want to keep the Inbox clean and hitting the DEL key is quick and easy, but I’m amazed at the number of people who use this for message management and see nothing wrong with it. They get upset with me when I tell them it’s a really bad idea to store messages in the Deleted folder and many continue doing it even after losing all of their important messages."

As mentioned in the article, there are better, more secure ways to file your email, including automated solutions from ClearContext.  We allow you to assign topics to email threads and provide filing buttons for one touch archiving of messages, email conversations, and/or entire categories of email.  This is almost as convenient as the delete key, much less likely that you will lose your important email, and makes it a lot easier to find archived email when you need it.

The Slow Email Movement

Ina Fried wrote an interesting article on CNET News.com regarding the problems with information distraction from technology such as email, instant messaging, PDA’s, etc..  This quote from Dan Russell, a senior manager at IBM research, made me chuckle:

After concluding three years ago that he was becoming a slave to
e-mail, Russell decided to put his foot down. These days, he takes his
time replying to messages. All his responses say at the bottom: "Join
the slow email movement! Read your mail just twice each day. Recapture
your life’s time and relearn to dream."

I agree with Russell, don’t become a slave to email (or any other technology for that matter) and by all means set aside time during the day for email rather than constantly checking it.  That said, while well thought out replies are the hallmark of a good email manager, I also think that deliberately waiting to reply to email is a mistake.  Yes, research has shown that by waiting to respond to messages you condition the sender to not expect you to be at their beck and call; but there is a significant amount of time wasted re-reading messages that sit in your mailbox awaiting disposition.  Once you’ve given your attention to a message, go ahead and do something with it (reply, file, create an appointment or task).  If you want to delay the reply, change the sent message options to set delivery for a later time.

The article gives a survey on page 2 that tests whether you are too distracted by information and also lists some stop gap measures to help mitigate the distracting impact of technology.  If overwhelmed, the tips are good for regaining some sanity, but the reality is that this flood of data and the technology that delivers it are necessary components of today’s information society.  As we noted in a previous post, studies have shown that devices such as Blackberries can have a positive impact on our ability to complete our jobs.  A good strategy for integrating information into your workday and exploiting it’s usefulness is required to be an effective worker.  If you feel the need to unplug as the article suggests, I recommend you take some time before you plug back in to think through how to manage the data in your life more efficiently.

[Thanks to Super Web Tech weblog for the pointer to this article.]

Three Things You Might Not Know About ClearContext

There are three items that I like to highlight for people who have recently installed ClearContext.  These are things that might not be obvious at first pass over the application, but really open up Inbox Manager’s functionality:

  1. If the option is selected, ClearContext saves sent messages in
    topic folders rather than the sent mail folder.  This allows easy
    archiving / categorization of sent messages.  This option is turned off
    by default on installation.  For details on enabling, see our blog post Archive Sent
    Messages in Outlook
    .
  2. If you are using Microsoft Word as your email editor, the ClearContext open message toolbar is not available.  This eliminates the ability to assign topics / priorities  and file from open messages (New, Open, & Reply).  For more detail on this, see Enabling the ClearContext Open Message Toolbar.
  3. Finally, because our views are built within native Outlook, they are completely customizable.  While we feel that our default prioritized views are a very powerful feature of the product, some folks may want to start off with a more familiar date ordered view.  We have posted alternative views for download on our website.  Also, changes can also be made manually within Outlook to meet user’s specific needs.  You can change the priority colors ClearContext assigns in the Inbox, enhance the views to take advantage of native Outlook grouping, or show only unread, prioritized messages.

The message here is that, while the out of the box experience may be exactly what you’re looking for, ClearContext provides a wealth of ways to customize and tweak the user experience to make sure that you get the most out of Outlook.  If you have a unique way of conifguring and using the application and/or there are additional features you would like to see, please do not hesitate to drop us a line.

Don’t Become a Slave to Email

Check out my article on good inbox management techniques published in the August Issue of Outlook Power Magazine.    In a nutshell, I prescribe a six point process for getting more productivity out of email:

  1. Utilize technology to mitigate the impact of spam.
  2. Use automation to prioritize email.
  3. Take action on email as you process it.
  4. Read the entire thread before responding.
  5. Don’t become a slave to email.
  6. Set up an archiving/storage system that works for you.

The bottom line here is best summed up by one of our 2005 Email Usage Survey respondents:

"The fact is that email is the conduit for virtually all business work product in the 21st century.  Learning to manage it appropriately becomes everyone’s personal responsibility."

For the full text of the article, including an explanation of each point, see Don’t Become a Slave to Email.  For additional tips and techniques on email related issues, see our previously posted top five lists (downloadable pdf versions of these tips are located on our additional information page):

Top Five Ways to Manage the Inbox Effectively
Top Five Ways to Reduce Email Traffic
Top Five Ways to Improve Email Etiquette
Top Five Email Policy Considerations

Enabling the ClearContext Open Message Toolbar

The ClearContext message toolbar (Open, New & Reply) is disabled if using Microsoft Word as an email editor – the default editor for Outlook XP and 2003.  To make use of this ClearContext functionality, select Tools > Options > Mail Format and uncheck the "Use Microsoft Word…" option.

This will open up several additional Inbox Manager features, including the ability to assign both Topic and Priority in open messages, file message functionality, and access to the sender’s contact record for easy manual priority assignment.  In addition, the presence of the toolbar allows the assignment of topics to new messages, greatly enhancing the usefulness of ClearContext’s Sent Message filing feature.

Message_toolbar_1

For more detail on getting the most out of ClearContext, see our User Guide.

Congressional Email Overflow

The Washington Post published an article today about Congress’ constant fight against spam.  We’re not talking about your garden variety home loan and desperate housewives email, but rather targeted campaigns by interest groups to get their messages read in a big way.  As one legislative director put it:

"[We’re] really losing sight of the important letters that come in —
like the three-page letter from Grandma as opposed to those floods of
mail where all they’re doing is clicking a button. It’s insane."

The article also mentions that, since the September 2001 anthrax attacks, snail mail has become useless for contacting congressional legislators.  Does anyone else find it ironic that these group’s electronic efforts to get themselves heard is actually destroying one of the few ways we have left to get in touch with our federal representatives?

For more information, read On Capitol Hill, the Inboxes are Overflowing.

Weblog Administration

Some administrative items as we tweak the blog:

1.  We signed up for feedburner.  Please update your feed for this weblog to http://feeds.feedburner.com/ClearContext.

2.  The weblog site has a new template – we have updated to preserve the look and feel of our main site.  Let us know what you think.

3.  We’ve added individual authors to the weblog – look for posts under our own names in the near future.

4.  Finally, I want to lay claim to our feed in feedster – no need to click on this link.

Thanks – let us know if there are any problems with the changes.

Darwin Magazine Posts 7 Tips for Getting Control of Email

Darwin Magazine has posted seven tips for getting control of email.  Their tips are worth a look, but most interesting is their final recommendation:

"At the end each day, businesspeople should see where e-mail was
effective and where it was a time-waster or diverted focus from
business objectives. If a pattern can be determined, the manager then
has an opportunity to change it for the better. Even more important,
this can identify where the manager can cut down on time spent on
e-mail, providing more time for a business activity that may matter
more."

If you feel like the purpose of your day is to answer and send email, you’re missing the point of the technology.  Whether you use Darwin’s or any other sources’ tips for handling email, get yourself an email management strategy.

[Thanks to Cutting Through for the pointer – they have linked to some of their own ideas for tackling messages.]



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