Tag Archives: Email

Managing Work E-mail with a ‘go-to’ folder

In today’s connected world, do you find disconnecting from work email is near impossible on weekends? Do you ever find yourself involved in personal activity, only to receive an email from a client who is catching up on their email? Do you receive work email on your personal smart phone, perhaps along with your personal email? Are you unable to stop responding to work email in your personal time?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions then you might have asked yourself if there is a better way to manage work email polluting your personal time.

Before I explain how I went about configuring my work-email and cell phone, I want to point out that I am not suggesting that I wish to avoid work email outside office hours – that would be a near impossibility in my line of work – just that I want better control of when I am interrupted. I got my idea from watching my fiancé, who has a separate blackberry for work to personal – she is able to put down her work blackberry in the evening and “choose” when to pick it up. If there is an emergency in the office, someone will call her work phone and she can address the issue. Only having one smart phone and numerous laptop computers, I wanted to replicate the ability to “put down” the office at specific points of my evening or weekend, without disconnecting completely.

Enter Microsoft Exchange Rules…

The following configuration assumes you are using Microsoft Office and Exchange Server at the office. You can achieve similar results with G-mail and other email services, as long as you can configure server-side rules to manage email.

(Note: I use Outlook 2010, which the screenshots show, but older versions of Outlook typically offer similar functionality).

Create a folder under your inbox to house work email – I called mine @@Client because I still want internal office email to stay in my inbox.

From the Outlook Home tab, click on the Rules icon in the Move section, and select Create Rule

Click the Advanced Options button on the Create Rule dialog

Choose the option “with specific words in the sender’s email address,” click the underlined “specific words” and add “@”

image

Click the next button and then choose the following actions:

– stop processing more rules

– move it to a specified folder

Click the link “specified folder” and choose the folder, under your Inbox, that you created earlier

image

Click the Next button, and then choose the following exceptions:

– except if it is a meeting invitation or update

– except if it is marked as High Importance

image

Click the Next button, and then give the rule a name, finally click the Finish button

What happens now?

The rule you just created is an Exchange Server-side rule, which means Exchange will process it whether Outlook is running or not. This is important – you do not want to receive email on your cell phone when Outlook is not up and running on your work computer.

If not already configured, make sure that your smart phone shows you the main Inbox folder only for your work account. I have an iPhone and the default “All Accounts” folder shows only email in my main inboxes. If I want to read client specific emails I now have to go and look for the @@client folder under my work account – which is the point!

Working with this new setup does require a certain amount of diligence. If you so desire, there is nothing stopping you ignoring all client email for a period, which will likely hurt you in the short term when next in a meeting and your client asks whether you read their emails. The main point of this configuration is to allow you greater control of when and how you access emails, without technology interrupting you at inopportune moments. As a rule, I check my client folder at least twice a day when in the office working, and during downtimes in the weekend/evenings.

Outlook Panic Averted

I was in the middle of enjoying my Friday afternoon at the office when I noticed that all of my archived mail and scheduled calendar appointments were missing from Outlook.  Shock Horror! What was I to do?

After throwing my hands in the air, running around the room cursing a few dozen times I went to find out if something had gone wrong on the server – nope, all was fine there.  The last server backup was a couple of days stale, and I’d only just organized my email folders for GTD and was daunting the thought of having to repeat the process. 

The next step was to thumb through my disk looking for cached PST files that Outlook may have scurried away somewhere – no luck there, only stuff I found was way out of date.

So, I was just about to give up, when I noticed a menu item in Outlook 2007 called “Recover Deleted Items” – I jumped on that option faster than a hungry puma on bleeding zebra and was relieved to find out that I could recover my mail and calendar items.  The process wasn’t as painless as I’d have liked because the recovery option does not work on sub folders, just the current selected.  Since my mailbox has a few nested folders, I spent the last hour recovering.

Lesson for the day – backup mailbox items daily to a PST file.

Tools of the Trade

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading my blog of late must know that I have had my head buried in my new job. A career change certainly has its rewards, but also involves a learning curve. Since my time is precious of late (no surprise that blogging has taken a back seat), I thought a good theme for a blog post would entail the tools that save me time. My new role involves more client face time – meetings, time on the road etc, in fact I have never seen my work calendar with so many occupied blocks of time, so my dependency on keeping my schedule in order has never been more important. Below is a list of the software applications that make my career that little bit easier to manage every day….

