What is the outlook today? Is the sun going to rise?

OutlookcomI have a confession to make. It’s perhaps not the most dramatic confession ever made on the internet, but it is one that is going to affect my “geek factor” (I was informed by a colleague the other day that I’m a geek – who knew!) You see gmail recently celebrated it’s tenth birthday and well, I hate gmail. You may think that “hate” is a strong word. I don’t. In fact if you are looking for a free e-mail service I now recommend Outlook.com (the successor of Hotmail). But no, that’s not my confession…

My confession is that my email program of choice is Outlook (no, no, not Outlook.com that I mention two seconds ago – thank you Microsoft for making things so confusing), but good old Outlook. The one you have to buy or get free as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription (more about that later). Okay, my geek score just went down to zero since all geeks of course use gmail and Chrome – yes I use Explorer too. I assume some of you will now be so unimpressed with my lack of geekiness, and will stop reading right now so to you I bid farewell.

pizzaFor those of you who are still intrigued by my insistence on continuing to use Outlook, I will recall years ago sitting in Pizza May on Rechov HaPalmach and a friend of mine that we’ll call Dan for the purpose of this conversation, told me that he had just installed the new version of Outlook and informed me that I shouldn’t bother since it was a huge memory hog. Well in those days that kind of mattered. Today I have 64-bit Windows using 64-bit Outlook on a machine with an SSD and 16GB of RAM (hey has my geek status been reinstated?) so I don’t really care. Outlook does for me what I need and gmail most certainly doesn’t. But this post is not about email per se, but rather about how I use Outlook to organize my business.

Nelson-Email-Organizer-thumbOkay, first and foremost, a post like this can’t be written without giving at least one method of organizing one’s email. After all, I am talking about Outlook. I’ve tried different solutions including one of my old favourite’s: NEO. This software actually taught me an excellent way of organizing my email but now my needs are different.

I also used to be a great fan of folders, but my system now is much simpler – I have one folder and it’s the Archive folder. It used to be called the “done” folder but by changing it to the Archive folder, I can file away on my iPhone with one tap on the archive button. That’s it! Email stays in my inbox until I’ve dealt with it. Part two of my system is to make sure that I don’t have more than 30 emails in my inbox (although I must confess right now I have 97 😦 ). Now sometimes I need to keep emails for projects and then I use categories and I do use folders for very special occasions…

RBtOkay, but actually I want to introduce you to a tool that I’ve been using for perhaps a decade. You see as well as wearing the publisher hat, I have another hat and that is as of Typesetter at Renana. I could invent a cool title but I will just leave the word typesetter capitalized and hope you are suitably impressed. Oh and whilst I’m talking about Renana Books, our new website is live selling not only digital books, but our new print books from Renana Publishers too! Go and check it out at www.renanabooks.com.

Right, back to the plot…. Clients give me work and of course they want to know when I will be finished with it. The problem with the nature of my work is that I will typeset the first draft of a book, send back to the client and then wait. And wait. It could come back a few days later and it could come back six months later. So I need a way to manage my time.

tasklineThe answer, for me at least, is a piece of software Taskline. They have just come out with a new version and I’ve been using it for years. It also helps me see how long each job actually takes to do and disciplines me. Taskline integrates with Outlook. The coolest thing now is that I keep an iPad on my desk with my calendar open and I see what I have scheduled for me since my calendar is synchronized. Oh and you know that Microsoft finally released Office for iPad? And if you have that Office 365 subscription it’s free – yeah that was the more about that later!

You would think that having a fast computer with three screens would be enough, but funnily enough, I use iOS for a couple of other things, and not my iPad either, but davka my iPhone.

ikaluachThe first is iKaluach. This is the definitive zmanim app on the iPhone. For me it’s critical since often my projects are time critical with the Jewish calendar such as a parshat hashavua but also tells me zmanim based on my location (very useful for davening times). This is an app that you must just go and buy now!

