Posts tagged Productivity

MyLifeOrganized Custom Status Icons

One of the modifications that I’ve made to MLO is to add some custom status icons so that I can scan the list and get a quick visual indication of what is going on with each task.  This is especially useful in the MLO Outline tab where I usually do not apply any filtering (see the screenshot below).  Some of these icons were inspired by the tool Tudumo which looked great with a clean UI but didn’t have some of the features I needed (e.g. mobile apps).  The other inspiration was the need to have a hard/strict status for each task which also helps me set up my views/filters.  In the MLO To-Do tab, I generally use custom views with similar logic to filter the tasks by state and create partitioned lists. (I will share more on To-Do views in a future post.)

For me, a task can be in one of a handful of states: [!] Hot, [A] Active, [H] Hold/Scheduled, [SM] Someday/Maybe, [WF] Delegated/Waiting For, [C] Complete, or [X] Dropped.  It can alternatively be designated as a [P] Project (i.e. not a “task”).  The hot and active states are fairly self-explanatory.  I generally follow the “active” definition used by MLO, and identify “hot” tasks with a star + a “NOW” context.  For active tasks, the icon is a green LED.  For hot tasks it is a red LED.

If a task is on hold, it gets a Read the rest of this entry »

The Triple Hat Trick

Here is something I am trying for 2010… I hesitate to call it a new year’s resolution, so let’s just call it an “experiment”. Sometimes it is tough to get focus with my big fancy fiddly collection of GTD lists. There are just too many items on the lists, and even when I filter on just the “next actions” the list is still pretty long. To gain focus, I plan to identify no more than three critical tasks that I want to accomplish in a given week.  Sort of a hat trick if you will. The screenshot below shows the template I am using each week. The template is available on the Downloads page.

I expanded the concept just a bit to cover two other areas where I wanted to improve. The first was *redirection*. I found that the majority of the meetings and conversations I had were not ones that I scheduled nor were they topics that I selected. As a result, a good percentage of the work I did during a given week ended up being external requests and/or tasks that I didn’t even know existed prior to the start of the week. To help shift momentum, I added another hat trick for “Agendas” to the top of the page. This list is for meetings or discussions that I want to drive during the course of the week.  Difficult conversations and project roadblocks are definitely candidates for this Agendas list.

The other area I wanted to improve was Read the rest of this entry »

Strip Outlook Attachments and Replace with Links

UPDATE OCT 2009: Reader jumpjack has created a Google Code project for this macro. You can download the latest source code on the project page.

There are many good reasons to strip attachments from your email messages. The main reason for me is that I often embed email messages into my Outlook tasks for quick reference. Since some tasks have multiple emails (each with multiple attached files), I need a way to keep the task size manageable. So, I simply strip the attachments before embedding the email into the task. Another reason to strip attachments is to improve Outlook performance. Smaller PST files are less likely to be corrupted and are faster to search and index.

The Outlook VBA macro below is one easy way to strip attachments from your messages. Simply select one or more messages in the Outlook explorer window, then activate the macro. The result is shown in the screen shot below. As you can see, all of the attachments throughout the email are numbered and replaced with links at the top of the message. There is even a hyperlink to the folder containing the attachments. The macro also saves a text copy of the original email message along with the attachments for future reference.

You’ll notice that there is still one small attachment remaining called “Attachments Removed”. This is added so that the paperclip icon in Outlook is still active, which indicates that the message has (or had) attachments.

The attachments archive folder is organized with one folder per email, as shown below. The folders are named using the date of the message, the sender name, and the subject line. At the end of the year, you can grab the whole collection and zip it up for archive purposes. Since the links are hard coded into the emails, you’ll want to be consistent with your folder locations. That is why I simply use “C:\Outlook Attachments\” along with the year. If I ever want to restore some old messages and be able to browse the file attachments, I know exactly where to put them.

ClearContext and My Quest for an Empty Inbox

In a previous post I talked about my quest for an empty inbox and all the tools I tried along the way. Well, I’m at it again. My previous tool of choice, Taglocity, has taken a turn toward online social/collaborative email in their 2.0 release. I’m afraid that 99% of the email I handle is work related, and our big lumbering IT department would never allow a rogue server, inside or outside the firewall, collecting corporate data. Likewise, getting said lumbering IT department to establish their own server would be equally unlikely. The social/collaborative approach might be the next big thing, but I need help now. The final nail in the coffin was that some of the features that originally sold me on Taglocity 1.x are no longer supported in their 2.0 beta release. Given the new direction, those features won’t likely return.

So where does that leave me? Well, I went back to my notes and started to think about what kind of help I really need. Here are the requirements I came up with:

  1. Need a quick way to triage and file email. Filing must be effortless, otherwise I will resist doing it
  2. Needs to be a stable tool that works well with Outlook 2003 (yes, I’m still stuck there… see comment above related to the big lumbering IT department).
  3. Need to strip out the spam and low-priority reference email & notifications
  4. Need reminders for my own actions as well as follow-ups for requests I send to others
  5. Must fit into my GTD workflow… In general, that means I need a way to create tasks and appointments from email and somehow tie related tasks/emails/appointments/notes together to form a “project”.

After recasting my net and re-evaluating the latest versions of all the tools I had previously considered, I came across a gem that I hadn’t given a chance the first time around: ClearContext IMS. It seemed to meet all of the needs I described above, and there was even a trial version available… Off I went.


After using the tool for over a month now, I am starting to see some nice benefits from the various features. Here’s a look at the highlights as well as some improvement opportunities for the ClearContext development team…

FILE MESSAGE, FILE THREAD. ClearContext does a fantastic job with filing (my #1 requirement above). One of the best features is being able to bring up the topic selection dialog (ALT-P) and type just a few characters of the topic name to narrow down the list. ALT-M will file it from there (no mouse required). What is especially nice is that your don’t have to remember any prefix or top level folder name since a match even in the middle of the topic name will select it. Additionally, You can choose to file the original message while typing your reply right from inside the reply window. Nice touch!

Two needed improvements for topic filing are:

  1. Please, please, please guys add a >> READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>

DROE Tool now supports EverNote, and much more!

I just released a new version of the Daily Record of Events (DROE) note taking tool.  This release adds support for EverNote and text-based DROE files, as well as enhancements for the OneNote DROE.

From the README file, here is a summary of what changed in v0.4 (Beta). For complete details, download the README file. To get your own copy of the tool, see the Downloads page.

  • NEW FEATURE: Added support for a completely text-based DROE without the need for OneNote. This includes a quick edit window.
  • NEW FEATURE: Added support for EverNote… DROE Tool can send text notes to EverNote using EverNote’s auto-import feature
  • NEW FEATURE: The amount of white space between notes is now configurable in the INI file.
  • NEW FEATURE: “Clip Mode” causes any selected text to be clipped and included in the DROE entry. For OneNote DROE files, selected images are also sent to the DROE.
  • NEW FEATURE: WIN+LeftArrow now summons a new control panel that makes it easy to update settings in the INI file and reload the tool.
  • Bug fix: Fixed issue with cursor being stranded 3-4 lines below the date stamp.
  • Bug fix: The CTRL-SHIFT-K and CTRL-SHIFT-M shortcuts were not working when the Outlook window was active. This is fixed.
  • Updated and re-organized this README file. Switched to PDF format to significantly reduce the download size.