Google Calendar Tip: SMS Meeting Notices

September 9, 2008

While I was out last week, someone without a laptop wanted to check where the next panel she wanted to attend would be, and we got into a quick discussion of my calendar set up. I hate keeping track of my calendar, so I’ve set it up to notify me by SMS every time I have an upcoming appointment I need to worry about so I can be there on time.

If you’re using Google calendar or another similar online calendar system, this may work for you too. It’s quick and easy to set up, and will make it even easier to store your calendar somewhere other than your head.

To set up your phone, log in to your Google calendar account and click on settings in the upper right corner.

Select the “Mobile Setup” tab, select your country, enter your phone number, select a carrier, and hit “Send Verification Code”. You should receive a text message with a short code you can enter and hit “Finish setup”.

To set up default appointment notifications by text message for everything on your calendar, switch to the Calendars tab and click “Notifications” by your calendar name.

Now just set how early before your appointments you’d like a and you’re good to go. I also like to schedule a daily agenda email, so I’m reminded to look through my schedule and plan out tasks for the day that will fit in with the time I have that day.

To adjust the settings for a specific calendar event, the “Options” panel when you’re looking at an appointment detail will let you switch when your reminder message comes in.


Office 2.0 Getting Things Done panel with David Allen

September 4, 2008

The Getting Things Done panel discussion at Office 2.0 is now online. Watch David Allen, Neil Mendelson of MindJet, Kevin Merrit of blist and our very own Doreen Hartzell discuss how Office 2.0 tools can support Getting Things Done.

Video here:

Plan for success: rethinking the to-do list

August 13, 2008

Take a quick look at your current project list, and notice what kinds of names you’ve given your projects and tasks.

Do you have a “Sales” project, or projects named “Increase current account sales 5% this quarter” and “Generate 20 new leads”?

On a personal level, do you have “Spend more time with family and friends” as a goal? Do you have self-improvement projects that say that, or ones that are called “September dinner party with the neighbors” and “Week Vacation with Family in Boundary Waters”?

I’m finding more and more that the phrasing of those project names makes a big difference. “September Dinner Party” is a project you can finish. “Spend more time with friends”, even if there are specific events in there that will make that happen, is probably not something you’ll ever cross off your list as having completed to your satisfaction. You know when they are done, you can complete them, and replace them with the next specific project that fits with your bigger goals of growing your company, improving your personal life, etc. Giving your projects a clear, specific outcome as a name means you can win.

It’s a lot harder to feel like you’re making progress when the stuff you’re working on never goes away. Think of the difference between looking at your to-do list at the end of the week and seeing that you’ve crossed off 75 things, which meant two projects were finished and the rest closer to completion. Or looking at those same 75 things and knowing you’ve done some work that inched you along a list of things that will never be finished and never end, even if you’d cranked through 100 items instead of those 75.

Be specific. Make your project names reflect the outcome you want. And enjoy the satisfaction of being able to mark things DONE.

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Speed up email with custom email templates

July 23, 2008

I’ve been talking with one of our users about ways to streamline some of his business operations. Sending inquiry emails to sale listings takes up a lot of his time, so we were looking for a way to speed those up. Developing email templates is a great way to speed up your workflow on repetitive tasks. Unlike mass mailings, it still allows you add a personal touch and comment to each recipient.

Tim Ferris has more on creating and using standardized emails in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. He’s also got some great comments about making email productive and not getting bogged checking messages all day.

Outlook’s built in template function makes it easy to save them, but opening one up takes almost as long as rewriting for short messages. Greg Shultz over has TechRepubic has a nice tutorial on creating your templates and then adding them to your menu bar so you can generate emails from a template quickly.

If you’re a Gmail user, this handy Google homepage module can help you create you templates as well: Gmail Template Generator. Here’s a quick example to show it in action.

Just type in the details in the form.

Hit “generate” to create the message and see how it looks.

Then bookmark the URL to save the template.

Cleaning out your Temporary Internet Files

June 3, 2008

Now is probably as good of a time as any to clean out your Temporary Internet Files if you’re an IE user.

Of course, this has been a common recommendation for years, but in this case it looks like we went a little bit crazy with mod_expires in a recent update, so if you’re using IE and have noticed things not quite updating the way you’d expect, this should probably help. And hey, there are about 2.8 million other reasons to do it anyway.

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Make Time Tracking Easier

May 15, 2008

I am becoming increasingly enamored of Jott.

If you haven’t tried it, you sign up with your cell phone, and add contacts. You can just call Jott, tell it who to send a message to, and leave a voice message. They’ll transcribe it (speaking clearly really, really helps…), and email both the text message and the recording to you or one of your contacts.

How does this help with billable hours? If you’re using time tracking on your computer, it’s easy enough to keep your application of choice open to mark time. If you’re on the road, however, try Jott. Call in and send yourself (or your assistant) a message with the start time and project name. Call in again on your way out the door. By the time you get back to your computer, you’ll probably already have emails documenting which jobs you worked on and how much time you spent working on them.

There are lots of other tips for using Jott on the Jotter blog.

And yes, an integration to let you Jott tasks to your Enleiten account is coming soon, we promise. Because we really want it, too.

Highlights from the David Allen GTD Teleseminar

May 7, 2008

I was listening to the David Allen Teleseminar last night, and there were two pieces of the call that really stood out and are worth sharing with all of you.

You need to reframe productivity as relaxation, not being Type A.

The idea here, and I’m a huge fan of it, is that a good productivity system isn’t just about accomplishing a blur of activities with superhuman energy. The mark of a productivity system that works well for you is one that eliminates stress.

The obvious follow-up question, of course, is just how does that work? From my point of view, it’s about finding a system that lets you create a harmony between your goals, your commitments, and your resources. When that clicks, the tasks you commit to doing, whether to yourself or to someone else, become things that you can accomplish without being overloaded, and are a part of creating the kind of life you want.

GTD does this for me, because I needed the ability to separate having ideas and requests on my time from the process of deciding whether or not to commit to them. By reviewing once a week, I can choose what is plausible as an actual commitment. And with a conscious idea in my head of what I’ve already committed to for a week, it’s much easier to handle choosing from incoming, spur of the moment requests – because I already now how close to the limits of my time and attention and finances I am.

What’s the relationship between spirituality and GTD?

I wasn’t sure whether there would be a tie in between these things, but given the popularity of GTD among clergy and the religious community, it was interesting to hear Allen’s ideas about the connection here.

The first half of the answer was about clearing your mind. By creating a trusted system for distributed cognition, and using that system to train your mind out of having random thoughts jump in, you create the kind of openness to focus on the present that recurs as a part of Christian prayer life, meditation practice, etc. Being proficient at reliably creating that kind of mental space, without “oh, right, I need to call Bob tomorrow” popping into your mind repeatedly seems valuable.

The second half of the answer revolved around acceptance. By going through the collection stage of GTD, gathering together all the physical and mental objects in your world, you set the stage for accepting your current situation. The collection and then processing stages of starting with GTD serve as more than just step 1 of getting organized. Those stages also provide a time for you to explicitly acknowledge each thing, and form a catalog of your circumstances.

While not part of the call, I’ve been fascinated by how this idea of having a catalog of all my thoughts and resources has changed my attitudes. Having everything laid out and sorted gives me a bit of distance to really evaluate where I am and the steps I need to take to move on.