Category Archives: Productivity

Emails Are Not For Real-Time Requests (and Other Rules) #1aDay

Here’s an article that’s been spreading like wildfire it seems, and while it raises an interesting idea it seems to forget that the reason people are contacting you like they are isn’t because they don’t know how to or what method to use. They don’t care about what’s convenient for you. They care about what’s convenient for them.

That’s not to say you have to use every communication method known to man or have notification turned on for all channels (for heaven’s sake, TURN OFF THE NOTIFICATIONS). Still, if you want to get a hold of me, please email. Just don’t be shocked if I don’t reply or it takes a while. We all have to set limits 🙂

Read the full article here

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Recline! Why “leaning in” is killing us

I thought there were some good points in this article: Recline!.

Two of my favorites:

  • The general American tendency to think that “more time at work” equals “better work” is exacerbated by the All Crisis All the Time culture
  • When a workplace is full of employees who always lean in and never lean back, it’s full of employees who are exhausted, brittle, and incapable of showing much creativity or making good decisions.
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Listening Twice as Fast!

I have a few PodCasts I enjoy and have recently been enjoying our library’s audio book selection. The thing is it always seemed to take so long to get through everything and I don’t like feeling like I’m behind on things. Then, one of my favorite PodCasts (the Lifehacker PodCast) mentioned a feature on most PodCast listening apps to let you listen at 1.5 speed. Sure enough, I opened up my favorite PodCast player and there was the option. Not only did I try it out, I cranked it up to 2x speed and have done the same on my audio book app as well!

If you’re a fan of spoken word content, check it out!

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Outlook Macros to Categorize and Archive Messages

If you’re still rockin’ Outlook 2007 and want to create some macros to categorize or archive your email, here’s some copy and paste code to have fun with…

Sub Archive()
    Call CommonCategorizeAndArchive(True, False, False)
End Sub

Sub Categorize()
    Call CommonCategorizeAndArchive(False, True, False)
End Sub

Sub CategorizeAndArchive()
    Call CommonCategorizeAndArchive(True, True, False)
End Sub

Sub Task()
    Call CommonCategorizeAndArchive(True, True, True)
End Sub

Private Sub CommonCategorizeAndArchive(archiveEm As Boolean, categorizeEm As Boolean, taskIt As Boolean)
    Dim olApp As New Outlook.Application
    Dim olItem As Object
    Dim olExp As Outlook.Explorer
    Dim olSel As Outlook.Selection
    Dim olArchive As Outlook.Folder
    Dim olTasks As Outlook.Folder
    Dim olNameSpace As Outlook.NameSpace
    Dim olTmpMailItem As Outlook.MailItem
    Set olExp = olApp.ActiveExplorer
    Set olSel = olExp.Selection
    Set olNameSpace = olApp.GetNamespace("MAPI")
    Set olArchive = olNameSpace.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderInbox).Folders("@Archive")
    Set olTasks = olNameSpace.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderInbox).Folders("zTasks")

    For intItem = 1 To olSel.Count
        Set olItem = olSel.Item(intItem)
        olItem.UnRead = False
        If (categorizeEm = True) Then
        End If
        If (archiveEm = True) Then
            olItem.Move olArchive
        End If
        If (taskIt = True) Then
            Set olTmpMailItem = olItem.Copy
            olTmpMailItem.Move olTasks
        End If
    Next intItem
End Sub
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Gmail Snooze Script – We Don’t Need No Stinkin MailboxApp

I’ll admit it. I got caught up in the MailboxApp fever and watched the little counter until I could get my hands on the app. Then I did and realized I didn’t particularly care for the interface or for giving up credentials to yet another service (though I do have 2 factor authentication setup). I like the Gmail interface. I think it’s done well. And I want control. So I asked that question that every engineer asks: “How can I do this better?”. Naturally the answer was smacking me in the face. Maybe a year ago I came across a Gmail snooze script, but didn’t really take the time to understand it or tweak it to my needs. This time was different.

