Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Organizing Your Email Inbox (Outlook 2007 & Gmail)

Years ago, in the days when server storage space was expensive and small, I was forced to get into the habit of ruthlessly filing all of my emails out of my Outlook inbox and into personal folders which were stored on my hard drive.

Fortunately, storage capability has increased and cost has decreased over the years, so it's no longer necessary for your IT department to dole out email storage space like Ebeneezer Scrooge.  My habit of filing email has served me well, however, so I've stuck with it and refined it a bit over the years.

I create a folder for each project or client, sometimes with multiple subfolders under it for various major topics.  As I receive new emails, I read them, then if they don't require action from me, I file them in the appropriate folder.

For any items that I might need to reference later, I color code them by client/project so that they can be found in a "categorized mail" search folder that I've created.  I only leave items in my inbox that are essentially my "to do" list.  I color code the items in my inbox as well, so that I can see all of the ones I might need for a particular project at once in the "categorized mail" folder.

If I need to find an old email, I go to the folder for that client or project, or I search from the top level (inbox) and find it.  I don't like to keep hundreds of emails in my inbox, I just don't function well with it.  I don't like to have a lot of papers on my desk for the same reason (and I file those just as ruthlessly).  I find the clutter of papers or an overly full inbox to be distracting.

I can also color code my meetings on my calendar by the same categories, so my emails and my meetings for the same client/project are the same color.  This makes it easy to see at a glance where I'll be spending my time for the week (this also is helpful when reporting time).   Unfortunately, Outlook 2010  is a little tricky to set up with categories, at least in my experience.

I also use Gmail, which has categories, but they work more like labels than an actual folder.  Any item that I mark with a category will still appear in the "all mail" view.  They all still basically reside in the same location, but the views like "starred" or "important" allow you to see different subsets.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

I've noticed a lot of news stories lately about data thefts, identity theft and other similar issues.  Personally I have been lucky to never experience anything more than a few invalid charges on a credit card which have been noticed immediately.  I try to be smart about keeping my information private and not clicking on links in emails from strangers, all of the obvious stuff.

As a general rule, I try to follow these common sense guidelines:

  1. It's never a good idea to use the same password for everything that you do online.
  2. It's also not a good idea to use obvious passwords such as birthdays, the names of family members, etc. - these are too easy to guess or to find through a little light social mining on your facebook page.
  3. It's good practice to change your important passwords occasionally.
  4. Make your life easier when it comes to passwords and invest in a password manager like Roboform.  It will remember your passwords for you and keep them encrypted.  See for more information.  This is one tool that I've used for a long time and I've recommended to a lot of people because I use it personally, it's easy and inexpensive.
  5. Don't carry your social security card in your wallet.
  6. Use a  password on your mobile devices like your tablet and cell phone.  Also, if available, set up the app for "where's my iphone" as appropriate for your device.  It will locate a lost or stolen device for you and also you enable to wipe its data remotely if necessary.
  7. Never try to put electronic devices like phones, tablets or laptops in checked luggage when you fly.  This may seem obvious but some people do still try to do it and it never ends well.
  8. When using public wifi hotspots, try to avoid doing anything sensitive such as banking, just in case someone nearby is monitoring the wifi and capturing information from it.
  9. Use a password on your home wifi network.  This prevents anyone from using your connection and it also gives one line of defense against someone who tries to pick up your data from it (see #7).
  10. If you receive any offers for credit in the mail, you should shred them before throwing them away.
  11. You should check on your own credit report periodically, or at least annually, to confirm that there is nothing fraudulent on there.
Have any good tips to share?  Feel free to post in the comments.  Stay safe everyone.