Posts from September 2009.

IEEE Spectrum: How to Beat Information Overload

Nathan Zeldes has published an article in IEEE Spectrum on Infoglut:

“Information, the very thing that makes it possible to be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or any other kind of modern information worker, is threatening our ability to do our work. How’s that for irony?”

Definitely worth a read if you’re interested in how email and information overload are killing our productivity.  And there’s a mention of ClearContext to boot.

Photo: Fredrik Brodén

How often do you use FolderContext?

In our post v5: Streamlined & Smarter we mentioned that we plan to limit the display of FolderContext to Project Dashboards, removing it from individual folders. Given recent feedback, we’d like to know how you use FolderContext. Please take the poll below and post any additional comments you would like to share. Thanks!

How often do you use FolderContext?

  • Never (41%, 40 Votes)
  • Everyday (30%, 29 Votes)
  • Occasionally (30%, 29 Votes)

Total Voters: 98

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Thanks for Signing Up for the Beta!

A quick thanks! to everyone who signed up for the v5 beta of our Outlook organization add-in.  If you sent us a note, we have added your email to the beta list and will let you know when a download is available.  In the meantime, here’s a review of what's coming in our v5 release:

ClearContext v5: Simpler, Faster, Smarter

ClearContext v5: Single-Click Filing

ClearContext v5: Prioritization & Views

ClearContext v5: Streamlined & Smarter

If you haven’t already signed up for the v5 beta, send an email to beta at clearcontext dot com.

ClearContext Daily Workflow: Succeed

image The Succeed step of the ClearContext Daily Workflow is the ultimate goal of the process.  You've identified your priorities for the day and have managed your Inbox.  Now, throughout the day, succeed by focusing on your work rather than your email: 

Do Not Disturb

Turn off new mail notifications via Do Not Disturb so that you can work on your tasks without interruption. 

IMS Dashboard

Open the ClearContext Dashboard and select a project to work on via the Topic drop down.  Work on your most important tasks for the project. 

Prioritized Views

To stay on top of email throughout the day, sort your Inbox by priority (ClearContext > Inbox Views) and review only your highest priority messages (in red and blue) as needed. 


Use the MessageContext to see emails, appointments and other related tasks to get the full context for the item you are working on.

One note on the Prioritized step above – if you look at a message during this phase, make sure that you act on any message you open just as you would in the manage phase.  You should strive to only touch an Inbox message once. 

By completing the Identify and Manage steps previously, you are free to focus on the work that is most important to you while staying in control of your email.

ClearContext Daily Workflow: Manage the Inbox

image Once you have finished identifying the day's priorities, move on to the Manage phase of the ClearContext Daily Workflow.  Twice daily (or some other specified interval based on email response time requirements), starting with your highest priority email first, quickly act on each Inbox message or determine when you want to act on it: 

Act Immediately?


If the message doesn't have a Topic assigned to it, assign one.  IMS will link all future emails, tasks and appointments to this Topic. 


Reply to the message if you can do so in a minute or two.  IMS can automatically file the original message to a Topic folder for you. 


Delegate the email to someone else as appropriate. 


If no response is required, review the message and file it to a Topic folder

Act Later?


If the message doesn't have a Topic assigned to it, assign one.  IMS will link all future emails, tasks and appointments to this Topic. 


Defer messages that you aren't ready to deal with to a later date. 


Create a task from email that requires further action on your part. 


Schedule appointments from messages that require a meeting. 

No action required?


Unsubscribe from mailing lists or long email threads that you have no interest in. 


Delete messages that you don't need to keep for archiving purposes.

This phase is the bridge that moves you from sizing up your day to working on your most important projects.  Consider it blocking and tackling – quickly and efficiently move through your Inbox and put messages onto your calendar or your task list.  The end result will be a cleared Inbox and a prioritized task list, allowing you to focus on your work rather than your email. 

ClearContext Daily Workflow: Identify the Day’s Priorities

gr_identify_30px_org The first step in the ClearContext Daily Workflow is to identify the day's priorities.  Before you jump into the morning's email, take the opportunity size up your day.  Using the ClearContext Dashboard:


Review today's meetings and appointments.  Reschedule any conflicts. 

ClearContext Dashboard

Review your Tasks and Actions list for the day.  Adjust due dates based on task and project priorities. 


Review your Alerts to see which messages demand immediate attention. 


Identify your highest priority messages so that you are prepared to manage your Inbox.

Taking this time in the morning to get your priorities in place is the key to a productive day.  Before you move on to manage your Inbox for the first time, work on one or two of your most important tasks.

The ClearContext Daily Workflow

image The ClearContext Daily Workflow is a three step process for managing Outlook that will save an hour or more per day.  We developed these best practices in conjunction with productivity experts and our very passionate customer base to help overloaded individuals empty their inbox and get on top of their workday:


gr_identify_20px_org First thing in the morning, identify the day's priorities:

  1. Review your calendar 
  2. Review your daily task list 
  3. Review your alerts

gr_manage_20px_blue Twice daily, manage your Inbox:

Quickly review each message and determine when you need to act on it:

  1. Act immediately?  Reply, Delegate, or Review and File 
  2. Act later?  Defer, Create a Task or Appointments 
  3. No action required?  Unsubscribe or Delete

gr_succeed_20px_grn Throughout the day, succeed by focusing on what's important:

  1. Work on your tasks by project 
  2. Review high priority messages only 
  3. View all related information on To Do's

Over the next few days, we will review each step in more detail.

Labor Day Inbox Triage

For our US customers who are taking the long weekend, enjoy the break!  When you get back, use ClearContext to organize your Outlook:

  1. Use AutoAssign to quickly file newsletters and other informational messages.
  2. Prioritize your inbox and delete or file unwanted\low priority messages.
  3. Manage your inbox, spending a minute or two on each conversation.  Delete, Reply, File, Defer, Unsubscribe or create a Task or Appointment and quickly move on.

For more detailed inbox triage tips, see Vacation Email Triage.

Macworld: Six Reasons Desktop E-mail Still Rules

Yesterday’s Gmail outage exposed the #1 reason to use desktop email clients over webmail.  Jim Kissell at MacWorld has written six OTHER reasons that desktop email clients are superior to webmail clients, including better integration with other apps, attachment management and rule creation.  Read the article here.

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