Below you’ll find the setup instructions that will give you MailboxApp like functionality in something you completely control and that you can use from any email client. Just attach labels or move your messages to the any of the snooze labels and let the script do the rest. Personally, I’m using the script with a Dispatch “quick action” to easily triage my inbox.

See the “Setup” instructions in the comment block at the top of the code or refer to the images below…



Paste the code from below into the script

gdrive-run-function gdrive-trigger-setup

To use the functionality provided by the script just move any email to one of the snooze labels. For example, Move to –> _Z/Tonight to have the email reappear at the time you selected (default: 5pm). These are the suggested options to use, but there are more specific labels you can use for tighter control:

  • _Z/Later
  • _Z/Midnight
  • _Z/Noon
  • _Z/Tonight
  • _Z/Tomorrow
  • _Z/This Weekend
  • _Z/Next Week
  • _Z/Next Month

I hope you like it!

* Author: Mark Jacobsen (
* This is a massively modified and more powerful GMail snooze script that mirrors much of the functionality of
* the iPhone "Mailbox" app with the added benefit of not having to hand over your credentials, and being able to 
* use from any mail client (web, Android, iPhone, etc).  If you like it or have suggestions, please drop me a line
* from my blog at
* Setup:
* 1) Fill in the values below (or just use the defaults)
* 2) Run the "setup()" function using the method drop down and run arrow
* 3) Set time based triggers for:
*      moveDailySnoozes() - Daily between Midnight to 1 am
*      moveHourlySnoozes() - Every 5 minutes
* Changes:
* 2013-05-06  Fixed getLabelForHour to correctly handle am/pm thanks to "benlarge"
* 2014-02-23  Fixed moveDailySnoozes to correctly handle the current DOW thanks to "Jeff Hirsch"
* 2014-03-24  Added additional parseInt()s to moveHourlySnoozes

// =============================================================================
// Set these values according to your needs
// =============================================================================
var TIMEZONE = "America/Detroit";  // Your timezone
var TONIGHT_HOUR = 17;  // Hour (on a 24 hour clock. ex: 17=5pm) representing when something snoozed until "Tonight" should reappear
var HOURS_UNTIL_LATER = 3;  // Number of hours when something snoozed until "Later" should appear
var REAPPEAR_LABEL = "_Action";  // Full label path to apply when a message reappears in the inbox (leave blank "" to not set a label)
var REAPPEAR_UNREAD = true;  // Decide if you want to mark a thread as unread when it reappears in the inbox

// ==========================================================================================
// I wouldn't recommend changing these values but it shouldn't hurt anything if done right :)
// ==========================================================================================
var LABEL_BASE = "_Z";  // The label to create all snooze labels under (it's suggested that you don't change this)
var LABEL_BASE_MO = LABEL_BASE + "/zMonth";

// =============================================================================
// =============================================================================
// Do NOT change anything below here
// =============================================================================
// =============================================================================
var LABEL_LATER = LABEL_BASE + "/Later";
var LABEL_MIDNIGHT = LABEL_BASE + "/Midnight";
var LABEL_NOON = LABEL_BASE + "/Noon";
var LABEL_TONIGHT = LABEL_BASE + "/Tonight";
var LABEL_TOMORROW = LABEL_BASE + "/Tomorrow";
var LABEL_THIS_WEEKEND = LABEL_BASE + "/This Weekend";
var LABEL_NEXT_WEEK = LABEL_BASE + "/Next Week";
var LABEL_NEXT_MONTH = LABEL_BASE + "/Next Month";

function setup() {
  // Time of day Labels
  for (var i = 0; i <= 23; ++i) {
  // Month Labels
  for (var i = 0; i <= 11; ++i) {

