The main event of this week was the arrival of my new shiny 17″ MacBook Pro.
To mark this event I thought I would take a break from the usual and provide five great links that help you when you come to upgrade your Mac and o not want to use the migration assistant.
Apologies in advance to Windows and Linux users as this is obviously a Mac specific post.
Even if you are not buying a new Mac, the bloated way Apple handles media may mean that you have to move your iTunes or iPhoto library to an external disk so these links contain gems of information.
Here are a collection of five links that I have found useful this week when migrating from my old MacBook Pro to my new MacBook Pro.
My first link for this week is the Apple Page covering the Migration Assistant. This is an amazing tool that I have used before that allows you to copy all of your settings from your Old Mac to your New Mac over a Firewire cable. Makes upgrading a dream if you are happy with the build of your old machine.
My second link is a link to a post from eHow about how to Migrate your Mac Email. The post shows you how to move your email as well as preserve your settings such as Smart Mailboxes and Mailbox Rules.
My third link is a link to an olf post from Merlin Mann that covers Some Handy Mail.app Smart Mailboxes. I used this post to recreate these mailboxes that fit in with Merlin’s Inbox Zero methodology.
My fourth link is a thread on the Apple Forums about how to move your iPhoto library. I copied the whole of my library to my new MacBook Pro and everything was preserved, just how it should be.
My fifth and last link for this week is a post from the iLounge about how to move your ITunes library. My iTunes library is 40GB and I have it on my new MacBook Pro but I am thinking of moving it to an external storage device so I can share it through the house and also conserve space on my MacBook HDD.
I am going away tomorrow to Centerparcs with my family. I am looking forward to a nice week in the forest spending quality time with my family.
Like many people, I work hard and taking time out is quite hard due to the pressures of running your own business. However, bonding and spending quality time with your family is also very important and getting that work life balance is always key. I have four children so spending time with them is one of my main priorities but luckily I am home a lot so get a lot of time to spend with them.
Luckily, I have always been able to utilize my vacations as great “think tanks”. I always seem to come out of a vacation more energized than when I went in. Some of my greatest ideas have come out of being away on vacation.
I think it is the fact that I remove myself from my daily routine, so my brain is able to focus its thought patterns on other, more creative tasks.
I thought I would take the time to share what I consider to be five great tips for getting the most out of a vacation from a productivity point of view:
1 – Ensure You Leave With No Open Loops
Before you go on vacation, I feel that it is imperative that your Open Loops are closed.
What I mean here for those of you new to the term Open Loops is that you have to ensure your mind is free of niggling tasks that must be done before you leave. In the few days leading up to your vacation, it is very important to hone your productivity skills in order to complete the tasks that must be complete.
I like to prioritize the tasks that must be done before I go away and things that can wait. I do a pre-vacation review and get my task system in place with a clear defined list of actions that I must do in order to go away with a clear mind.
2 – Let People Know You Are Away
I always let people who may be needing me in the week I am away know that I am going to be away. This sets their expectations and removes the worry that you will get something to deal with that is urgent whilst you are away.
A very important thing to do is to set your Out Of Office Assistant letting people clearly know that you are away, when you will be back, who they can contact whilst you are away, and what they can do if they need to contact you.
Using a system like AwayFind is a fantastic resource for covering when you are on vacation. I have just changed my regular Out Of Office message to state that I am away on vacation with limited access to email, but they can still send me an urgent message through AwayFind if needed.
3 – Pack a Good Book
I love to read when I am away. I love biographies and anything which will improve my mind and motivate me. I have just finished reading Tycoon by Peter Jones and I am taking with me this time The Real Deal by James Caan. Book reviews will follow for both these books pretty soon.
Books ignite the spark in my brain and help me with my thinking. I normally pick up some little nuggets of inspiration from these books and it is always nice to see how other people made it. I like to read about success, motivation, and also people who are self made entrepreneur millionaires.
4 – Take a Notebook to help you Collect Your Thoughts
As I have wrote about before, when I am on vacation with an empty mind, I get my most creative thoughts. Because of this, and also the fact that I am not in front of my Mac all day it is very important to take a good notebook and pen with you.
I normally pack a couple of Moleskine’s and a few pens to ensure everything is collected. I always have my iPhone but seem to prefer paper based collection when I am away.
It is so important to collect and record these thoughts as soon as they enter your head. Once I return home, I enjoy recording all these into my GTD system to ensure that they are allocated and scheduled for completion when they need to get done.
5 – Enjoy Yourself!
Last but not least, Enjoy yourself!
You work hard, and you deserve a break! Too many times we are at work dreaming about being at home, and then when we are at home we are dreaming about being at work. It is important to utilize the time on vacation to recharge your batteries so you can return to the office energized!
