Thursday, January 21, 2010

Use “Search Options” to Filter Your ‘Remember the Milk’ Task List

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I was getting highly irked today because I wanted to filter the Remember the Milk (RTM) web interface to show my tasks were due today. Normally, I just use the gmail gadget, but I wanted to edit several tasks at once, which I can’t do with the gadget.

After some grumbling, I discovered the search options that I could use to filter by any number of fields. I don’t know how I never noticed this before. It’s awesome!

In the top right hand corner of the RTM website, click on the “Show Search Options” link. (Note: You can also manually type your own search criteria if you know the lingo using the quick search box.)

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Then, configure your criteria (click on the screen capture below to see a larger image).

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For example, I typed in ‘Due date within ‘1 day’ of ‘today’” to show all tasks that were due today. To show those due today and tomorrow, I could type ‘2 days’ instead.

I could also filter by priority and date, as well as many other practical combinations.

Happy RTMing.

Additional Resources

2009-10-22_105231 Want to contact Jenna Baze, the rather geeky writer of this rather geeky post?
Email:
rathergeeky@gmail.com
Twitter: @Rather_Geeky

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How I Became Geekier in 2009

During the last year, I found some new ways to get more done, in less time, with cooler tools. I finally found my niche as a creative yet organized person and I’m happy with what I’ve learned.

Here are the main discoveries that I made in 2009. Maybe they can help you have a rather geeky 2010.

Simplified

Google Calendar

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As our company switched completely to Google Apps in 2009, I was able to consolidate my work and personal calendars using Google Calendar. I overlay my events so that I can keep track of where I need to be. (I can access these calendars using my Android phone, which syncs perfectly.)

I can also view my coworkers’ calendars to see when they are available.

Google Chromechrome

I began using Google Chrome (which is a browser alternative to Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox) almost exclusively late in 2009. The main benefits for me: speed (3x as fast as either IE or FF), neat extensions, simplified user interface and speed, speed, speed.

Find out more about Chrome here.

EOM

Sometimes, an email message may be very brief. To save myself (and the recipient) time, I started using “[eom]” at the end of the subject line. This means that my entire message is contained in the subject line of the email. The recipient doesn’t need to open the email to read the body.

Example: “Development meeting changed to 1pm [eom]”

Learn how EOM can save you time here.

Gmail

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In previous years, I was a dedicated Outlook user. This year though, I started using gmail for my professional email. Our company began switching to Google Apps to save money and reduce the necessity for in-house IT work.

I discovered that I didn’t really need the majority of the fancy Outlook features that I thought I would miss. Switching to gmail made me reevaluate how I process and respond to emails. It drastically improved my productivity and enabled me to start a whole new system of task management.

I learned the difference between simply filing emails away in a folder (Outlook), and categorizing them with multiple labels to make them easy to manage and find later (gmail). Filters helped me to start automatically processing emails reliably as they entered my inbox.

Plus, the gmail search allows me to find nearly anything I’m looking for with a few clicks. That’s a big improvement over Outlook, where I used to struggle with tracking down past emails.

Here’s some more information about useful gmail features.

Find out how to get your own gmail account and simplify your inbox.

Fences

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Fences is a free software that helps you organize your desktop more effectively. You can ‘group’ or fence off files for a particular purpose (such as “Daily Files”, “Software Links”), or even hide all files by double clicking on your desktop. That is the feature that I use most since I prefer to have a clean desktop, but often save downloads or generic files to the desktop for organizing later. That’s not necessarily a best practice, but Fences makes it easier to have the appearance of a neat and tidy desktop, even when it’s not.

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Find out more about organizing your desktop with Fences here.

Automated

Phrase Expressphraseexpress

I often find myself typing the same text over and over, especially in emails. PhraseExpress is a neat tool that allows me to save that text and instantly insert it with custom keyboard shortcuts. For example, whenever I type .lmk (which is the keyboard shortcut I defined), PhraseExpress automatically inserts “Let me know”. By using a text expansion tool like this, I save myself a lot of time that would normally be spent typing.