function test(){

function getLabelForHour(hr){
  var ampm = "am";
  if (hr > 12)
    hr -= 12;
    ampm = "pm";
  else if (hr == 12)
    ampm = "pm";
  else if (hr == 0)
    hr = 12;
    ampm = "am";
  return LABEL_BASE_TOD + "/" + parseInt(hr) + ampm;

function getLabelForMonth(mo){
  var tmp;
  if (mo == -1){
    tmp = new Date();
    tmp = new Date(2000, mo, 1);
  return LABEL_BASE_MO + "/"  + Utilities.formatDate(tmp, TIMEZONE, "MMMMM");

function getLabelForDayOfWeek(dow){
  return LABEL_BASE_DOW + "/" + dow;

function moveDailySnoozes() {
  var dow, dom, mo;
  // Move anything that was snoozed until tomorrow
  dow = Utilities.formatDate(new Date(), TIMEZONE, "EEEE");
  dom = Utilities.formatDate(new Date(), TIMEZONE, "d");
  // Move anything that was snoozed until this DOW
  if ((dow == "Sunday") || (dow == "Saturday")){
    // If something was snoozed until this weekend, that should be moved too
  // Move anything for "next week" to the DOW it should come off snooze (i.e. the current DOW).
  // This works and doesn't move the messages pre-maturely because we moved
  // msgs for the DOW, prior to this and this functions should only fire
  // once a day
  moveSnoozes(LABEL_NEXT_WEEK, getLabelForDayOfWeek(dow));
  if (dom == 1){
    // Move anything snoozed until "next month" or
    // specifically for the current month on the 1st day
    // of a new month

function moveHourlySnoozes() {
  var curHour, curHourLabel, hourForLater, curDateTime;
  curHour = Utilities.formatDate(new Date(), TIMEZONE, "H");
  curHourLabel = getLabelForHour(curHour);
  moveSnoozes(LABEL_NOON, getLabelForHour(12));
  moveSnoozes(LABEL_MIDNIGHT, getLabelForHour(0));
  if (parseInt(curHour) == parseInt(TONIGHT_HOUR)){
  hourForLater = parseInt(parseInt(curHour) + HOURS_UNTIL_LATER);
  if (hourForLater >= 24){
    hourForLater = parseInt(hourForLater - 24);
  moveSnoozes(LABEL_LATER, getLabelForHour(hourForLater));

function moveSnoozesToInbox(oldLabelName) {
  var oldLabel, page, reappearLabel;
  oldLabel = GmailApp.getUserLabelByName(oldLabelName);
  page = null;
  // Get threads in "pages" of 100 at a time
  while(!page || page.length == 100) {
    page = oldLabel.getThreads(0, 100);
    if (page.length > 0) {
      if (REAPPEAR_LABEL != ""){
        reappearLabel = GmailApp.getUserLabelByName(REAPPEAR_LABEL);
      if (REAPPEAR_UNREAD == true){

function moveSnoozes(oldLabelName, newLabelName) {
  var oldLabel, newLabel, page;
  oldLabel = GmailApp.getUserLabelByName(oldLabelName);
  newLabel = GmailApp.getUserLabelByName(newLabelName);
  page = null;
  // Get threads in "pages" of 100 at a time
  while(!page || page.length == 100) {
    page = oldLabel.getThreads(0, 100);
    if (page.length > 0) {
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Principles, Priorities, and Values – oh my!

Lately I’ve been thinking about the important things to me. What my “principles”, “priorities”, or “values” are. I’m sure I could spout off a number of things, but here are the big ideas that come to mind.

My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I will do anything within my power for my wife and kids. What is the purpose of life without someone or a cause to love?

Goals keep us moving forward. They give us something to strive for. But don’t confuse a want with a goal. Remember, goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

A dream without a plan is only a wish upon a star, but beware analysis paralysis. Use planning to achieve your goals. And remember, plans change. Change with them.

Disciplined Action
This is where you walk the walk. Achieving any goal or carrying out any plan is primarily a matter of disciplined action. It’s making the hard choices. Doing things you don’t want to do. Doing as you say. Being a role-model.

