We all want to work smart, right? Here are a bunch of things we’ve learnt from our own experiences, and some that have only just occurred to us.
Control The Future
If you want to remind yourself of an event in the future, send yourself an e-mail! Time Machiner (www.timemachiner.com) is an online service that lets you send yourself an e-mail at a future date.
Break the time barrier with TimeMachiner
Just visit the site, choose a date, and type the e-mail. The shock of receiving an e-mail from your past self will likely be enough to make the event or task register in your mind.
If you’re a Google Calendar user, you can get it to send you event reminders by SMS—just go to Settings > Mobile setup to set up your phone number. Nearly all Indian mobile providers are supported, and it’s free!
The first step to increasing your productivity is to take notes whenever a noteworthy idea strikes you. You could turn to good old Notepad (we’ve been there), or install one of the billion “sticky notes” applications available on the Web. The drawback with these approaches, however, is the fact that notes you take at home won’t come to the office with you, and vice versa.
The most hassle-free way to take notes
The most hassle-free solution, we’ve found, is Yahoo! Notepad. Install Yahoo! Widgets and activate only the Yahoo! Notepad Widget (not that there’s anything wrong with activating others) on all the PCs you’ll be using. When an idea strikes you, jot it down in the widget, and forget about it. The widget uploads this note to your online Yahoo! Notepad, and you can now access it from anywhere! We assume, of course, that you have Internet access at the aforementioned locations, otherwise this is admittedly pointless.
Nota Bene, Part 2
You can create e-mail templates in Outlook, but what if you don’t want to lose that functionality if you’re using Web-based e-mail? What if you had a standard reply for all e-mails on a particular subject (“I did not have relations with that woman!”) but didn’t want to type it out all the time? For Opera users, there’s a way out—Copy to Note.
If you have standard text you use often, store it as a note
Just type the e-mail once, select all the text, right-click and choose Copy to Note. You can access these notes in the sidebar (take your mouse cursor to the left of the screen and click). Unfortunately, you can’t click and drag the text into Gmail’s Compose Mail text area, but it’s handy to have this text for ready copy-pasting nonetheless.
Organising Your Inbox Right
Whether it’s Web mail or Outlook, it pays to be able to look at your inbox and immediately know what tasks you must prioritise. Here, we must follow the teachings of GTD (Getting Things Done), though you can add your own twist to it. Most importantly, you should be checking your e-mail at designated times of the day, or when someone specifically tells you it’s urgent that you do so.
Mentally divide your e-mail into five categories—mail that can be addressed in the next five minutes, mail that needs to be addressed soon and is high-priority, mail that needs to be addressed soon but is secondary priority, mail that needs to be eventually addressed, but can wait a few days, and finally, mail that you don’t really need to do anything about. If you receive an e-mail that can be addressed in the next five minutes, address it—get it off your back as soon as you can. For the rest, create folders—Priority 1, Priority 2, If I get time, Information, Done, and so on. Sort your mail every time you check it, and you’ll find yourself looking at a clean, un-cluttered inbox.
Folders in your inbox appear in alphabetical order, but you should really sort them in order of importance. To do this, precede the folder’s name with a number—”0Priority 1”, for example, will ensure that this folder’s always on top, ready for your attention.
Just don’t forget to actually do the work, though.
Office 2007’s Ribbon offers you a more uncluttered interface as it is, but if you’re running at low resolutions or if the Ribbon still bothers you, you can minimise it—just double-click on one of the tabs. This gives Word a Notepad-like look, where you can concentrate all your energies on typing and not be distracted by any graphical elements.
Another handy tip, as you’ll witness in the screenshot: if you’re working for extended periods on a CRT monitor, change the page colour to black (Page Layout Tab > Page Colour) to ease the strain on your eyes.
Archive, Archive, Archive
Gmail has spoiled us all, really—thanks to the “never delete” philosophy, we’re left with inboxes that often say “1—50 of 1687” (or some such ridiculous figure) at the bottom. Most of us don’t register that the “never delete” is really “never delete, archive!”. Use labels liberally (preferably organised the way we’ve mentioned above), and once you’ve applied a label to an e-mail, archive it. It’ll still be visible when you click on the label, so it’s really like moving e-mail to a folder in Outlook.