Mailbox is an innovative and useful iOS email client. I was thrilled when I received my invitation to join and was only 4,556 in line (I signed up for the beta a long time ago). After using it now for quite a few weeks, what I find myself desiring most is desiring similar scheduling functionality in Gmail.
Mailbox’s scheduling capabilities is not new to email. Similar tools like Boomerang for Gmail, FollowUpThen, and FollowUp.cc have been providing mechanisms for you to help go through your email and schedule mail that you want to read at another time long before Mailbox was released. My personal favorite is FollowUpThen. What I don’t like about the workflow when using the service is for each email I want to put off for a few hours, I have to open the email (as opposed to simply selecting it in the inbox) and then forward it to the proper email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.). Even with Gmail’s quick autosuggest, this is tedious and time-consuming especially when I need to do it for many emails.
This past week was a very busy one for me at work—my personal email was the last thing I wanted to go through, so naturally my inbox piled up rather quickly. This morning I knew that I needed to go through it so I started at the top and began sifting. I use Gmail’s priority inbox feature which definitely helps me to act upon the messages that are most urgent. For me, email essentially has three different levels of importance when I’m sorting: Now (should act on today), Later (act on within a week), Never (archive or delete). Now is covered by Gmail’s priority inbox. Later and Never are not easy for me to see at a glance when pouring over hundred’s of emails at a time.
It occurred to me this morning that if I was to get through this email quickly, then I just needed to go through the subjects of each email and mark the ones that I want to read later once I’m done sorting. When I go through mass sorting like this, I definitely don’t want to sit there and act on any emails as I’m sorting since my goal is just to get through them all. I also knew that I didn’t want to act on these emails right at this moment but later this afternoon. Then it hit me, I could use ifttt.com to help me with this dilemma. I knew that all the emails I wasn’t marking were ones that I was going to immediately archive—everything else I wanted to read later.
I went to ifttt.com and created a recipe that would find all new emails in Gmail labeled “later” and forward them to email@example.com. This was quite literally the perfect recipe for what I wanted to achieve. As I was going through the emails, I marked all the ones I wanted to keep and read later and labeled them “later” and then immediately archived them. Sure enough, three hours later, they showed right back up in my newly emptied inbox ready to be read. I was also in a much better state to read them since my inbox was clean and I wasn’t already drained from sorting through the mass.
I’ve shared my recipe online for easy reuse by others. You could certainly create another recipe for other schedules. For example, if throughout the week you received various email newsletters that you wanted to read Saturday morning, you could create a new recipe that looked for emails labeled “weekend” and have ifttt.com forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I purchased my Raspberry Pi from Element 4U, I naturally wanted to keep it as reasonably priced as possible so as to avoid any feelings that I paid too much for this bite-sized computer. It’s very barebones system even in the sense of power. There is no power adapter or anything included due to the onboard USB micro port. The latter was chosen to the overwhelming popularity of USB and the plethora of USB cables one may have in their arsenal of cables. Luckily, I did have a single micro to USB-A adapter at my disposal. Like a little kid on Christmas morning, I ran upstairs to my office and jammed the cable into my USB hub and plugged the other end into the Pi. We have power. I proceeded to load xbian on my SD card and powered it up again. Near flawless execution.
Once I learned one can control XBMC from a remote app, I installed that on my iPhone and booted it up again. This time I navigated around and started adding my home server….bam….black screen. Numerous attempts of doing this back and forth restarting the darn thing, I went on the #xbian in IRC to ask what the deal may be. A helpful responder immediately said “Power.”. A few back and forths led me to understand that one needs not only a dedicated, powerful enough power source, but also a quality USB cable that won’t cut the resistance down so much it cannot adequately power the Raspberry Pi.
Long story less long, I purchased a power source and USB cable for under $14 and had it here in a couple of days with basic shipping. This evening I’m able to give it a try and now appears to be running flawlessly. Below are direct links to the product pages to buy the power source and six foot cable from Monoprice. Also, the USB charger is nice because it keeps the electrical port open in a very accessible way so you don’t lose a power port:
Often times the overall price of attending a conference is nothing to sneeze at when you factor in the cost of the conference, lodging, meals, and flights. You should ensure when attending on behalf of your company or for yourself that you are getting the most from your dollar.
Perhaps I never noticed this before but at some conferences I recently attended, it seemed only half the people in the session were actually paying attention to the speaker. I mostly blame this on modern technology and the abundant availability of free Wi-Fi at the conferences. Any of us, not excluding myself, can easily get distracted with email, Facebook, or the urge to look something up form our beloved electronic devices. However, these little distractions add up and easily get us further distracted which is not only a waste of time and money but it is also rude to the presenter giving the talk!
Below are some tips that should help you get the most of your conference, stay focused, and give your undivided attention to the speaker. Some of them are easy and some will likely require habitual changes that may be difficult at first but will hopefully provide better end results. Also note that these are just my personal recommendations and will not work for everybody. If you have other suggestions and ideas, please feel free to provide them in the comments below.
Successfully attending a conference starts long before you step foot into a session. I recommend that if at all possible you should book your lodging at the conference hotel. From a scheduling perspective, staying at the conference hotel—assuming the conference is at the same location—will provide you the most timewise advantages. For starters, you can sleep a little bit longer knowing you simply have to walk down to another floor in the hotel to get to the conference rather than having to be concerned about transportation to and from the conference site. In the mornings you can enjoy breakfast and coffee while catching up on news or email from work. At end of the day, you may revel in the idea that when you are tired, you may simply go back to your room and go to bed.
