Scott Hanselman

The Three Most Important Outlook Rules for Processing Mail

December 10, '09 Comments [35] Posted in Personal | Remote Work | Tools
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I'm always looking for new ways to process email more effectively. I talked a little about this at a recent conference in Sweden. The topic of my talk was Information Overload and Managing the Flow: Effectiveness and Efficiency and there's video of the talk at the link there.

I've done blog posts on how my Outlook folders are setup in Getting Organized While Drinking from the (Outlook) Fire Hose and Personal Systems of Organization.

However, lately as the flow of email increases, I've added three new rules in Outlook that have really made things easier for me.

The idea is this. Stuff shows up in your Inbox and you need to process it, right? Not necessarily do it, but decide what to do with it. However all email that shows up in your inbox isn't the same. I segment them like this:

  • Most Important: Email that is sent directly to me. I am on the to: line.
  • Kind of Important: Email where I am cc:ed. I was copied on a mail, likely as an FYI to me.
  • External Mail: Mail that was sent to me from outside my company.
  • Meeting Invites: Just that. Someone wants me to show up somewhere.

So I've got these "inboxes" in Outlook now and I put them in my favorites so they show up at the top of the folder list. These are the emails I'm currently processing that came in overnight.

Inbox, Inbox-CC. Inbox-External, Inbox-Invites

Here are the Outlook Rules to make this happen. The main Inbox folder is the main Inbox. The others are just folders named "Inbox - Something."

Processing Meeting Invites

First rule is to move any meeting invitations to a separate folder. This is an easy rule. Just make sure the "and stop processing more rules" appears at the bottom and that this rule is close the top (if not at the top.)

image

Processing External Mail with an Outlook Rule

This one is a little tricky, so be careful. There's no good "comes from outside my company" rule built into Outlook, so you can make one like this.

"Apply this rule after the message arrives
where my name is in the To or Cc box
  and with @ in the sender's address
move it to the Inbox - External folder
except with "yourcompany.com" in the sender's address
stop processing more rules."

Tricky and composite, but works nicely. Now all emails that are from OUTSIDE go into a single folder. Of course if you are a member of external mailing lists, etc, you might want exclusions here, or more likely a separate Outlook rule for that mailing list that is higher in the list of rules. Remember, rule order matters.

image

Processing Mail To: me, rather than mail Cc: to me

Here I just say "if my name is not in the To box" then send the mail to the Inbox-CC folder. However, I have some exceptions for email from certain people whose email goes to my Inbox always, regardless.

Rules and Alerts (6) 

Last one (a fourth possible rule, yeah, I know) and this one is optional. If I get an answer to a mail that's from a mailing list, I like it to come to my Inbox, not show up in a folder deep in Outlook somewhere.

Now you just have a rule for mail that is sent directly to you. You have to say "move it to the inbox" and "stop processing." This will also bring mail up from your internal mailing lists folders if you've been addressed directly.

Rules and Alerts (3)

There you go, that's my four inboxes with three (or four) Outlook rules.

Inbox, Inbox-CC. Inbox-External, Inbox-Invites

Time to get back to "Inbox Zero" by processing emails sent directly to me first!

Important Notes:

  • The order of Rules in Outlook matters for this system, as does the final "stop processing other rules" step. Without that, you may get duplicate emails.
  • If you're using a mobile phone (iPhone or Windows Mobile) make sure that you've set your phone to Sync Mail from these new folders, otherwise you might miss a meeting invite that never went through your inbox.

Hope someone finds this useful. I have.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Square Foot Gardening for Programmers

September 21, '09 Comments [25] Posted in Musings | Personal
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As I've said before, I'm not handy, but I'm trying. I want to also point out that I know exactly ZERO about gardening. All that said, here's what I did this year.

April 10th

This April my wife said it was time for us to have a garden:

One day, last week, it was sunny in Oregon. I looked at the strange yellow ball in the sky and grunted and then I went and bought lumber. I figured this is what people do when it's nice out. I've talked about a garden in the yard for years. This time, I made one.

