Posts from January 2008.

Unsubscribe to a Folder

One of the more popular features that we introduced in IMS v3 was Unsubscribe.  Highlight a thread you have no interest in (joke threads, happy hour discussions, etc..), press Unsubscribe and IMS will move all current messages in the thread into the ClearContext Unsubscribed folder.  In addition, any messages from that conversation that you receive in the future will also be moved out of the Inbox.

Did you know that IMS can push those messages to a Topic folder rather than the Unsubscribed folder?  Go to ClearContext > Options > Preferences > Misc. and check If Topic is assigned, file unsubscribed messages to Topic Folder.  When you unsubscribe from a thread with a Topic assigned, the messages will appear in the Topic folder rather than the unsubscribed folder.  Message threads without Topics assigned will still unsubscribed to the ClearContext Unsubscribed folder.  When you are managing your Inbox, this is a good way to Defer message threads that you want to review at a later date.


For more information on Unsubscribe, see our User Guide.

NY Magazine: Peace & Quiet

image Over the weekend New York Magazine published a collection of articles on Peace and Quiet; various ways New Yorkers can take a break from the bustle of The City.

Included in the feature are seven tips on becoming an E-mail Ninja.  I’m partial to #5 for obvious reasons:

"Hire a virtual butler. Add-on applications like ClearContext act like gatekeepers, automatically rearranging messages in order of importance."

MacLean’s – Sshh: Men at Work

MacLean’s published an article last week on Intel’s quiet time pilot.  I like this idea a lot better than Email Free Fridays:

‘Quiet Time, which began in September, happens each Tuesday at two of Intel’s U.S. sites (they won’t reveal exactly where). From 8 a.m. to noon, the 300 engineers and managers in the test group set email and instant messaging to off-line mode, forward all calls to voice mail, and hang “do not disturb” signs at their cubicle entrances. They’re then free to do “thinking work,” says Intel IT principal engineer Nathan Zeldes, the man behind the project. “These guys are designing products, so I would hope they’d devote it to that,” he says. “Although I’m sure some of them are tempted to clean out their inboxes.”‘

This is basically institutionalizing the Succeed step of the IMS process; forcing employees to block out times of the day to focus on project based work rather than responding to constant interruption.  And it’s clear from the article that this type of break from the outside world is required to get real work done:

‘Today’s knowledge workers can expect just three minutes of uninterrupted work on any given task, suggests research from Gloria Mark and Victor M. Gonzalez at the University of California, Irvine. “It’s bad for innovation,” Mark says. “To be able to think very deeply, you do need quiet time.”‘

Three minutes?  I suspect this is why all my most creative ideas come when I’m walking to work rather than when I’m sitting at my desk.

Thanks to customer Philip who forwarded along this article!  Most appreciated…

Outlook 2007 Text Substitution

image I stumbled across a tremendously useful Outlook 2007 feature on Lifehacker last week.  Outlook 2007 allows you to identify phrases or texts that you use often in email and essentially create hotkeys for them via a feature called Quick Parts.  For example, I am constantly putting links to our tutorials page in email.  Using this feature I can now type tu, press F3 and Outlook will substitute  How sweet is that? 

Follow directions here to create Quick Parts for commonly used phrases, salutations, URL’s, etc..  The time saved in email response and accuracy will be well worth the effort.

Categorized Posts

image A quick administrative note… 

With the release of v4 and the IMS Daily Workflow, I have made a concerted effort to tag posts by category.  To support that, this week we added a tag cloud to the weblog.  Use the cloud to drill down on product announcements, process oriented posts, individual steps in the IMS process, etc..

A Small Change for Enormous Productivity Gains

Take a moment to think about how quickly you really need to respond to email…  Now, how often do you check email?  My guess is that there’s a big disconnect.

Here’s a quick tip guaranteed to boost productivity – change the frequency that Outlook checks for new email.  In Office 2003 and earlier, by default, Outlook checks for new email every five minutes.  Studies have shown that it can take 15 minutes to refocus on work after replying to an email.  Setting Outlook to check for new messages every five minutes (or even 30, the default in 2007) is effectively killing your ability to concentrate.

To change this behavior, go to Tools > Send/Receive > Send/Receive Settings > Define Send Receive Groups:


POP Users – Under Setting for group “All Accounts,” change the value for Schedule an automatic send/receive every to the maximum amount of time you feel you can wait to receive an important email.  I recommend 60 minutes at a minimum.

Exchange UsersWhen Outlook is Offline, enable the automatic send/receive schedule and set this to the time you choose.  Then take Outlook offline by going to File > Work Offline.  One caveat; this will also delay the synchronization of your calendar – if you work in an environment where your Exchange appointments are constantly shifting I do not recommend this change. 

A final note – don’t forget to take advantage of Do not Disturb for those times when you really need to focus on your projects for long periods of time without interruption.

IMS Maintenance: AutoAssign

There are a number of IMS functions that will help you streamline and/or automate the IMS Daily Workflow.  Though not a part of your daily work in Outlook, these tasks – creating AutoAssign Rules, adjusting Contact Priorities, managing Alerts, etc. – can significantly increase your daily productivity.  I’ll be writing about these on the blog as part of the Maintenance phase of the IMS process.

AutoAssign is a simple rules engine that allows you to assign Topics or Priorities to incoming messages based on several characteristics including sender, sender’s domain, keywords, etc..  Optionally, you can instruct AutoAssign to automatically file messages to Topic folders as well.

There are several classifications of email that are perfect for automatic Topic assignment:

  • Important Customers – Set up an AutoAssign rule to search for an important client’s domain (i.e. and assign a High Priority to all incoming messages.
  • Status Updates – Automatically assign Topics to regular emails like status reports, automated updates, etc. using a subject keyword AutoAssign rule.
  • Newsletters and Mailing Lists – Automatically file newsletters and mailing lists out of the Inbox and into Topic folders for review at your leisure.

Creating an AutoAssign rule is easy:

  1. In the Inbox, get focus on a message that you want AutoAssign to manage in the future.
  2. Select ClearContext > Create AutoAssign Rule from Message:
  3. Select the parameters you want IMS to look for when new mail arrives.  In the example above, all messages from info at clearcontext dot com with the phrase "Weekly Status Report" in the title will be assigned a Topic of Status and a Low Priority.
  4. Give the rule a name and select OK.  All future messages that meet your criteria will be assigned a Topic.

Making this little bit of effort to create AutoAssign rules will save you time and mental energy later as you try to keep your Inbox organized on a daily basis.

For more information on AutoAssign, including information on managing AutoAssign rules, see the IMS User Guide.

Happy New Year!

The ClearContext Team would like to wish you a productive and prosperous 2008!

I suspect that many of you are returning today to a mountain of work.  Today is my day back to tackle all of the loose ends that have built up over the break, re-jigger my task priorities, etc..  If you are feeling a little overwhelmed, vacation email triage should help you get back on track.  And if you made it your New Year’s resolution to get and stay organized, let the IMS Daily Workflow be your blueprint for 2008.