Close proximity to your room has other advantages as well. Attending conferences can be exhausting at times. Lets say you have a break coming up or there are no interesting sessions during one of the session periods, you can head back to your room for a power nap—a nap that is 30 minutes or less—to wake refreshed and ready to conquer the rest of the day. This brings up the point that you should get enough sleep in the first place. This is difficult to do at times as many conferences have late night parties or you are staying up at night networking with people. However, it is fair to note that your body can’t run on little sleep for very long so be mindful of this if you want to give your mind a fighting chance at staying focused during the sessions.
One of the trends I observe is how often folks seem to need to charge their devices either around the conference center or during the sessions. They usually choose seats near the outlets so they can remain plugged in the whole time. I used to do this as well but it really limited my seating choices and constantly stressed me out thinking I was going to run out of power. What I decided to do at my most recent conference was to leave my phone and computer chargers in my room. This forced me to conserve power by simply using them less. I will get into this more below.
The rooms at a conference center are notorious for being on the colder side. This might be welcome to some people but many people also find it distracting so I always recommend folks bring warm clothes such as a jacket or to wear long sleeve shirts. I was recently at the Agile2012 conference in Dallas, Texas which was in the middle of August. While it was very hot and humid outside, the conference center was plenty frigid. I packed and wore long sleeve shirts that I rolled up when I went outside, and rolled down in the conference halls.
Most conferences I’ve attended have food that is higher in carbohydrates and not as high in protein and especially not high in fiber. The latter two are really what are necessary to keep your body fueled whilst sitting in conference rooms all day. When food is available, it’s okay to have some of the carb-filled items but limit them and try to get more protein and fiber into your system, even if it means you have to grab a more nutritious option at the hotel cafe or local restaurant. This is especially important during breakfast time as it sets your metabolism for the rest of the day. In addition, it is always a good idea to stay hydrated with water but you obviously don’t want to drink so much that you are having to get up constantly during your sessions.
Before attending a session
There are a few more things you can do to help you stay focused, frankly, I think these are the most important. You should take a look at the schedule ahead of time and plan which sessions you would like to attend. This helps to ensure you won’t be scrambling at the last minute finding the right conference room or getting distracted in one of your other sessions to find your next one. If there is more than one session at the same time as another you are interested in, choose the one you would like to attend in person—don’t attempt to attend both sessions by splitting your time. This not only cheats yourself, but leaving the middle of your session and joining another is a distraction to yourself, the people around you, and the speaker as well. Often times, the sessions are videotaped or have an audio recording available at a later time. Slides are almost always posted online prior or after the session so it is a good idea to get those if you can beforehand. At least download them after to go over with your notes.
In the session
First off, sit at the front of the room if possible. I found this to be one of the most effective methods to help me stay focused for a variety of reasons. First of which, there is a better chance of making eye contact with the speaker thereby creating a stronger personal connection. Secondly, it is less likely that people leaving in the middle of the session will be exiting at the front of the room. Finally, sitting near or at the front will minimize the amount of distraction you will have from attendees in front of you when they are on their computers, fidgeting or other distracting movements.
It seems very convenient that we take our laptop and iPads to the sessions for note taking; I myself was a large proponent of this for quite some time. Your mileage may vary but what I found myself doing more often than not, was getting distracted whether I would check for new email, look something up, or other online distractions. It’s not that I don’t take these devices with me, I just turn them off as soon as the session is about to begin. Nowadays, I handwrite my notes during my session in a Moleskine notebook and more recently an Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine which allows me to capture and search my notes within Evernote later.
Handwriting my notes has greatly increase my attention span during sessions for the reasons I mentioned before with regards to distractions, but it has also allowed me to listen more intently and summarize the high points in my notes rather than typing rapidly—because I can—typing everything in sight but not really letting it settle in. I will also make additional notes or action points, as I like to call them, that point out things I need to look up later. For example, most of the “bullet points” I use in my notes are a simple dash/hyphen (-). However if there is something I want to look up later such as a piece of software or book that was mentioned, I will use an asterisk (*) instead. Furthermore, if there is a slide I want to revisit when I download the slides at a later time I will use a capital S surrounded by brackets [S] with the title of the slide preceding or following it. These two symbols standout amongst my other bullets making it very easy for me to find and act on them later.
Perhaps some people like getting distracted at conferences but I know for me, my time is valuable and I am much more interested in holding myself accountable to get the most out of them as they are a privilege for me to attend. As I mentioned earlier, please provide your thoughts and comments below if you have any other ideas or constructive criticism.
I love writing—I do. However, I often find myself telling people that I wish I had more time to do it. The thing is, I have plenty of time to write as long as I cut out the things that waste time in my life. I’ve tried sitting on my laptop whilst watching TV and find myself getting much more distracted by what’s on the TV than truly focusing on my computer. Sadly, I find it very difficult to simply turn off the TV and focus on other things.
I like great media such as really good TV shows, movies, and documentaries. What do I gain from them, though, besides their base entertainment value? Sure I can still enjoy these things, just do it in moderation like anything else in life.
With this, I am relaunching my personal blog as khay.es and will keep around kylehayes.info for reference knowing that I won’t update it anymore. I hope my existing readers (what’s left of them) will find me in my new home as well as connect with a wide range of new readers.