I got NINE 2x12's, and THREE 4x4's. The first thing I learned was that 4x4s are in fact not four inches square. Turns out the whole inches thing is just a big lie in the wood world. This was news, but now I feel informed. :)

I ordered the dirt/compost, almost broke myself unloading two yards (not sure why it's called yards, but it was a trailer-load and a lot) and last night we planted our vegetables.

I cut the 4x4s into four small two foot posts. I made 1 cut each on 3 eight-foot 2x12s. At this point I had:

  • 3 - eight-foot 2x12s
  • 6 - four-foot 2x12s

I used wood screws and put them together like this. Make sure you use untreated lumber or "agriculturally treated" lumber. The idea being that you don't want any chemical leaching into the dirt from the wood. We also got weed cloth and covered the ground before I put dirt in the raised beds. This keeps the weeds from coming up from underneath and eating all veggies.

5183770 

Then I dug 18" holes underneath each of the corners with posts, then flipped the frames over:

IMG_0135

I ordered one yard of dirt with compost from a local dirt-person (did I mention I wasn't a farmer? He may have been a Jawa, can't be sure...) and spread it out with a rake.

Next, and this is important, in my opinion, I took some strong yellow nylon string and some nails and separated each bed into 36 one-foot square squares. We planted some seeds but we also found some "organic starters" that were basically little seedlings that had survived the hard part of childhood.

April 25th

Here's two weeks later...it was a little cold at night, sometimes hitting under 36F, so we used weed cloth to actually cover all the beds at night for a about four nights, just to keep them warm. We took the covers off in the morning.

IMG_0160

June 25th

Here's two months later. Things are coming along nicely. We were watering for 5 minutes each morning at around 4am, but I was told that was a little too much so we lowered it to 10 minutes three days a week. We didn't use any chemicals.

14017351

August 15th

Here's just a few weeks later...things are starting to go crazy. At this point I've realized I've made a few mistakes. The most significant mistake I've made was that I didn't give my tomatoes anything to hold on to. If I did it again, I'd setup little tomato scaffolding and put the tomatoes all against one side of the bed. Interestingly enough, the "All New Square Food Gardening" book warned me of this.

23408265-8b54c750959478ddbe8a9522372b5d86.4ab800ae-scaled

Sept 21th

Here's just a few hours ago at lunch. I've thinned out some of the Zucchini. Here's another thing I learned during this process was this: Only plant stuff you want to eat. I have a metric-ton of Zucchini and one can only eat so much Zucchini bread.

CIMG8797

Here's last night's haul. We just went through the garden and picked stuff that looked ready to go.

 This #sqftardening thing actually works! Today's haul  17437532 

My conclusion is, gardening is subtle but it's not hard. The amount of effort put in vs. the amount of food you get is minimal. You should try it if you've got even four feet square you can get a non-trivial amount of food.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Paint Fence, Cut Wood, Pull Weed, Plant Tree - Finding Geek Balance Outside My Comfort Zone

April 23, '09 Comments [39] Posted in Musings | Personal
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Please forgive me this personal excursion. I had lunch with my friend Greg Hughes yesterday. It's nice when people know you well enough to really grok when something significant happens in your life. The opening part of the conversation at lunch, in person, went something like this

Greg: Hey, great to see you, what's up?

Me: D00d. I bought wood. Like, literally went to the, what's it called? The Lumberyard and purchased actual lumber. Like, trees. Then I cut them.

Greg: Holy crap. What brought this on?

...and the conversation continued in this general vein. He understood immediately. I'm finding balance by moving outside my comfort zone. I'm trying to become "handy" around the house. My previous handy experience was tiling my kitchen backsplash, and this required that I use actual lasers to succeed.

What you need to understand, Dear Reader, is how profoundly not-handy I am to appreciate what I'm trying to do here. My father and brother are handy. I am not. I am not handy in the way that short people are not tall. They aren't. It's just so.

I have never had a hobby that didn't involve computers. This is sad, I know.

