Videos: changing Visio and Color Palettes

I created two instructional videos today for our internal audiences. I used SnagIT version 12. The first video was on swapping out Visio files within a Visio Web Part.

The second video covers changing a site’s color palette. We reference a specific color palette we called DSA Hokie, but any color palette can be substituted.

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GTD using Outlook and SharePoint

For those who don’t know, GTD is following David Allen’s model for “Getting Things Done.” I have been using his systems for years with varying degrees of success. When I capture everything the GTD way, it makes it easier to figure out where you should spend your time.

Being on Gmail for so long at work I had gotten away from the habit of GTD. I know there are a number of online services and apps out there to manage tasks, but none of them quite got me so far as using Outlook to manage my tasks, because I could move things from emails to tasks, to calendar, etc. One complete system.

When I was due to come back to PC, I must say I sighed a quiet sigh of relief, and I looked forward to getting it. Since I used to use SharePoint for task management at my previous work, I decided to incorporate my task list on my Admin site with my Outlook.

Only thing was, I wanted to have my GTD categories in both systems. How to do that when SharePoint’s custom fields don’t cross over? Modify a field that does.

The two fields that appeared to come over were “Custom Priority” and “Custom Status”. Because SP’s status field is tied into other functions, I couldn’t use it, but Priority was wide open, so I replaced the choices within the Priority list with my GTD categories of Project, Task, Next Actions, etc. It syncs beautifully, and on both systems I can set up a view that groups them by GTD categories. Score!

Using rules to clean my inbox

I love Outlook and its ability to keep me on track. I implement GTD, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and I also incorporate the McGhee Solutions for Productivity which basically takes the GTD methodology but then implements it as fully as possible in Outlook. I have been using their methods since 2007, only moving away from it when I didn’t have Microsoft Office at work.

I am so pleased to have it back again. As much as I enjoy Gmail, it’s just not very good at task management, and even implementing Evernote and TickTick as companions, I never quite got my GTD system working the way I like.

One of the things that makes my Outlook work so well as the capability of assigning rules and categories. In the olden days I didn’t use “conversation” sorting – I found it annoying and cumbersome, but it’s come a long way, and with Gmail defaulting to that, I have gotten used to it more. My old way of moving files from certain people to certain folders doesn’t quite work in my new setting here, because we have a lot of cross-functional teams at my university, so now I find it easier to use categories and then move all the read emails into one folder.

I have a bunch of categories – one for each department, one for each of my supervisors (yes – I have a few), and then one for each of the committees I am heavily involved in.

While I would love to turn on the rules as the emails come into the inbox, I don’t like having unread emails in subfolders. If I can’t see them, I don’t do anything with them. So I will have to disable my rules until I can run my macro from http://www.vboffice.net/en/developers/run-rules-now. It took me forever to find this macro. I knew it had to exist, because I had used something similar before, but it took me quite a while to locate it.

Now to test it on the inbox. I hope to have a moment soon to do that.

Cleaning up my inbox!

I had been meaning to implement my RunRulesNow macro for several weeks now and just hadn’t gotten around to it. Today I said, enough is enough! Let’s get this thing implemented.

Thanks to the great folks at VBOffice.net there wasn’t a lot that I had to do, except modify each of my rules to have the exception of “when flagged for Any action”.

So to give a bit of context: I like a clean inbox, and I don’t particularly enjoy filing, so what I had done in the past, is have a bunch of rules, and then I had this cool macro, and it would file all my read emails into various folders. It worked superbly well, and unfortunately I had not saved the macro anywhere so I had to look for it again. I found it at http://www.vboffice.net/en/developers/run-rules-now

Because I want my rules to run against read emails only, and leave unread emails in my inbox, I had to disable most of my rules. Some rules I kept on, such as those for newsletters and whatnot, because I don’t need them cluttering up my inbox from the get go.

This macro allows me to run the rules against the inbox (or other folders if I so choose), keeps all my flagged items in the inbox (that’s set in the individual rules), and leaves all my unread emails in the inbox as well. It allows me to keep all my open loops in the inbox and remove the clutter from prior emails without having to manually check each box. If you want to know more about this, just add a comment in the reply section and I’ll try to help. Thanks again to the folks on VBOffice.net for doing all the hard work for me. I appreciate it!

Customizing Outlook: Signatures, Categories and Rules

I make Outlook my go-to center for getting things done. I generally follow the advice of Sally McGhee and John Wittry in “Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook 2007 to get organized and stay organized”. While the book was written for 2007 all of the features still exist; some are just located in different places.

Getting my Outlook set up the way I want it can be a process that takes several hours. I got a start today with setting up my Signatures, Categories, and Rules.

Signatures

For signatures I generally set up two of them: one for new emails, and one for replies. The one for new emails has all of my information in it, including name, title, location, phone number, email address, as well as my strengths. The one for replies only has name, title, phone number and email. I do that to save on clutter throughout the email.

You find signatures in Outlook 2013 by going to
File | Options | Mail and then finally: Signatures

Categories

I love categories because they help me set up my agenda for any meetings that I have with people. They also help me with my rules so that I can move things to folders after they have been categorized and dealt with.

Categories are fairly easy to set up: there is a Categorize button right on the ribbon on the Home tab.

Regarding colors, I tend to set up like items with similar colors, so my team members all have the same color; all departments have the same color; all committees have the same color. I save my category colors mostly for calendar and task-related items.

Rules

Rules are (for me, anyway) where the magic happens in Outlook. I like to minimize the clutter in my inbox, but at the same time, I don’t like to have unread messages in folders. So for that reason, I don’t tend to have rules run automatically except on messages that I know I won’t need to deal with right away. Those messages get filed away so they don’t clutter up my inbox immediately.

Some of those messages include:

  • listserv messages – they get put into a folder where I can handle them as I have time
  • newsletters from experts – they get filed away as well
  • automated messages that come is as a result of me doing something (such as sending out the newsletter)

For all other rules, I run them manually because in that dialog screen, I have the option to run the rules only on read messages – leaving all unread emails in the inbox.

You can find Rules right on the ribbon.

Setting up Outlook on my Android

I like to have my communication tools at hand where I go. I find that if I don’t have them with me, then they will laugh at me when I miss an appointment, or an update.

Having said that, I don’t want to be notified of new emails when they come in. I find that very distracting and doesn’t work well for me when I am trying to concentrate.

I haven’t had a chance to set up my Outlook on my computer yet, but I did go ahead and download the Outlook app. I looked up the instructions on how to connect my exchange and after several tries, I got it to work.

Customizations

  1. I turned off notifications for new emails. I don’t need a noise and a notification showing up in my screen to let me know when I have a work email.
  2. I set my signature (otherwise it just says “sent from outlook mobile”)
  3. I left the focused inbox on, and I will play with the swipe features and report on their usefulness.
  4. I did leave notifications on for the calendar.

Wishes

  • I wish I could turn off the annoying little circles under a calendar notice
  • I wish the outlook app would show tasks so I could add tasks directly into the app without having to load them into the PC