Archive for March, 2009

Who’s guarding your inbox? Getting more done with email filters

March 26, 2009

Who is guarding your email?

Have you ever been hard at work, noticed that someone sent you a message on Facebook and headed over to check it out?  If you’re like me, you might reply, surf around a bit and next thing you know it’s lunchtime.  And there’s a little voice in your head saying, “crap. I just wasted an hour!”.

With your phone, it’s easier to turn off your ringer than hear phone calls, see who they’re from and ignore them.  Good email filters are like turning off your phone.  They can be strong for you when you would be weak.  Email filters are bodyguards for your attention.

Important, urgent or actionable email should land in your inbox.  For everything else there are just 2 possibilities:

Put ’em somewhere else (archive, put it in folders, whatever works for you.)

  • Receipts: Amazon, Paypal, Netflix, etc.  Filter by subject or from address
  • Social Media notifications.  Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.  “Bob is following you” or “Bob replied to your message”…
  • Email discussion lists that aren’t a Top-Priority.  Check ’em out later.
  • Vacation auto-responders from other folks.  Filter: (”we will reply” OR “has been received” OR “your inquiry” OR “will contact you” OR “will reply to you” OR “auto response” OR “for your interest” OR “for your message” OR “your enquiry” OR “out of office”)

Delete ’em

  • If you have friends who forward you “funnies” (that you don’t want) but also real email (you do want), create a filter for email FROM them that ALSO includes another recipient on their list.
  • Mail from old accounts, services or organizations (eg. schools, old jobs, professional orgs) you don’t want to hear from. Some services offer a one-click unsubscribe, but others force you to log in, or contact them. In that case just add a filter and move on.  Examples: ( OR OR OR specials@ OR OR OR
  • Emails in other languages.  I don’t know anyone who would email me in Japanese, for example.  Filter: (秘 OR 密 OR 基 OR 地 OR を OR 作)

Other tips & tricks:

  • If you want to see email from your contacts before looking at new mail, some email clients will let you filter based on whether or not the sender is in your address book.  Tip from Leo Notenboom, Taming Email
  • If you’re worried you’ll miss an important message when you’re working or away from email, check out Jared Goralnick’s service AwayFind.
  • Gmail users can create unlimited addresses with this format, for easier filtering and tracking how companies use your address:

Any favorite email tips or tricks to add?


Moving to a Standing Desk

March 12, 2009

First post in a long time.   Feels good.

Every once in awhile I hear about someone switching to a standing desk. I was curious and did a little research.  Most people rave about the experience, mentioning more energy, creativity and less lower-back pain because our bodies aren’t designed to sit for 8 hours in one place.  Humans are built to move.

I’m always up for a work-environment experiment so I decided to give it a whirl.  I’m typing this standing up right now, and so far it’s great.  I’m moving more, stretching more, and … well I’m dancing more too.  Who said work has to be boring right?

If you want to give it a shot there are many options depending on your space constraints and your budget.

  • Buy a standing or adjustable-height desk from a manufacturer.  This Amazon search will get you started.
  • Add shelves to a wall, and stand in front of the wall and work on the shelves.
  • Lay a flat surface (eg. door) across two supports.  This is what I went for.  While I’m trying out the idea, I wanted something inexpensive and expansive; I can now walk around to a different side of the desk and have a whole new work area, something I didn’t have with my little dedicated-use computer desk.

My setup:

2x Stanley FatMax Telescopic Sawhorse $35 each (make sure you buy TWO, they’re not sold in pairs)

1x solid, flat, unfinished heavy 32″ door from Home Depot.  $55

That’s it!