Well, I will enjoy myself and I know I will have some great productive ideas that will be put to good use on my return.
Do you have any little tips and tricks for getting the most out of your vacations? I would love to hear!
This blog post is worth reading as it will save you time, just as it saved me time. I use AwayFind as my email solution and do not get paid anything for telling you that I use it. You are getting the best type of recommendation for this product as I am a Raving Fan of it and believe that it can save you time.
I get a lot of free invites and requests to check things out but after a few days, I did manage to log in to the account that had been created for me and check it out. I am happy to say that I was very happy with what I saw.
Awayfind is not just a web tool,
it’s a blueprint for escaping email, with a handbook and a community to ensure your success.
In a nutshell, AwayFind is a web application that provides you with a web contact form that you can use in your email signature or auto-responder that enables people to contact you. There is also a methodology and associated free eBook once you sign up with simple, clear instructions on how to configure the system in order to reduce the burden email puts you under.
So, somebody sends you an email. Your auto-responder thanks them and tells them you are not checking email frequently so if their matter is urgent to please contact you via the AwayFind contact form. If the matter is not urgent, the email stays in your inbox ready for you to read it at your will.
If the matter is urgent, they will fill in the contact form and you will be contacted immediately via your preferred method.
Once you have an account you can login and from here you get your AwayFind Inbox and a very simple control panel. The first thing you want to be doing is editing your contact form.
This contact form is the form that you will direct people to in order to get in touch with you and it is the key component of the AwayFind service.
You can really personalize this form with your own details and logos to make it look an extension of your corporate branding.
Once this is complete, the next important step is to set how AwayFind reaches you. This is the method of contact once somebody completes the AwayFind web contact form. This is an important part. If you are not checking email, there is no point using your main email address as the contact method. It kind of defeats the purpose.
The way I use this is twofold. I have entered my cell phone number so that I get an SMS message and I have also cleverly entered my MobileMe email address.
As I use an iPhone and MobileMe, these emails are pushed to me and it does work pretty neat. I do not use the MobileMe address for much else so I know when I get an email on that account it is an important one. I sometimes have data and no cell coverage and sometimes cell coverage and no data. So, I always know I will get the urgent message.
Once AwayFind is configured you need to set up your mail server to send the auto-responder, for which instructions are available via AwayFind for the major mail server vendors. AwayFind even produce some sample auto-responders for you to use.
Well, I have been using AwayFind for the last month or so. I check email twice a day, or when I need to. I have stopped mail notifications and I manually check email on my iPhone.
I am totally free of “notification twitch”, that common complaint suffered by anybody who has ever owned a Blackberry!
I get on average two or three urgent requests a week. I have had no complaints out of people who email me, just curiosity about the system and how much time it is saving me.
If you want to save time and check email only twice a day, or less, then you either risk missing the occasional important time sensitive emails or you sign up to AwayFind.
I do realize that this will not work for everybody as unfortunately some people would not get away with this in their working environment due to the outdated attitudes of their superiors. However, give it a try, make them try it and I am sure, that you will see the benefit of the system.
I know this has sounded like a long sales pitch, but it is a subject that I am passionate about and I am full of enthusiasm for AwayFind. I wish them every success.
Have any of you tried AwayFind?, any views about the service or methodology? I would love to hear.
reQall is one of the most effective Apple iPhone and iPod Touch productivity applications currently available for users to bring into their day-to-day life.
It effectively combines several different organizational features into a single, extremely handy app. The program is completely free of charge as well and this is definitely something that should propel it to the forefront of similar productivity systems.
The application acts as a to-do list coupled with a quality reminder service. reQall lets users either speak or type their tasks into their iPhone and then store it for a later time.
The reminder function can be set for specific dates, hours and minutes before signaling users that it’s time for them to check off or start carrying out an action.
Reminders can be issued through various options including email, text message, instant message, calendar alert or a computerized voice. The flexibility inherent in using these functions is what makes the program really shine however and users are likely to return to reQall just to play around with the various options.
If for no other reason than the free download, reQall is a great option for busy iPhone and iPod Touch users to check out. It has enough features and customization to warrant regular use and is extremely well polished and developed besides.
From the reQall website..
reQall for iPhone gives you a voice-to-text recorder, task/shopping/idea manager, reminder service and memory aid all in one. It will improve your productivity and change how you remember. Just say what you want to remember; reQall for iPhone will manage the rest.
As with most of these tools, there is also a fully featured Web Application where you sign up for a free account and the data is synced between your iPhone and reQall.
reQall also supports the Blackberry platform as well as the Apple iPhone.
It is a great time to be a Productivity Blogger and iPhone owner, there is so much available right now!
