Productivity – Stay OUT of Outlook

As you will have read in various other places it is not productive to stay “in” Outlook and constantly respond to all the incoming e-mail.
It’s much better to go into your e-mail when it suits YOU – process your e-mail for a set period of time and then get back to some “real” work.
I had looked at various ways to implement this but it turns out that this is simple to implement using AutoHotkey (AHK).

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My podcast playlist

Just in case anyone is interested – here is my current podcast contents. If you want to recommend any of your favourites to me – let me know in the comments below.

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Nothing To See Here – Just Rescuing Time

I have gotten into a nice grove of writing a blog post a day – mostly describing some script, macro or hack that I have implemented. Today I have (rather belatedly) discovered RescueTime which will log and report on your online activities.

This has ironically distracted me from thinking about my blog whilst I install it on my phone and my chromebook. In return, I’ll investigate the API over the weekend and write up anything interesting that I find.

Let me know in the comments if you have any cool hint’s, tips or sample code that you would like to share with me.

Tools I Use – Auto Hot Key

I have decided to start a small series of posts where I share some of my tools, tips and tricks as to how I make my work and personal life a bit “better”.

The first of these tools is AutoHotkey.

“Fast scriptable desktop automation with hotkeys. Creating your own apps and macros has never been easier”

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Add Reminders To Outlook Appointments

A Reminder
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrew Coulter Enright

If like me your Outlook calendar can get a bit hectic and others can add meetings to your calendar sometimes you end up simply “reacting” to your schedule and jumping from one appointment to the next on “autopilot”. It’s at times like these that Outlook’s ability to create a reminder can save your dignity.

However, sometimes the meeting organiser does not set a reminder. I have created an Outlook macro that will look for incoming meeting requests, without a reminder set and give you the option to set a reminder.

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Stay Focussed – Stay OUT of Outlook!

One of my main productivity “sinks” is continually monitoring Outlook to see if any mails have arrived.

I have a rule set up that notifies me if an “important” email lands but for this to run, outlook needs to be running (minimised of course). I can’t resist the temptation to just “have a peek” outside my first thing in the morning, last thing at night email window.

To get around this I want to be “discouraged” from opening Outlook.

To implement this I have used Antonio Franca’s fantastic WinTrigger AutoHotkey script.

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A Personal Manifesto / Dashboard / Scorecard

Those that know me will agree that I’m a bit of a “geek”.

Whilst I don’t always chase the latest and greatest geek toys or gadgets I do like to try and find a practical application of how technology can help me. This is a side effect of being a Business Intelligence consultant where I am striving to maximise (and measure) the benefits for my clients.

During a quiet moment I pondered – If I was to build a dashboard to measure/motivate/incentivise “ME” what would be on it?

Creative Commons License photo credit: churl

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EMail–How I make it work for me !

I have been reading a few articles recently on e-mail etiquette and thought that it was about time I described how I use e-mail.

Inbox Zero

You can read the concept behind this here.

My inbox is normally empty. If you have sent me an e-mail and then pop over for a chat to chase me up and don’t see the mail in my inbox, don’t panic, if it’s not in my inbox it means that it has been filed, if required it will be on my To-Do list ( or will have an Outlook reminder tagged on it.

Yes I do have two separate systems, this is due to client confidentiality issues. I use a single system where possible.

Conversely, if you see my inbox is full, don’t panic, it just means that I’m busy working and have decided to not process my inbox at the moment, I’ll get to it when I have some more bandwidth.


As alluded to above, I don’t slavishly watch my inbox, I deliberately ignore it at times. If I’m really busy I’ll even close Outlook/GMail/Pidgin/Blackberry to ensure that I’m not disturbed. If something is urgent and I haven’t responded, IM me, or call me or come and see me. (I may tell you that I can’t respond at the moment, but at least you will know I’m alive!)

I have some colleagues that use out of office responses when they are “busy?. I don’t like this as it just adds to the “noise?. I may however book a meeting with myself to block out my calendar to prevent meeting requests when I’m working to a deadline.


To make e-mail work best:

  1. Have a meaningful subject.
    I will read the “blank? subject emails last!
  2. Have a “management summary? at the top of the e-mail that includes what if anything you expect me to do and when.
  3. Be concise.
    If I know it will take me 10 minutes to read the body of the e-mail, I’ll do it later unless you grab my attention quickly (see my previous bullet)
    This is one of the common comments on the e-mails that I send, they appear to be quite “terse?, this is not deliberate it’s my attempt at concise.
  4. Carbon Copy (CC)
    If you are just sending me a mail for “information? CC me rather than sending it TO me, it will get automatically filed into my CC folder which will get processed after my inbox.


If you must, feel free to send me a “Thanks? e-mail but it is not expected, I only send these occasionally, again to cut down on the “noise?. I can’t think of the last time I sent a “Your Welcome? e-mail, although I do really appreciate you all!