The easiest way to maintain disciplined action is through routine. Routine isn’t a dirty word or meant in a negative way. Some might call it a ritual.

Spontaneity (White Space)
Of course once you have planned your disciplined actions and made them a routine it’s amazing how much time you can find for other things. Once you know where the unmovable objects are it’s easy to find the space between. Remember to keep white space in your schedule. You can’t plan everything and if you try to you will drive yourself and those around you crazy. Schedule your priorities. Don’t schedule your life.

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Setting up the ultimate console

If you’ve been coding for any time, chances are you’ve become acquainted with the command line. While some love it and some hate it I think it’s wonderful for getting things done quickly. Unfortunately, the windows command line is crap. With that said I finally got fed up and asked that most important programmer question of “How do I get a better command line”?

That search led me to an open source application called appropriately enough: Console. When I first opened it up and started playing around I have to admit my first reaction was “meh”. Then I asked that import question again, “How can this be made better”? A little Googling and experimentation later I got things working to my satisfaction.

So, here for your one-stop quick-reference is how to setup the ultimate console for Windows…


  • You access the console for all different platforms (not just Windows)
  • You already have putty and its utilities downloaded – and are familiar with their use
  • You already have installed cygwin – and are familiar with its use


  1. Download Console and extract the contents to the folder of your choice
  2. Download ANSICON and extract the following files to the same directory you extracted Console to.
    • ANSI32.dll
    • ANSI64.dll
    • ansicon.exe

Great, now you have Console installed, but this is the configuration I use to make it really rock.


These can all be found under “Edit -> Settings”

  • Appearance
    • Custom color: Change it to an awsome green
  • Appearance -> More…
    • Uncheck “Show toolbar”
    • Select “Alpha” under “Window transparency” and set “Active window” to 25 and “Inactive window” to 40
  • Behavior
    • Check “Copy on select”
    • Uncheck “Clear selection on copy”
  • Hotkeys
    • Set “New Tab 1” to “Ctrl+T”
    • Set “Copy selection” to “Ctrl+C”
    • Set “Paste” to “Ctrl+V”
  • Hotkeys -> Mouse
    • Set “Copy/clear selection” to “None”
    • Set “Select text” to “Left”
    • Set “Paste text” to “Right”
    • Set “Context menu” to “Middle”

Tab Configuration

Now that you have your console looking pretty and being functional, lets hook it into putty and cygwin. You can do this configuration under “Edit -> Settings -> Tabs”. Obviously, the directories you’ve chosen for things will be different (change to your values).

Cygwin: Add a tab and set the shell to:

C:\cygwin\bin\bash.exe --login -i

Putty: Add a tab and set the shell to:

C:\apps\Console2\ansicon.exe "C:\apps\Putty\plink.exe" -load "aSavedSessionName"




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Google Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts for Tabs

So I hope by now everyone knows that Ctrl+T opens a new tab in Chrome, but I always forget these shortcuts so hope they help trigger your memory too…

  • Ctrl+T = Open a new tab
  • Ctrl+W = Close the current tab
  • Ctrl+1 through Ctrl+8 = Go to the tab at the specified position in the window
  • Ctrl+9 = Go to the last tab in the window
  • Ctrl+Tab = Go to the next tab in the window
  • Ctrl+Shirt+Tab = Go to the previous tab in the window

Note: Yes, these all appear to work in FireFox too. I’m just partial to Chrome.

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Inbox Zero – How I do it

Why is it that when I mention I have no email in my inbox or that I just delete email I get these looks and comments of complete disbelief? Probably my two favorite comments are “How can you possibly do that?” and “You must not do anything.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do it and that you can actually get stuff done. While there are a ton of ways to do this and you might want to tweak your implementation a little bit, I’m going to give you a run down of how I do it.