Additionally, I use PhraseExpress to create html formatted email templates that I send using gmail. I can even use it to insert variables (such as {Contact Name} or {Last Day of Fiscal Period}), that will prompt me to enter information in a template. This has cut down the amount of time that I spend sending daily and monthly emails to coworkers.

Example

I have a shortcut that inserts this text and variables: “Fiscal Month of {#input -head Fiscal Month Ending (ie: November) -single} Ends on {#input -head Last Day of FP (ie: Oct 31st) -single}” whenever I type .sefp.

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In this example, instead of typing 8 words, I only have to type three – my keyboard shortcut, "December” and “Dec 31st.” The end result is: “Fiscal Month of December Ends on Dec 31st”.

That may not seem like much, but it really adds up over time!

Tracked and Managed

Android Phone

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I purchased a myTouch phone in 2009 that allows me to access my gmail calendars, personal and work email, tasks and other productivity tools. I always have access to my electronic agenda. This has replaced my paper agenda that I used to carry everywhere. Plus, I can create reminders of events to trigger at specific times using Google Calendar. That’s something that a paper calendar just can’t do!

Remember the Milk

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Remember the Milk (RTM) is a free task management tool. I started using it along with gmail to better manage the things that I have to do. I can create recurring tasks for the future (such as “Water office plants every friday”) or create tasks from an email with the click of a button. It supports ‘smart text’, so when I type “5pm meet with boss to discuss project” it automatically knows that my task is for today at 5pm. This saves me a lot of time.

During meetings with my boss, I can quickly create tasks to follow up on based on our conversation. This prevents me from missing something important.

That feeling of accomplishment when I click“Complete” is wonderful. Looking back on the 534 tasks that I have checked off my ‘to do’ list motivates me to keep on moving forward.

I recommend the RTM Browser Add-on for Firefox or Chrome. I prefer it over the gadget.

Interested in using Remember the Milk? Check out the Getting Started Guide.

Connected

Tungle
tungle-logo

Tungle lets me schedule meetings more efficiently with members of my team. When I prepare a meeting request, I choose all the times that will work for me, based on my google calendar. People that I invite can then choose all the times that work for them. Then, I can decide on a final time that will work for everyone. It’s quick and easy for me and attendees and doesn’t require email trails or phone calls.

Tungle also offers a service called Tungle.me, which allows anyone to see my availability (just free/busy, no personal details) based on my gmail calendar and schedule a meeting with me. I generally include this information in my email signatures.

See my Tungle.me page as an example.

Learn more about scheduling meetings with Tungle (which is free by the way) here.

Twittertwitter-logo

I began using twitter professionally in late July 2009. I connect with people using software or web-based systems that I use and we share ideas, tech rants and tips.

Want to see an example of how one of my tweets spawned a software update? View it below. (If the slides are too small to view, click on “full” to maximize.)

The Power Of Twitter - A Real Life Example By @Rather_Geeky
View more presentations from jbaze.

If you are interested in using twitter, I highly recommend Tweetdeck, a software that allows you to manage your tweets and those that you follow. You can quickly search for specific terms and navigate your timeline more effectively than on the twitter website.

Facebook
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I use Facebook for professional networking only. I do post some non-work thoughts or links occasionally, but I try to limit that. The main benefit for me is being connected to my coworkers and professional acquaintances, allowing us to share ideas and helpful information. It also gives people I work with a chance to see another side of me, which can benefit a team that does not work in the same geographic location.

LinkedInLinkedIn_logo_1

LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals. Through it, I am connected to coworkers, my boss, people with similar jobs and others. It allows me to share the projects that I am working on and my professional goals in a safe, business environment.

I can also receive and give recommendations. Recently a former coworker encouraged me to recommend him. In response, he gave me a recommendation. Viewers of my LinkedIn profile are able to view my recommendations and I look forward to exploring this area of the site further.

