Posts from September 2005.

ClearContext v2 Update

Thanks to everyone who has asked about the status of product plans.  FYI – We continue to rapidly move towards our next major release (ClearContext v2.0).  Our initial announcement provides a good overview of the feature set; we will talk more about the final feature list shortly. 

Beta testing will start in Q4.  If you are interested in participating in the Beta, please send an email to

A number of people have begun to ask about v2 upgrade pricing.  We have not finalized 2.0 pricing yet, but we will provide discounts to registered 1.x users that make it cheaper to upgrade then to buy the new product outright.

Thanks again and we look forward to hearing your feedback on the product when we get it out there!

“We’re making our people compete with sandbags strapped to their legs”

BusinessWeek has an interesting article in this week’s edition titled The Real Reasons You’re Working So Hard.
The basic premise is that, while the information revolution has boosted
productivity by 70% in the last 25 years, companies that are holding on
to now archaic corporate organizational structures are overloading
their employees with internal inefficiency.  Read this:

Globalization and the
Internet create great new opportunities, but they also ratchet up the
intensity of competition and generate more work — especially with the
existing corporate structure still hanging on tightly. "Nobody wants to
give up their territory or their control," says Shoshana Zuboff, a
former professor at Harvard Business School. Adds Lowell Bryan, a
McKinsey & Co. director: "Professionals are still being managed as
if they were in factories, in organizations designed to keep everybody
siloed. At less well-run companies, you’re struck by how frustrated
people are. They work like dogs and are wasting time."

Make that lots of time. Fully 25% of executives at large companies say
their communications — voice mail, e-mail, and meetings — are nearly
or completely unmanageable. That’s according to a new McKinsey survey
of more than 7,800 managers around the world. Nearly 40% spend a half
to a full day per week on communications that are not valuable. Other
surveys echo similar results. "We’re making our people compete with
sandbags strapped to their legs," says Zuboff.

One only has to look at the popularity of David Allen’s Getting Things Done Methodology
to verify that this is exactly right – millions of workers are
struggling to cope with overly efficient distribution of information
within an inherently broken internal system.  And while there are
lots of companies who provide tools and methodologies to cope with this
problem (ourselves included), there is a real need for big corporations to rethink the way that they manage their people and their business.

When I was in the consulting world, it was these types of
inefficiencies that opened the window for some of our largest and most
successful projects.  One of my clients had all the skills in
house to implement the enterprise systems we were building, but their
employees weren’t empowered to cross departmental lines to get it
done.  They ultimately spent millions in services fees to 3rd
parties who could work outside the corporate bureaucracy.  And
while the project was a huge success (we were inducted into the
company’s "Project Hall of Fame"!) they were paying us as much (or
more) for our skills at crossing organizational boundaries as they were
for our development and implementation work.

For more detail, read the BusinessWeek article The Real Reasons You’re Working So Hard.

Hotmail Beta Demo

I’m late to the dance on this one, but Omar has pointed out that a video for the new Hotmail beta (code named "Kahuna") is available on Channel 9.  Interesting stuff going on in the webmail world…

Email Nirvana

Mark Hurst touts the advantages of emptying the inbox regularly in a Forbes article published yesterday:

"Here’s how to manage incoming e-mail: Keep the
inbox empty–clear out incoming e-mails before they pile up or you lose
your ability to manage them effectively."

He makes it sound so simple.  The article goes on to explain some ways to acomplish this task, including the use of the oft repeated "two-minute rule:" if you
can address the message in less than two minutes, do it and file or
delete it.

For more detail, read The Secrets to E-Mail Nirvana.

Check Out My Podcast Network Interview

The Podcast Network interviewed me on their Productivity Show yesterday and posted it here.  It’s about 45 minutes long, and we spend most of the time talking through the features and functionality of ClearContext.  If you want to hear a more in depth analysis of what Inbox Manager can do, check it out.

I want to say thanks again to Cameron and Des.  It was a pleasure chatting.  Hopefully my enthusiasm for our product comes through in the show!

Getting the Most Out of ClearContext

While interviewing for a podcast this morning (more on that in a day or so) it occurred to me that we have posted a wealth of great ClearContext usage tips on our blog that our new users might benefit from, but may not be easy to find.  Eventually I’ll find a place to post some perma-links on the website, but for now here’s a roundup of some of our more informative posts:

Three Things You Might Not Know About ClearContext – New users should start here, it includes information no customizing views, automatically saving sent messages, and enabling the ClearContext open message toolbar.

Convert Your Folders to ClearContext Topic Folders
– a quick note on taking advantage of ClearContext’s automated filing featues using your existing folders.

ClearContext Proritization Adjustment – instructions for tweaking the weighting of ClearContext’s prioritization algorithm.

How To Avoid Exceeding Your Mail File Size Limit – use ClearContext to help proactively stay ahead of your company’s size limitations.

ClearContext & ActiveWords: a Script to Get You Started
– for new users of the ClearContext ActiveWords Agent, this walks you through exactly what we can do.

Holiday Email Avalanche – You’ve got 100’s of messages in your inbox and you want to clear them out?  Follow these tips to regain control of your Inbox using ClearContext.

Writing Sensible Email – always a great source of productivity information – has posted a bunch of tips for writing sensible email.  All are great recommendations and well worth the time to read.  I’d like to add one more – know your audience.  The content of your email should vary greatly by recipient. 

For example, I worked with a client who routed a lot of my requests
through his administrative assistant.  It was imperative that I
thank her whenever she sent me an email or I wouldn’t get a timely
response the next time I needed something.  On the flip side, the
client could not care less when I responded with my usual pleasantries
in email – "get down to business" is a direct quote.

Read Writing sensible email messages for more information on crafting effective email.

Professional E-mail Tips from Lifehacker

D. Keith Robinson has posted a long list of ways to handle your email better on Lifehacker; including tips for writing better messages and handling large volumes of email.  This one struck a chord:

"Sign your e-mail. At the very least your name if the
person you’re e-mailing doesn’t know you well. I get many e-mails from
people who’s e-mail address is funky, something like, and it makes for an awkward response if I
don’t know their name."

Years ago I was working a large consulting gig at a major telecom company.  One of the independent contractors on the project had a somewhat unique email handle – let’s call it "" to protect the indifferent.  The first time I received an email from him I was shocked at the unprofessional image this conveyed to our mutual client.  Needless to say, the email address was a source of ridicule from everyone on the team and the contractor didn’t last long on the project.

Better yet, a friend of a friend shows up for his first day at work at a new, hip dot-com company in the late nineties.  When asked what he wants his email address to be, he replies "subtlewinds."  Turns out the company wasn’t THAT hip.  He didn’t make it more than a couple of weeks.

My post has morphed into something entirely different than I intended, but here’s where I close the circle: Email, like every other form of contact between you and your customers/ clients/ colleagues, is a chance to make an impression.  Make sure that you are conveying the image you want – pick a good email address, spell and grammar check your messages, use language that is appropriate to the audience, and put a good signature on all your email.

Read Special: Professional E-Mail Tips for more ideas.

Another Review Gets a Free License

Soulhuntre posted a comprehensive review of Inbox Manager:

“ClearContext is one of the tools that, even though I have only had it a week or so, has totally changed the way I relate to my inbox.”

That’s what we like to hear.  Given his mention of GTD, I think he’ll be even more impressed when we roll out our workflow features in v2.0 (more on that forthcoming).  Read his review for a thorough account of how ClearContext performs.

Our free license program is still in effect and we were happy to send a registration key out for this review.  If you put the word out about ClearContext, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to do the same for you.

*** The free license program has been discontinued. This blog post remains up for reference only