Thursday, April 30, 2015

Follow Up Then

The company for my day job uses Microsoft Outlook as the platform for e-mail, scheduling, and tasks. One convenient feature is the ability to create tasks and appointments from e-mails, add reminders to e-mails, and flag e-mails for others to respond.

Yahoo doesn't have reminders

I have often wished that my primary personal e-mail, hosted by Yahoo!, could provide similar functionality. The best solution has been to flag e-mails so that they are easy to find. Occasionally, I have also forwarded a message to myself so that I could modify the subject line to include a date. The problem with configuring Outlook on my personal computer is that it is only applicable to the computer but not to other devices (e.g., tablet and smart phone) where I also check mail.


Follow Up Then

Recently, I discovered FollowUpThen.com. The site offers the functionality that exists within Outlook but is missing from Internet-based e-mail services, at least the ones that I utilize.

Setup is easy

The first step is to register your e-mail address at FollowUpThen.com. From that point forward any message that is sent to the FollowUpThen domain from your registered e-mail address can be used to configure reminders, add tasks, and add calendar events.

Basic Examples

If you have received an e-mail that you want to set aside a certain date in the future or day of the week, you would simply forward the e-mail to FollowUpThen as follows:

Monday@FollowUpThen.com or July27@FollowUpThen.com

  • If you have received an e-mail that you would like to create as a task, or you want to create a task from scratch, send the e-mail to FollowUpThen as follows. The task renews each day until marked as completed or canceled.

Monday-t@FollowUpThen.com or July27-t@FollowUpThen.com

  • If you want to also send a text message via SMS as a reminder, set it up like this:

Monday-sms@FollowUpThen.com or July27-sms@FollowUpThen.com

  • You can also include specific times as well as dates or days:

Monday645am@FollowUpThen.com or 645amJuly27@FollowUpThen.com

Advanced Examples

In addition to sending reminders to yourself, you can also use FollowUpThen to send reminders to others. If each of the examples above was placed in the CC line, when sending an e-mail to someone, that person or group of people would receive the same reminders you receive. If you drop the examples in the BCC line, you would receive the reminders.

Tasks, SMS, and Calendar functions can be combined (e.g., Monday-sms-t-c).

Additional Information

Each time you create a reminder is created, a notice is e-mailed to you. Additionally, periodic summaries of upcoming reminders are generated by the FollowUpThen site. You can also edit and delete reminders from the FollowUpThen.com website.

Cost

FollowUpThen offers a 30-day trial of the professional level. At the conclusion of the trial you can continue using the service with free, personal ($24/year) , professional ($5/month), and company plans ($9/month for 2 users). Beginning with the free plan, each offers an increased number of reminders and additional features. 

If you need a reminder system for your personal e-mail try out FollowUpThen for the free trial. If you like it, as I did after sending one reminder, you sign up for the recurring service.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Webinar Review - How to write an e-book in an hour

Last week I watched a webinar hosted by Daniel Hall featuring Robert Plank. Robert is an online entrepreneur and prolific e-book author. Robert covered three different content creation strategies in the webinar. The most interesting one, in my opinion, was how to write an e-book in an hour.

Choose a topic

The strategy is fairly simple. The first step is to determine a topic for your book.

7 questions as chapters

The second step is to develop seven questions that address various perspectives of your topic. For example, if your topic was "Creating and using a blog," the seven questions might be:
  1. What is a blog?
  2. How do I set up a blog?
  3. Where do I get content for my blog?
  4. How can I share my blog with others?
  5. Which platform is best for my blog?
  6. How can I use my blog to support my business?
  7. How can I optimize my blog for search engines?

Why/What/How/What-if questions

For each question, ask four more questions:
  1. Why is this important?
  2. What are we going to do?
  3. How do we do it?
  4. What-if I do this ... what's the next step?

For example, using one of the seven questions above, the questions might look like:
  1. Where can I get content for my blog?
  • Why is it important to keep developing content?
  • What are some tools to create content?
  • How do I create posts?
  • What-if I create content, what are different ways I can utilize it?

Record audio and transcribe

The process, according to Robert, is to record yourself speaking on each of the Why/What/How/What-if questions for two minutes. Seven topics/chapters times four sub-questions times two minutes per questions results in about an hour of recorded audio.

Once you've completed recording the audio, send it to a transcription service such as oDesk.com to convert the audio into a printed document.

