Do the right thing

2009 Five Presidents George W. Bush, President Elect Barack Obama, Former Presidents George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter Portrait
Creative Commons License Beverly & Pack

Growing up, I sometimes I thought about doing some of the hardest jobs such as President of the United States or running a large corporation. I have always felt that I could do just about any job with the proper training and with a commitment to do the right thing, no matter what. Of course that might not be true for all jobs, but I am still naive enough to think I can learn almost anything.

I used to envision the call to meet at the situation room for a briefing on a terrorist threat and making a clear decision to do the right thing.  I would imagine the board asking me whether we should acquire company X or implement strategy Y. After a dramatic pause, I make a brilliant move because I knew it was the right decision. Good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. Black and white.

Clarity……………..a fantasy?

Why are day-to-day decisions so unclear? Shouldn’t we be able to decide how to spend that marketing budget, whether to reply all to that email, or when to hire that person, based on each option’s rightness?

The world is often gray and unclear, but I challenge you to try to step back from the pros/cons lists, the reasoning and justifications, the politics, and simply say, “is this the right thing to do?

Use Gmail plugins to increase productivity

Intro/disclaimer: Gmail is the best email platform available today, hands down. I am under the assumption you already use Gmail, and these tools will just make you a little quicker while you work. If you haven’t been using Gmail, don’t tell anyone – just sign up, it’s free. You can thank me later. If you are stuck using Outlook or Lotus Notes, there are some ways to make your life less miserable, but you won’t find them here.

ActiveInbox

ActiveInbox Logo

This plugin rocks! It provides power tools in the familiar Gmail environment to power through your email and keep track of actionable items. The underlying concept uses Gmail’s labels as a tagging system for your email, so you can get that inbox down to zero, and not worry about forgetting anything!

I love the review bar at the top that allows me to quickly review the emails I have marked as actionable, as well as the ones I am waiting on responses from others.

ActiveInbox Review Bar

This video shows all of the cool features ActiveInbox provides:

Boomerang for Gmail

Boomerang's Send Later FeatureBoomerang does some incredible things like send an email later [see screenshot]. I mainly use this so I don’t look crazy emailing at 2am, or so it hits my boss’s inbox at just the right time. I use it to return emails to my inbox at a certain time, so I get a timely reminder when something I need to work on something. I often use the “Only if nobody replies” to make sure others’ respond in a timely manner as well. Once I hit send, it is off my mind!

The free version has been sufficient, and when I run out of my monthly quota, I get a very forgiving “Give me one more message!” option which I use liberally. Thanks, Boomerang!

Gmail Labs and Standard Features

These are not technically plugins, but I have enabled a few Labs features under Gmail’s settings that make it an even more powerful email system.

  • Send and Archive: this saves me a click and a few precious seconds for every email I reply to!
  • Insert images: next to drag and drop attachments (which Gmail now has in Chrome), this was the last feature that I cared about from my Outlook days – I don’t even look back now.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts: these are must-use to maximize your email processing efficiency (G, then I to go to inbox. E to archive. \ to begin typing a search)! Like Michael Hyatt points out in Yes, You Can Stay on Top of Email, using the keyboard is much more efficient than switching back and forth to a mouse or trackpad. To see all the available shortcuts, just type a ? in Gmail.
  • Undo Send: I can move so fast through Gmail now, sometimes an “Oops” button is helpful. 🙂
  • Archive, don’t delete: that trash can icon should just be removed from Gmail. The Gmail search is crazy powerful, and I can find any message in seconds by searching. Again, off my mind, in my searchable email system.

How do you make your email work for you, and keep it from becoming overwhelming?

Discovering GTD

Inbox Zero

This post comes WAY back from the archives of a blog I tried to start in 2007, but it is still relevant to my day-to-day task and inbox management even today!

This is the video that kicked off my GTD implementation, as I was looking for a way to deal with my email overload. It is Merlin Mann presenting his Inbox Zero concept at a Google Tech Talk. Check it out when you have a free hour, or better yet, make a free hour to watch it. The return in productivity you get will be well worth the time spent.

The past few weeks I have been listing to the audiobook version of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and reading / watching Merlin Mann, of 43 Folders & Inbox Zero.

My productivity has gone up. My stress has gone down. My desk and files is organized, and my computer is getting there. My e-mail inboxes and my paper inbasket are empty, and my head is clear (not empty).

As I watched/listened, I kept thinking “I can’t believe no one taught me this in college.”