I've talked before about how it's important as a Developer to Sharpen the Saw. This is an extension of this. Go outside your comfort zone. I

I try to travel a lot, meet different people, speak their language as a way of going outside my comfort zone. Of course, I speak about computers, so that kind of cancels that out, eh? ;)

Empowerment

When I speak to high-school students and local colleges, I tell them that I like software because of the intense sense of empowerment - the sense that I can do this - it can give you when creating. It seems silly and obvious, but I realize more now that other things can empower oneself. I intellectualized this long ago, but internalized it only recently.

Here's what I'm doing this year to push the envelope for me. This may not make me a better developer, but I hope it'll make me (and subsequently my kids) a better, more well-rounded person. Maybe that'll make me a better developer in some round-about way. I dunno, but I sure feel handy and empowered but in a new an different way.

Planting a Square Foot Garden

IMG_0136 One day, last week, it was sunny in Oregon. I looked at the strange yellow ball in the sky and grunted and then I went and bought lumber. I figured this is what people do when it's nice out. I've talked about a garden in the yard for years. This time, I made one.

I got 9 2x12's, and 3 4x4's. The first thing I learned was that 4x4s are in fact not four inches square. Turns out the whole inches thing is just a big lie in the wood world. This was news, but now I feel informed. :)

I ordered the dirt/compost, almost broke myself unloading two yards (not sure why it's called yards, but it was a trailer-load and a lot) and last night we planted our vegetables.

Being Handy Around the House

When I get in over my head with home improvements and things, I usually call my family or a handyman. I've stopped doing that, setup a toolbox and work area and started drilling holes in the wall. I've painted/stained 400 feet of fence, weeded until my hands hurt, and moved giant rocks, all in the last two weeks.

I'm starting to get ideas for other things I want to do around the house. Why, just today, I added two small towel holders in the upstairs bathroom. Changes the whole room, I say! And, as a plus, I did not electrocute myself.

Building an Arcade Console

IMG_0036I checked on Craigslist and found an ancient 1984 Video Trivia Arcade Console. With my friend John Batdorf we took it to the garage and gutted it. I'm putting a PC inside it, and maybe an Xbox and dubbing it the Hanselcade.

This is yet another project that I'd always meant to do, but hadn't because it seemed too large, too complex, too intense to attack. I can attach large, complex and intense computer problems, but this...this was physical.

But, I'd cut wood! I'd planted plants! I just did it. I took uncomfortable action and I started to make plans. What's nice about this project - all of these, in fact - is that they are large, but they can be broken up and aren't time-urgent.

It also kind of involved computers, indirectly, in that there's a computer inside. However, stuff like hooking up LEDs, buying resistors, drilling holes in steel and keeping the whole thing stock and clean - this is all outside my zone of comfort.

The Point

I'm learning, as I always am, but I'm exercising VERY different parts of my brain. I'm reminding myself of things I'd forgotten, and filling in gaps. I'm synthesizing bits of information that I'd thought unrelated into larger solutions. I'm getting a substantial and ongoing sense of satisfaction. I'm realizing that I can be good, well, adequate, at other things that aren't computers.

If there's something you've been meaning to do, especially if it's outside your expertise, go do it now. Pull a weed. Build a fort. Start a blog. Lift a weight. Maybe two.

This must be what having a hobby is like! Ah, to be well-rounded and balanced.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Geek Developer Cribs on10

February 15, '08 Comments [39] Posted in ASP.NET | Channel9 | Microsoft | Personal | Podcast | Programming | Remote Work
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Rory and Chris came over to the new house recently and this is what came of that visit. The video is up on10.

"In this edition of Show Us Your Home, Scott Hanselman - a guy who works out of his home office - shows us his Geek Developer Crib with Rory Blyth on the glass and Chris Sells on the open mic.
Scott takes us on a tour of his OCD wiring, Windows Home Server, Xboxen, and personal effects. Special thanks to Rory for producing."

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  • About Scott

    Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.