Microsoft Exchange 2007 – Yes, I hear the groans, but before I receive the comments about rigid IT departments who break out into a rash with the mere mention of Microsoft Exchange, let me tell you why the latest version – Exchange 2007 – is so productive. No matter what anyone says, I refuse to believe that any other mail server is as feature rich as Exchange. Taking aside the fact that Exchange is only happy when tied at the hip with Active Directory, in my opinion it is hands down the best messaging platform. Exchange has provided Outlook Web Access since version 2000, and the newest version still provides the same rich AJAX-like-user interface (introduced long before AJAX was a common term) to emulate the rich client version in a web browser. The new version integrates with SharePoint, allowing me to access my document libraries from anywhere on the Internet. Since version 2003, Exchange has supported MAPI over HTTP, and because my employer is nice, I am able to access my mailbox, calendar, and tasks using Outlook on my work laptop at home, as if I never left the office. Finally, my favorite part about Exchange – I can synchronize with my Windows mobile device, so can receive push email, calendar and tasks whilst on the road – how nice is that?

Outlook 2007 – I cannot talk about Exchange without mentioning its partner in crime – Outlook. Once again, find me an email client that can do half of what Outlook can (Outlook Express does not count because it is technically Outlook on a diet). I mentioned MAPI over HTTP above, which I use constantly when away from the office. 2007 includes an RSS feed aggregator, and like OWA, Outlook 2007 now connects with SharePoint to access document libraries, task lists and calendars. If you are an SMS hound, you can also send and receive SMS messages using the Outlook Mobile Services. Personally, I think the Internet Calendars feature is a lifesaver – I can access my personal Google calendars and overlay my off work schedule with my daytime schedule to see what the week has in store.

Windows Mobile – My Pocket PC phone combo (HTC PPC 6700) cost me a chunk of change when I brought it, but almost a year later, I never regret my decision. I cannot count the number of times I have been away from my computer and needing to get access to important information in an email, calendar information, or contact information. I think of my PPC as an extension to the office –the other day I was stuck in traffic on the way to a client meeting. So, I called my boss for my client’s telephone number, so I could inform them I would be late, and he was able to email it to me without having to relay numbers over the phone.

Google Apps for Your Domain – For a while, I was hosting an Exchange server at home to look after my email, mainly because I wanted email at my own domain name and I could not stand the half-baked web clients offered by the cheapest hosting clients. Only problem was is that, although Exchange is very nice, it is a problem when something goes wrong. Not so long back, I remember pulling an all nighter trying to get my server back online after a disk crash. When I heard about GAFYD – free email hosting for your domain email, I decided to let Google take the responsibility of backing up my email and worrying about offline issues. As far as everyone else is concerned, nothing changed; they can still email me at the same robgarrett.com email address. However, I get the feature rich web client of Gmail to access my domain-hosted email. No more headaches if my broadband connection goes down, or concerns with hardware redundancy.

Google Calendar – My wife and I used Google calendar long before I switched to GAFYD, which also uses the same calendar engine. Google calendar provides me, and the family, with a nice UI for shared calendars, and because it is Google, I can search for any appointment in seconds. Prior to Google, my wife and I were in constant battle over miscommunication of appointments – paper calendars were lost, emails about upcoming appointments went astray, and I found out about most planned events on the evening before they happened. I guess you can say that Google saved my marriage.

Foldershare – There is nothing more frustrating than finding out that all-important file is on another PC and you forgot to copy the darn thing over before a big meeting. Fortunately, there is Foldershare. FS synchronizes files between multiple computers of your choice, and I use this application exclusively to manage access to my important files.

Groove 20007 – Much like Foldershare, Groove enabled me to synchronize my files with other computers and peers, only Groove has many additional features. For one, Groove permits collaboration against SharePoint document libraries. So, my peers and I can work on documents together and when ready I can synchronize the changes to our company SharePoint server for archival.

I could go on, many more products exist that enable me to shave vital minutes off my day, but the above list contains the main tenants. Between these applications, I can collaborate on work items, schedule appointments, stay in touch with the office, plan my weekends, and gain access to all information when working remote – pretty cool.

Uploading PST Mail to GMail

Ok, I’ve seen various convoluted methods for uploading mail stored in Microsoft PST files to GMail, none of them are ideal.  I have found a tried and trusted method that seems to have worked and is reliable:

1. Open Outlook and add your PST as a Data File:


2. Drag the email from the folder, listed in the folder view, to a folder in your main inbox (Exchange or Local).


3. Close Outlook.

4. Open Outlook Express and import emails from Outlook, or if in Exchange connect to the server using IMAP.

5. Once all your emails appear in Outlook Express, navigate to the email file store (Tools, Options, Maintenance, Store Folder)


6. Copy the relevant DBX files to a safe folder location.

7. Use DBXCONV to convert each DBX file to a MBX file.

8. Use Mark Lyon’s GMail Loader to upload the contents of the MBX files to your GMail account.


9. That’s it!  BTW, I found success using gmail.smtp-in.l.google.com, rather than smtp.gmail.com, which didn’t seem to work.

[tags:Email]