Category Archives: Tips

How to manage your email inbox effectively

These days, most people are bombarded with enormous amount of emails. Handling all these emails has turned the email from a productivity tool into an productivity reducer. Everyone seems to have his/her way of handling the influx of emails. Some boast very low inbox count but has a hard time finding any emails. Some would let their inbox turn into a reservoir of emails without an easy way to find any email. I, as a manager, has to oversee over 5~10 active projects at a time and I often have to plow through 300+ emails a day on average and I still have no trouble finding emails as far back as 7 years ago. I don’t claim to be an expert in email but I would like to share my ways of managing my emails:

1. Create a huge trash folder. Delete irrelevant emails relentlessly without filing. Filing someday-maybe-important emails are simply too time consuming. Copy your trash file every quarter or month to another named file and then purge the Trash file. Purging the Trash file would make the email deletion faster. These saved Trash files became your “circular” file. You may want to keep 3~6 months of trash file around in case you don’t want to miss anything important and would make your email deletion process more decisive and thorough.
2. File or delete as you read each email – read it and rid it. Try not to skim because you’ll mostly likely forget to read it again and miss an important email (like the ones from your boss).
3. If an email needs to be replied, click “reply” and save the email right away and then take your time to compose the email throughout the work day as needed. This ends up to be your to-reply list. Saving the email right away is an insurance against the frequent events of the email client crashes.
4. Use multi-level subfolders to file relevant emails for future reference. Try to keep within 3 levels, otherwise it gets very hard to find the folder and very troublesome to expand and contract folders.
5. Have a pen or pencil ready to jot down important to-do things to work on as you read the emails.
6. Set a moving window of emails you want to keep in your inbox. This is the same as setting a cutoff date of the oldest emails you want to keep and on a weekly or biweekly basis to purge/file emails to maintain the same window. For example, if you set a window of 3 months and today is May 1st, you should try to delete/file the emails up to February 1st. Then in two weeks on May 14th, you should try to delete/file the emails up to February 14th and so on. This way you would keep the inbox reasonable fresh. Besides, it gets easier to delete old email as they become less relevant.
7. Turn on the thread feature of the mail readers then file/delete emails of the entire thread – much faster.
8. Proactively get out of aliases that you’re no longer interested. Or set a spam filter to filter these emails out.

Please feel free to comment or add your tips.

How not to get ESD zapped while exiting your car

For some reasons, I’m a walking ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) zapper. I can accumulate substantial static just by walking around or standing up from my chair, especially exiting or walking out of my car. This problem has been bothering me for years, especially during the winter season when the air is dry due to the heater plus the cold weather. This may be due to the clothing I wear or my body composition that lacks conductive paths to properly ground myself (scientific explanation).

Whatever the reasons may be, I found a good way to prevent static accumulation. It’s simple. I touch the metal portion of the door while exiting the car. By the same token, I touch a large metal body (closet frame, table frame, and etc.) while standing up from my chair. By touching a large metal body, I basically drain the static charge into the large metal body, which is large enough to absorb the electron charges or provides a conductive path to the earth ground, so I don’t have to carry the electric charges and use them as a weapon.

Now, only if I can harvest the charges to generate power ….

Money saving tip: Stock up on AA and AAA Alkaline batteries

It’s a dirty little secret in the retail industry that lots of those items hanging around the check out register isle are often high margin items, i.e. relatively low cost with large mark up. The retailer makes lots of money from those merchandises because they tend to be low-price that people often buy on impulse, e.g. gums, magazines, candies, and batteries. Among all those things, I believe batteries are among the most “obscenely” priced. A typical name-brand (Duracell or Energizer) AA battery can cost as much as $1/each. And sometimes the AAA (smaller) battery can cost more, though they pack less power. Even when you buy them on sale, they can cost as much as $0.40 or even more. The fact is that you can easily stock up on generic brand batteries like Ultrablast and save lots of money. As long as they are Alkaline batteries, they last about the same time, according to Consumer Report and my experience. Even if they don’t last as long, you end up saving big money anyway. For example, I bought 2 cases (quantity of 100) of Ultralast AA batteries at Fry’s during a sale last year that cost me only $0.10/each. Just compare to the name brand that costs 4x or more but don’t last 4x longer. Even at $0.20/each, the regular price at Fry’s, they are still a good deal. For AAA batteries, you may want to go to eBay and buy them from the wholesaler by searching for “AAA wholesale.” Because AAA batteries are light weight (low shipment cost), they often are a good deal when shipment cost are included provided you buy them from the wholesaler. My recent eBay search turned up $0.16/ea at lot of 100 and $0.11/ea at lot of 300. Of course, you don’t want to buy too many as the stored charge gets depleted through time. But buying enough to last 2 years at one time should be just fine. I usually buy a batchof 100~200 since I have a toddler, whose toys need to be kept alive with lots of batteries!

Sometimes, it’s more cost effective to buy the rechargeable NiMh batteries depending on how long the battery would last. The recent development on NiMh has turned out very high-charged batteries (up to 2900mAH on AA size). A slow-drain remote control or small-size MP3 player may work better with Alkaline batteries, because it drains the batteries very slowly and you don’t need to contend with the self-discharge of the rechargeable batteries that require frequent re-charges, which is a nuisance and may not be too cost effective if you cannot and don’t plan to use the NiMh more than 20 times within 3 years, because of NiMh costs roughly 20x ~ 40x of an Alkaline battery and they usually don’t last more than 3~5 years, retaining less charge after each re-charge. I’ll have a separate tip on NiMh later.

I also recommend highly that you invest on a
DigiCam battery tester
. This thing will pay for itself within a year, allowing you to keep the good batteries and discard the bad ones. The beauty of this thing is that it’s a no brainer and it tells you what you need to know right away: 0% (dead), 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% or 100% charged.
DigiCam Battery Tester

Also, please make sure the dead batteries are recycled. They’re not easily digestible by our landfills due to its toxic contents. Most garbage companies would gladly take them back on a separate bag during garbage collection. I keep a bone pile of dead batteries in a drawer and recycle them when it’s full. It’s good for the environment and gives you a sense of accomplishment (due to the saving).

So my money saving tip: Stock up on Alkaline batteries and save!