Ok, so how do you go about implementing inbox zero? First, create a new folder (Outlook) or label (Gmail) called “_oldCrapCloggingMyInbox”. Second, move all the email in your inbox into “_oldCrapCloggingMyInbox”. There, don’t you feel better already?

Now, repeat after me…

  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Do
  • Defer
  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Do
  • Defer
  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Do
  • Defer

Got it yet? No? One more time then…

  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Do
  • Defer

Ok, those are the 4 questions you need to ask yourself (in that order) for every email. Now you’re going to start honing your “deleteability”. Seriously, don’t be afraid of deleting email (if you’re really paranoid, replace delete with archive”).

Can I just delete this? If so, delete it. It’s liberating isn’t it?

If you can’t delete it, can or should someone else be doing it? If so, send it on its way and delete it.

If it’s something you have to do you have a decision to make. If it’s something you can do in 2 minutes or less – do it! Then delete it! If you can’t do it in 2 minutes or less either put it on a task list or move it to a “Read Review” folder/label. Naturally, if you put it on a task list – delete it.

Doesn’t that feel so much better?

Now, this may feel a little weird and it will take some getting used to, but practice it over the next few weeks and see if it doesn’t feel great to have an empty inbox.

You might also want to watch the original presentation by Merlin Mann.

Questions? Still think I’m crazy? Sound off in the comments.

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How I manage my social media intake

Every now and then, people ask how I knew something or how I can keep up on the things I do.  Rather than go over it a bunch of times I’d like to try and share it once.

First and foremost, the most important thing is managing the “noise” you do listen to.  Specifically, I do not watch or read the “news” unless an event somewhere else triggers the need/desire to check things out.  Second, in social media you need to learn how the tools work, and by that I mean using things like lists, or hiding individual noise makers (for example, if less than 1 in 3 of your posts has anything useful and you’re not immediate family there’s a good chance you’re getting blocked).

So on to the specifics…  The way I make this work is with a few tools:

  • Feedly – For subscribing to RSS feeds
  • Social Media – Take your choice.  Mine are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+
  • Flipboard – For viewing social media and RSS feeds
  • Pocket – For reading the things that may actually be useful
  • Evernote – For storing the things that actually were useful

Step 1 – Setup your Inputs

In this step, you would subscribe to the feeds you’re interested in via Google Reader, setup social media profiles on the network(s) of your choice, connect with the people you want to on those networks, and create your VIP lists.

On Twitter I have a private “VIP” list I maintain of people I most respect and that post useful content.  This list has less than 20 members.

On Facebook, because of their ridiculous “news feed”, I don’t pay attention to most posts and a lot of people wind up getting hidden.  I also have a VIP list for immediate family.

No matter what network I strongly recommend setting up a “VIP” list (actually call it that) so you can easily get at the people and content you’re most interested in without all the other noise.

Step 2 – Setup Flipboard

This is my platform of choice for being able to quickly scan inputs at a glance and decide which things may be worth my time.  For example, you can have a board for your Google Reader feed, social media feeds, or even specific lists on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

You’ll also want to setup the “read it later” service of your choice, which for me is Pocket.  Once you’ve done this, as you’re flipping through the posts on any “board” you can simply long press and choose “Read Later” to have the article saved without all the ads and garbage for easy reading later.

This is where the “triage” is done multiple times a day. When I have a spare minute I’ll flip through a given board or boards marking articles of interest to read later.

Step 3 – Read

After things have been saved to Pocket, when I have more than a quick minute I’ll read the articles I’m interested in.  Pocket is great because it has apps for iPhone and Android as well as a web app for reading on a larger screen.

Step 4 – Archive

If I find something I really like, Pocket makes it very easy to save the article to Evernote for future reference (except for on the web platform).  Once in Evernote I can get at any article from anywhere since they have an app for just about every platform under the sun.  Personally, I have an “Article Ref” notebook that everything gets shoved into.

So there you have it.  My personal method for managing my social media intake.  Hope you find it useful and learned something you hadn’t known before.

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