LinkedIn is also used by people looking for qualified employees. The more in depth my profile is, the better equipped viewers will be to determine if I might be a good candidate for a position. Currently, I am not looking for a new job. But if I am in the future, I would leverage LinkedIn to get in touch with potential employers.

Google Talk/Chat

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Google Talk is a software that allows you to make free video and voice calls to another Google Chat or Talk user. It has a number of other handy features too – including a configurable desktop notifier for new emails.

I meet with my boss (who is several states away) weekly using the video conferencing feature. A quick text chat for a yes/no answer can save us both time when we are busy.

I work with many people around the country. Before deploying Google Apps, I was not able to see when Kim in Wisconsin was available to talk or when Allison in Anchorage was in a meeting. Now, I am able to see at a glance if either of them are available or not, without having to pick up the phone.

(Side note: You don’t have to download Google Talk to begin using Google Chat for voice or video conferencing. You can do this all from your browser.)

Want to test out Google Talk? Download it here.

Dreamforce 2009

dreamforce-logoThis year, I attended Dreamforce at Moscone Center in San Francisco for the first time. It is an event held by salesforce.com, a provider of SaaS applications, including a CRM that my company uses. A large part of my job involves customizing the system and maintaining it.

At Dreamforce, I learned tips and tricks for writing better code, how to make the most of existing functionality and keeping our data clean. I also met some great people that I continue to collaborate with via twitter.

I hope to attend next year too.

YouTube

youtube-logoI originally created an account on YouTube so that I could enter my video entry for a competition to win a free trip to Dreamforce. I didn’t win the trip, but I did win a free Flip HD video camera that I have been putting to good use. I also entered another contest to win some cash from a consulting company.

I documented my trip to Dreamforce in a video montage, which for a period of time got more hits than a video of the salesforce.com CEO’s keynote. It even inspired a few people. You can watch it here.

Now I’m using it to share some videos with friends (like a video from my recent skiing trip). But, I plan to continue entering competitions and eventually share Rather Geeky tech tips.

Blogs

I started 3 blogs in 2009. (Not sure what a blog is? Find out here.)

One is this blog, Rather Geeky, which allows me to share productivity and tech tips with coworkers and others. Another is for my photography (The Awkward Photographer). The third is to document funny things people say at work (Miss Quote at Work).

Entertained

Hulu

hululogo

In 2009, I sold my tv. I don’t miss it; I use my laptop instead. I rely on Hulu, a website offering free commercial-supported streaming video, to keep up to date with my favorite shows. If they aren’t on Hulu, I don’t watch them. Hulu allows me to subscribe to specific shows, which automatically adds new episodes to a queue that is essentially my personal channel. I can even add many shows that have been dropped (which is how I discovered Firefly, one of my favorite shows that was cut too early). Some episodes expire while other are available for extended periods of time.

I started using Hulu on March 24, 2009. Since then, I have watched 734 videos/movies and subscribed to 15 shows.

Hulu helps me get my dishes done! I’ve made a rule that if I want to watch a show, I have to be doing something productive. So, I often prop my laptop on the counter and cook or clean. (Be careful if you do this. I’ve had a few near-spills.)

The Coming Year

I’m looking forward to getting even geekier in 2010! I plan on buying a few domains (already done!), honing my gmail ninja skills, becoming more proficient in managing social media, investigating new technologies and improving my coding knowledge.

2009-10-22_105231 Want to contact Jenna Baze, the rather geeky writer of this rather geeky post?
Email:
rathergeeky@gmail.com
Twitter: @Rather_Geeky

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Remove Duplicate Contacts in Gmail with One Click!

Here’s how to automatically search for duplicates and merge them in one click with gmail's "Find Duplicates" feature.

In Gmail, click on "Contacts" to view your main contacts page.

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Click on the "Find Duplicates" button.

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Select Contacts you want to merge.

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Check off all contacts that you want to merge with the located duplicates.

Then click "Merge".

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