It has been a couple of weeks since my last post on the subject of Email Productivity. In my last post I had hit a few problems with my rigid system due to the fact that I was working on a news story and therefore I had a requirement to check email much more than I would have normally done as I was getting very important information via email that required immediate action.
Unfortunately, whilst doing this it also meant that I collected my other email at the same time as well, totally blowing my email productivity system out of the water.
What I had achieved so far was to reduce the amount of timed I checked email from 62 times to 4 times during a working day. I loosely worked out that this was saving me around 93 minutes in my working day. Now, that is a pretty nice saving!
The only issue was, if somebody needed to get a hold of me between the times I checked email, they couldn’t. Obviously if they had my mobile phone number they could try that but I do tend to screen mobile calls from unknown numbers (another good post topic). So, the system fell down during the time when I was receiving time sensitive emails that required my attention.
During my normal working day, there are not that many times when somebody MUST get hold of me as a matter of urgency. I estimate that this requirement may be once every two or three days, when my input is required at that point either to answer a critical customer request or to provide information to the sales team in order to close a deal.
So, I needed a solution that allowed me to check email less frequently, but still provided a way for urgent emails to get through.
As a matter of sheer co-incidence, I was contacted via Facebook by a reader of this blog about a new web application and servie that he was launching called AwayFind. Sounded very interesting so I checked it out.
AwayFind is based on a principle from the Four Hour Work Week book by Timothy Ferris. I have read this book and loved it, although a lot of it is very impractical in my opinion I still picked up some great snippets from it. The review of the book has been in draft post format and I am just waiting for my third copy of the book to arrive as it is that good I keep giving it away!
Here is the blurb about AwayFind from their website:
AwayFind is a communication tool that bridges the gap between emails and phone calls. AwayFind enables people to reach you with critical information via a web link to your AwayFind Contact Form. Just place this link in your “out of office” auto response message or your email signature. This Contact Form routes messages to your cell phone or delegates them to your co-workers. When traveling with limited cellular or internet access, you can also quickly login to AwayFind and read only your critical messages.
I started to use AwayFind but must admit that I expected a few people to hate it. We were in the middle of migrating company email from IMAP to the Google Apps cloud services so it was a perfect time to start using AwayFind.
Now I am not going to go into too much depth about AwayFind as I am drafting a full review that I will link to from here once the review is ready.
The service from AwayFind auto responds to people who send you email letting them know that you do not check email frequently. There is a URL provided in the auto responder that points them to your branded AwayFind page.
From this page users can send you a message that can be delivered to you in a number of ways such as Email or SMS Text Message.
I have been using this system now for the past three weeks and it is fantastic. People have commented on how good it is as they do not expect an immediate response but they have a mechanism of getting a hold of me with their urgent requirements.
I now check email two to three times a day, when my schedule permits. Email does not control me, I control it..
This pretty much wraps up this mini email series. I went out looking for a solution and I think I found one that fits my working life and practices. I am going to attempt to write a little email productivity eBook that I will provide via this site covering my problems and solutions. I am also going to review AwayFind in great detail along with the way I have implemented it.
I hope you have enjoyed this mini series, please let me know your thoughts and comments.
After the last installment of this series, I had changed my email collection timer from the default 5 minutes to one hour. I had seen quite an increase in productivity as I was working on emails in batch rather than what seemed to be every five minutes.
I decided that the next step was to check my email four times during the working day. These times were to be at 0900, 1200, 1500, and 1700.
There is no automated way to do this within Mail.app, the default mail client on the Mac and the one that I use so I had to turn off the automatic mail collection setting and set this to manual. So, from now, I received email when I manually clicked on the Get Mail button within Mail.app.
For the first few days this was going great. I informed the people directly involved with me that I was only checking email at these times and if something was urgent, then they needed to tell me in another way.
It generally worked out very well. Just like with the one hour gaps, the time between email on a three hour gap soon came around and I was amazed at how fast time was going in between email. It was nice and actually felt quite liberating to be free of the feeling that you have to check email.
All this was very well and good until I stumbled across a little item that resulted in me working very closely with the BBC and other journalists for just over a week on what became quite a well covered news story, even making the front page of Digg!
Because of this, I found most of my good work go straight out of the window as I had to check my mail frequently as I had to answer time sensitive questions. So, I found myself checking mail very frequently to ensure that I had not missed anything from any of the people I was working on the story with.
This has identified to me that strict email systems like these have to give sometimes, unless that is I can find a way around this. Some way of being able to filter the mail before I get it to my mailbox so that if I am working on something like this in the future I will be able to selectively receive mail. I could use a second address but that is not really an elegant solution so off I go looking for a way to achieve this.
The report went live on Monday and it has been a very busy week. I am back to checking email once an hour and aim to go back to the four times in a working day from next Monday.
