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This Newsletter: A Productivity Review, New ClearContext Release, and Tips
For this Fall newsletter I offer a brief review of the Manage Your Now! (MYN) Outlook system, an update on ClearContext software, and then some system tips. And at the end, of course, I remind you of the author-led on-site seminars you may want to consider to boost productivity for your whole team. Use these links or just scroll down.
Many of us try to use a good to-do list to control our day and may wish our computer or BlackBerry could help. But automated task lists like the Tasks system in Outlook (or those in handheld's) usually fail. Why? Because the task list gets too big too fast. At least with a paper system (usually using one page per day), as you turn the pages, you tend to leave old dead tasks behind. But Outlook and other electronic systems never forget what you write down, and the list become unusable way too fast; you give up and go back to paper quickly. But these days, given how many task requests come in through e-mail, paper is no longer an effective way to go either.
The Manage Your Now system, applied to Outlook, solves that by using a new approach to task management that keeps the Outlook tasks list you look at daily relatively short and well prioritized. The result is a usable and powerful electronic task system. Combine that with easy ways to manage e-mails as tasks, and easy e-mail filing approaches, and for the first time Outlook will actually help you get your workday under control. Read all about that here.
Most time management programs these days emphasize identifying goals and objectives first. Yet most people who see these programs say they just want to dig out of the overload first, that they are buried by urgent activities.
Well, I agree. You should get urgency under control first, and once controlled, then take time to study how to incorporate goals and objectives. But again, first control urgency. In the MYN system, I identify four urgency zones in your workday and show you how to get tasks managed using Outlook as the tool to do so. The four urgency zones are: Critical Now, Target Now, Opportunity Now, and Over the Horizon, and all zones can be used to organize your day. Each are mapped to a reconfigured Outlook tasks system in a way that works extremely well (see figure at left). Read about that here.
The Outlook Add-in Software company ClearContext recently upgraded their software to version 4.5. In doing that they released two variants called Personal and Pro, and added some significant new features.
You may recall that I have partnered with ClearContext to create a special MYN version of that software that incorporates all MYN custom Outlook configurations. This avoids doing configurations by hand and provides extra features. You can read about that collaboration here, and download or buy the MYN edition of the new version from the links at the bottom of that page.
Upgrade Path. If you already own version 4 of ClearContext, you can upgrade to the latest version for free; that includes MYN users. MYN users should uninstall their old copy of ClearContext and then install the trial copy of MYN ClearContext Prov4.5 at this link; your old license key will be picked up automatically and the software will be fully activated. Contact ClearContext for any licensing questions.
What's in the new ClearContext version? Of all the new ClearContext Pro version 4.5 features, my favorite is called FolderContext shown at the bottom of the figure at left (click figure for a larger and more complete view). It adds extra utility to the collections of mail in your mail folders. For example, it allows you to view all attachments in a mail folder, with optional previews, and provides ways to extract those attachments in bulk. It adds a way to summarize who is sending you mail and to view and extract their contact information and more. Many of these new features you may recognize as similar to those in the beta Outlook add-in software called Xobni, which has become popular recently. ClearContext goes beyond what Xobni adds to Outlook, so this latest version of ClearContext gives you the best of both worlds. Again, see this link for a list of all the new features of version 4.5 ClearContext Pro.
If you have been using the MYN Outlook system for a while, here are some tips to advance the bar a bit more for you. Or maybe you just need a review?
First, for a quick review of the MYN tasks system, re-read Lessons 4 and 9 in the second edition of the book. They hold the key content on managing tasks in an MYN configured Outlook system and are easy to read. If you have slipped off the system recently, they show you how to manage tasks across all four urgency zones and will get you back on the wagon.
Next, if you have not yet been using the Target Now tasks described in Lesson 9, consider using those now. This approach allows you to target which non-critical tasks you would like to get to first each day, and shows how to indicate them clearly in Outlook. See the figure in the urgency zone section above to see where they sit in the Outlook tasks list. See page 193 of the book (second edition) for a full description of that.
The 2/2/2222 approach: In the second edition I discontinued use of the master tasks view and concept. I did not think it worked well in the long run, and the Defer-to-Review task approach introduced in the second edition (page 198) works much better for listing and reviewing low priority tasks. Yet some users say they missed having a way to indicate tasks that are extremely low priority and never reviewed on schedule. Well, for those users, I suggest you use the 2/2/2222 approach. What is that? It is mentioned briefly on page 277 of the second edition for use with projects but works well for this purpose, too. Any task you want to get off your list indefinitely, just type in a start date of 2/2/2222. It will be removed forever from your MYN configured TaskPad/To-Do Bar. You can still see them if you go to the Tasks folder (Simple List or All Now Tasks view), should you want to review them; just sort or arrange on start or due date and they all group together. Using one easy to type and distant date like 2/2/2222 is a nice way to pick up that similar role of the old master tasks view, giving you a way to store very low priority tasks and only see them when you want to.
The above tips are just that, small tips and lessons to make Outlook usage more productive. If instead you’d like to significantly transform your team or department, contact Michael Linenberger to schedule a hands-on seminar on-site, in your company. In those seminars, the entire Total Workday Control, Manage Your Now! system can be learned, greatly boosting the productivity of your team. The material can be directed for any existing capability level. Call 1-888-216-7041 or check out the seminars page for more information.
All the Best,