Publish as an e-book

There are several resources to format the text as an e-book and publish on Amazon, Lulu, Nook, Google, and other online bookstores. I will discuss this process in a later post.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Back on the wagon

I've taken a brief hiatus from posting. OK, it's been more like six months, but I'm back on the wagon.

I once had a discussion with someone about which is the preferred place to be: riding on the wagon or falling off the wagon.

The following origin story for the phrase is from The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins as quoted in the English Language & Usage page.

The original version of this expression, 'on the water wagon' or 'water cart,' which isn't heard anymore, best explains the phrase. During the late 19th century, water carts drawn by horses wet down dusty roads in the summer. At the height of the Prohibition crusade in the 1890s men who vowed to stop drinking would say that they were thirsty indeed but would rather climb aboard the water cart to get a drink than break their pledges. From this sentiment came the expression 'I'm on the water cart,' I'm trying to stop drinking, which is first recorded in, of all places, Alice Caldwell Rice's Mrs. Wiggs of the Caggage Patch [1901], where the consumptive Mr. Dick says it to old Mrs. Wiggs. The more alliterative 'wagon' soon replaced cart in the expression and it was eventually shortened to 'on the wagon.' 'Fall off the (water) wagon' made its entry into the language almost immediately after its abstinent sister.

For now, I am back on the wagon, and hope to post regularly.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Time Lapse Camera Apps for iPhone Compared

At the risk over over-simplifying the classification of video techniques, there are basically three video speeds: slow motion, regular speed, and fast motion. A variation of video that is played faster than recorded is time lapse. Time lapse video actually takes a series of photos and combines them together as a video.

When used with animated characters, this technique is referred to as "stop motion," because the characters can be move slightly with each picture, suggesting movement. While there are several apps dedicated just to this, I'll review them another time.

For today's post, I am sharing my notes on three camera apps for the iPhone that include options for time lapse video.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Learning to think book review

During my 18 years of education (19 if you count Kindergarten), I only had two teachers that encouraged thinking.  One was my high school science teacher.  At the end of class he would frequently say, "Read the chapter, then sit back and think about what it means and how it applies to the broader world around us."

The other teacher was a professor of psychology.  In his theories of personality class, he encouraged discussion and would incorporate whatever we were talking about when he walked in as the introduction to his lecture.  He gave partial credit for any answer that made sense on a test.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Organizational Metaphors

Many of us use metaphors to describe various situations.  We may find ourselves up to our necks in alligators or at the end of our rope or looking for a needle in a haystack.

Gareth Morgan took this idea and developed organizational metaphors to describe various types of organizations and forces within a company.


Each metaphor represents characteristics:

Brain = self-organization and learning
Organism = adaptable
Culture = social reality
Political system = bureaucratic structure
Psychic prison = limitations and little risk
Flux = continually evolving, permanent whitewater/rapids, never in total control
Instrument of domination = rigid structure, implied ceilings, rigid succession
Machine = routine, repeatable processes

Based on this summary of organizational metaphors, what kind of company do you work for?  What are the implications for working for a certain type of company?

Leaders have the opportunity to identify work cultures and encourage change.  However, this can take many years, depending on the size of the company.  For employees, if the company is stifling creativity or inhibiting promotion of quality individuals, it may be a case of finding a different company.

There are not always easy answers, but identifying characteristics of a problem - defining the problem - is the first step of making positive changes.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Create conversation

I recently came across a blog post from ideas.ted.com about creating smart conversation in situations where you would normally engage in small talk.



Here is an except from the blog post.  I encourage you to read the full post and download the book from Amazon.

One way to get beyond small talk is to ask open-ended questions. Aim for questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than give bland, one-word answers.

Instead of . . .

“How are you?”
“How was your day?”
“Where are you from?”
“What do you do?”
“What line of work are you in?”
“What’s your name?”
“How was your weekend?”
“What’s up?”
“Would you like some wine?”
“How long have you been living here?”

Try . . .

“What’s your story?”
“What did you do today?”
“What’s the strangest thing about where you grew up?”
“What’s the most interesting thing that happened at work today?”
“How’d you end up in your line of work?”
“What does your name mean? What would you like it to mean?”
“What was the best part of your weekend?”
“What are you looking forward to this week?”
“Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?”
“What does this house remind you of?”
“If you could teleport by blinking your eyes, where would you go right now?”