This has been a great lesson to me about flexibility in systems and the fact that sometimes the system has to give. It was in my interests for it to give as it was a priority for me to ensure I gave a speedy response to questions asked.
Well, I have had a rather busy week this week and not had a great deal of time scheduled for writing. I have however being able to implement a few changes to my email system and track the outcome. It is always great to schedule things like this when you are at your busiest so you can get a real grasp of how effective the changes have been. This week has been a great week for this next test.
In the last installment of this series, I tracked over a few days the number of times that I checked email in a normal working day. I was quite shocked to find out that I had checked email 62 times during the working day. Wow, that is a lot of email!
Using a distraction penalty of 90 seconds, this works out to just over an hour and a half of wasted productivity due to checking email.
So, what I have tried this week is very basic and I have just set the default mail collection time from the default five minutes to one hour. So, instead of Mail.app checking for new email across my 8 email accounts every 5 minutes, it now only checks for new mail once an hour.
I was very skeptical if this would work for me as I am rather a heavy email user and my time is always requested from many people within my organization. But, I gave it a try.
As I was very busy, and not twiddling my thumbs, the first few hours passed like a dream. I must admit that I even forgot about email and then remembered on the hour when my new mail notification would sound and I would merrily go and check my email. What I found is pretty obvious. Rather than dealing with the odd email every five minutes, and also the annoying ones that bypass the spam filters, I was working in batch. Working in batch really does save you time. I was getting roughly 15 emails every hour. I could skim through these, delete what I did not need, archive ones that required archiving or clipping ones that required more thought into my OmniFocus inbox for processing during one of my processing sessions.
So, how did I do. Well, I checked email 23 times during the day. This is a great improvement from 62 times and I did actually feel that it made my day more productive. I have been really busy and focused all week and I must admit that the time between email seemed to fly and I found myself using it as a time marker, often remarking that the last hour had flown by.
62 to 23 is a reduction from 93 minutes to 34.5 minutes of distraction (based upon a 90 second penalty) therefore saving me an hour a day of productive time!.
Wow, what a simple way to save an hour a day!
Why did I check the email 23 times and not 10? (as I normally work 10 hour days). Well, I did find myself being asked about topics and emails that had been sent at times throughout the day and I just could not resist being the odd one out in the office so I did find myself hitting the Get Mail button to check for new mail in between a few of the hourly regular checks.
This is an area where I need to improve and I plan to stop the automatic collection next week as Mail.app will only allow you to set one hour mail collection as the maximum default. I plan to check mail at 0900, 1200, 1500, and 1700. 4 times a day from 62 times. Should be fun!
I have had some fantastic comments on the last two posts and I hope you all keep the comments up on this post as I love to read the ideas you are all having about saving time and becoming more productive when dealing with email.
Over the past few days I have been using my trusty Moleskine to record the number of times I have checked email. I did not change anything about the way I worked, I just checked mail as normal using the default settings on my laptop. I was out a few days and in the office a few days so I evened out my results in order to get a view from a pretty average day.
What I found was quite shocking! I checked email 84 times in an average day. This was split into 62 times during my working day and 22 times outside of work, whilst at home.
I use a Mac, and Mail.app as my email client. My laptop is hardly ever turned off. It sits on the desk in the office all day, and when I get home it sits on my desk in my study which is a dedicated work room on the ground floor of my house. I have the Mail.app default setting to check for new email every 5 minutes.
With the default setting to check email every five minutes, that means that my machine checks for email 12 times per hour. I start work at 0800 and leave the office at 1730 so that is 9.5 hours in the office. This equates to my Mac checking for new email 114 times during my normal working day. Out of this 114 times, I checked my mail 62 times. The other 52 times I did not get email. I do not manually check email, but I tend to switch straight to Mail.app when a new email arrives to read it.
When my machine is in my study at home, I normally have the sound on so that I can hear the new email notification. I don’t jump when I hear the notification but I do log it mentally and then go to my study to check my mail when I pass the room etc..
Lets treat the during office ours and away from office ours as two separate entities. During office hours you would like to think that I am working on something, normally related to a previously collected task or project so these email notifications are an interruption. At home, I should be relaxing with the family, learning by reading, or as most of the time working, but in a more relaxed environment.
Each time I am interrupted and check email I am going to allocate a 90 second penalty. This penalty is against the break in my focus and the time it takes me to regain the flow on the task that I was performing. So, during the working day I have 62 such interruptions. 62 * 90 Seconds equates to 5580 seconds, or 93 minutes. Just over one and a half hours out of my nine and a half hours of productive working time (not counting lunch). Maybe 90 seconds penalty is a bit high, maybe it is too low. Would love to hear your thoughts about it.
The bottom line, and the basis for my next post on this fascinating subject is that I am losing roughly 15.8% of my productive time due to email interruptions.