And another app that has become really useful for me due to one feature is Sunrise. What distinguishes this app for me is that it tells me exactly how many minutes to my next appointment (again usually Minḥa).

Anyway, better go an pick up my son from school… Shabbat Shalom!

Wearable tech: my new watch

When my father passed away recently I inherited his gold watch. Like most watches, it tells the time. The design is timeless and despite the fact that my father received this for his wedding the watch looks great on my wrist.

Looking at the watch I was admiring how thin the watch was and it occurred to me that there was no battery inside. A wind-up watch. Remember those? I was thinking what features watches have that we take for granted and I realised that the biggest innovation was the battery. Yes watches today might have the date (well even then they had those) or a stopwatch but I think that we look at watches differently; we don’t think of what features a watch has, but rather as being individual pieces of jewelry, perhaps in the case of men, the last bit of jewelry that we are “allowed” to wear (with the possible exception of cuff links.)

siemens-s551Those of you who know me, know that I love technology. I remember bringing a Siemens S55 phone from the UK because not only was it colour, but it had Bluetooth (it also had a clip-on camera with flash!). Bluetooth headsets were expensive and were, well, pretty rubbish. I have had a quite a few Bluetooth headsets over the years and I always gave up pretty quickly for two reasons 1) the sound quality was awful and 2) it was always cumbersome to switch the call from the phone to the headset and vice versa.

voyager-legend_bRecently I decided to try again and this time it was in the form of the Plantronics Voyager Legend. It’s not the scope of this blog post to give it a review but let’s suffice to say that if you are looking for a Bluetooth headset that just works then this is the one to buy. The sound quality is superb and it has built-in intelligence that it knows when it’s on your head or when it’s sitting on your desk making picking up the call very easy. If it is on my desk and somebody calls I have two choices: pickup my mobile phone and not use the headset, or if I want I can simply put the headset over my ear and it answers automatically. Want to switch in the middle of the call? Simply put the headset on. Want to pass the phone to somebody to use without your headset? Simply remove the headset from your head and give them the phone. The call transfers automatically to the phone. You are already wearing the headset and somebody calls? It whispers the name of the person (even if you have an iPhone), and say “answer” or “ignore” – very useful if you have your hands full and you can’t raise your hand to press the button on your headset. Go and buy one!

My business partner has a pebble watch. It made me think. I know how my headset has been so incredibly useful. Would a pebble watch be useful? I’m in a meeting and my watch vibrates to let me know something. Hmm. Is that more subtle than my phone vibrating? Can I look at that notification more discreetly than looking at my phone? Another use-case scenario is sports. I run.
Garmin Forerunner 910XT

Well you know what? I have a Garmin Forerunner 910XT. It has a built-in GPS, doesn’t need to connect to my phone. It also tells me absolutely everything I need to know about my run and even counts how many laps I’ve swam in the pool. Yes, I have to change watch before I go for a run, but I don’t know about you, but I also change my clothes before running too!

I guess my only case-use for a pebble watch is when I’m cleaning the house and rather than taking out my phone every time a notification comes in, I could simply look at my wrist to see the notification, but since I try to avoid cleaning the house…

Truth be told, for a person that is out and about all day, be it a realtor or a doctor doing rounds at a hospital, a pebble watch is probably very useful, but for me, I spend most of my work day in front of a computer so will my next gadget be a smart watch? Not unless you are buying me one 🙂

I suppose the ultimate wearable tech is google glass. I’m not so interested in glass per se, but rather the technology that is coming out of the project.

One such technology is a smart contact lens. No, we are not talking about google glass tech on a contact lens à la Continuum, but rather a way for diabetics to track their glucose without having to take a blood sample. This kind of wearable tech is very exciting.

In the meantime, I will enjoy my father’s gold watch when I wear it on special occasions and admire it’s timeless beauty and sentimentality. For the rest of the time I will continue to wear the watch that I received from my wife and in-laws when I got married which has it’s own individuality and special meaning.