20 August 2009

Two-pronged enmity

Reflecting on a the horns of a dilemma, or something. Two syndromes:

1) The good is the enemy of the great:

Person A: "You know what? It would take a lot of focus and effort and teamwork, but we could go for this Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal!"

Person B: "Really? But why...? These small, hairless, inoffensive occupations that we're currently busy with are getting us by just fine."

2) The great is the enemy of the good:

Person A: "Hey! Look at this cool thing I accomplished!"

Person B: "What?? Why did you waste time doing that? We TOTALLY could have accomplished a MIND-BENDINGLY AWESOME version of that!!!!!"

Person A: "Oh. But, we weren't. And we haven't. And I did this. And it's pretty cool."

[Six months later....]

Person A: "Hmm. Glad I didn't wait around for B's MIND-BENDINGLY AWESOME version, or we'd still have nuttin' at all...."

I wonder:

It seems to me that good and great are both pretty nifty. And initiative trumps nay-saying almost every time. So can't we all just get along? (Probably not.)

image by Tony the Misfit (rights)

13 August 2009

Armchair Lifehacker, Tip #2: Use Outlook like Gmail

So I had intended to make this "Armchair Lifehacker" thing a bit of a series, but then I forgot about it. Oh well, here's #2.

Perhaps, like me, you have no choice but to use Outlook for your work email communication. And perhaps, like me, you've been using Gmail for too long to go back to those old, clunky, self-defeating ways of filing and finding your email messages, like folder hierarchies.

So here's what I do: In Outlook, apart from the built-in ones (Inbox, Sent Mail, etc.), I have exactly one folder. I call it "Archive". (Yes, this is a bit confusing, becuase Outlook has its own, very different idea of "archive". So you might want to call it something else. "All Mail" would be a very Gmail-like choice.)

I practice, more or less, "Inbox Zero". I've been doing it for years, since long before it had a well-known name. So when I'm done with an email, I simply move it to my Archive folder, just like Gmail. Actually, before I do that, I might tag it with one or more Categories, which can be used in Outlook much like Labels in Gmail.

Then, when I want to find something, I never grope around in folders. Instead, I either look for it by Category (Outlook makes it easy to create Search Folders for Categories), or I use Google Desktop Search to find it instantly by typing in search terms. (I'm pretty sure that Windows Live Search, or whatever it's called, would suffice for this as well, but I've been using Google Desktop since long before MS came out with that, and haven't seen reason to switch. The built-in Outlook search capability is not useful, as anyone who's attempted to use it will attest.)

So anyway, that's my tip. Working this way makes me happy, and efficient. Possibly you'd like it too. Possibly not.

Now if only I had a way of getting the thing to properly thread conversations....

image by justingaynor (rights)