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Email Affairs – My Version of “50 Shades of Grey”

Gmail Intro

My first kiss with Gmail.

I have a confession.

As you may know, I am in a committed relationship with Gmail. I met Gmail about 5 months after he launched, back in 2004. Gmail and I have been together for almost 9 years now. It’s been a great relationship. He gives me lots of email storage, and a great interface. As our relationship grew, he gave me a wonderful calendar, then communication and collaboration tools. Yes, there have been some disappointments in our relationship, such as Google Wave, but there have been some great fun times too like “do a barrel roll”. (Really, if you haven’t done this, go Google it now.) Gmail has always had my back, he automatically saved all my documents at his house, with his brother Docs. (It’s a great app called Google Cloud Connect; unfortunately it broke when I moved to Office 2013.) Gmail kept all my information safe and secure there and he gave me the key so I could access my stuff when needed. He understood what I needed, and he even provided the directions for me to get there. He gave me great communication tools and an easy way to share my stuff. It was the perfect relationship. We even expanded our family when I added Google Apps For Business.

But, like I said before, I have a confession. I’ve been seeing someone else. I never intended to have these feelings, but they crept up on me.

You see, way back in 1997, Microsoft launched a fresh new email host called MSN Hotmail and I signed up for an account. Now, this was several years before Gmail stole my tech heart. There may have also been a short stint with Yahoo mail during this time (I don’t talk about it much). For those of you too young to remember, in the early days of email service, it was all about experimenting with different services, and not committing to just one. We were all so young and had multiple email accounts at the time. Gmail and I seemed to click, so settled down with him in 2004.

Every so often, over the years, I would check in with Hotmail and see what he was up to. Did he settle down, expand his offering? You know, the general stalking of a previous love. At first, it looked like Hotmail kept the status quo. Nothing new and exciting. But his sexy younger brother, Office 365, was breaking some new ground with small business. I have to admit, a new technology targeted right at my clients caught my interest. Not only did Office 365 target small businesses, but it also had a built-in relationship with my guilty pleasure, Microsoft Small Business Server. This was getting interesting. Then things changed in July 2012. Outlook.com launched; I guess Hotmail decided it was time to try something new and get back into the game. I started spending more time with Outlook.com.  And I was impressed. I loved the way he kept my stuff organized in folders, and it was so easy to share my files. He also has a built-in relationship with my desktop version of Office 2013. The more mature Outlook.com is looking more and more attractive with each new feature.

I haven’t committed to Outlook.com yet, but he is slowly growing on me. I still love Gmail, but his controlling and sometimes pushy attempts to keep me locked to him are starting to bother me. Outlook.com needs to take a few pointers from his younger brother, Office 365, and add instant communication tools, such as Skype. If Outlook.com can meet most of the functionality I currently rely on in Gmail, it may be the end of Gmail.

PS: I have never read, or intend to read, 50 Shades of Grey, so this may not be as exciting as the book to some.

My Calendar Tips For Keeping Organized

internationalWomensdayPoster_Final-page-0Earlier this week, I was privileged to be speaking on a panel for International Women’s Day hosted at Innovation Guelph. Each of the panel guests were asked to give a short talk about how they can help the rest of the group. My talk was focused on how technology can make our lives easier.

I presented three tips: using multiple online calendars, using Skype to enable us to work from home, and effectively using a smart phone. The calendar tips generated several comments later in the evening, and I was asked how to use multiple online calendars to keep family and business organized. Here are my tips and tricks for keeping my husband, kids, family, personal, and business schedules on track. My family uses Google’s Gmail, but this same method can be used with Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Both are free, cloud-based, and can sync to multiple devices.

Having too many appointments/events/tasks on one calendar can be too overwhelming, so I recommend a different calendar for each person and/or task. Using individual calendars allows me to focus on one person/task at a time. If I need a big -picture overview, I’ll turn on multiple calendars.

Here is the list of my family’s calendars:

(This list may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not very complicated.)

Husband – 2 calendars

  • Personal (karate training schedule, dentist appointments, etc.)
  • Work (on-call schedule, travel, etc.)

He shares these two calendars with me, but I cannot modify either of them. He is responsible for keeping his schedules up-to-date. 

Children – 1 personal each. My daughter has an additional school one. They do as they wish and I don’t have access to them.

Myself – 6 calendars

  • Personal – my personal appointments
  • Work – my work schedule including physical addresses of clients. I do this because my phone can read the location and tell me when I should leave to be at an appointment on time, based on my current location; but also for safety. My work calendar is shared with my husband, so if something were to happen, he’d be aware of my location.
  • Family – my husband and I both have edit access to this calendar, and both children only have read access to it. We use this calendar to track family events, such as birthdays, trips, family functions, etc. We all know where we are supposed to be and when. No more “I didn’t know we were going to Grandma’s today”.
  • Banking – all bill due dates, amounts, and other financial reminders are in this calendar.
  • Babysitter/Childcare – although this calendar is no longer used for babysitting purposes, it was used to keep track of babysitting schedules. It was shared with the babysitter, so she always knew when she had to be here. This calendar is now used for Summer camp schedules, ans we can track which child is at which camp and co-ordinate drop-off and pick-up schedules.
  • My public business calendar – tracks all public presentations, seminars, classes, etc. This calendar is automatically updated on my website.

It sounds like a lot to setup, but using separate calendars allows me to focus on a specific task or person. As the kids grow older, and the family becomes busier, this method lets us find each other and schedule time together.

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