Email Newsletter Zero

Who is this for? Gmail users looking to automatically forward email newsletters from a specific sender into Instapaper.

Many say that your inbox should be a sacred place. I agree with the sentiment but suggest tweaking the phrasing slightly: Your email inbox should be a specific place.

For me this means that the emails that arrive—especially those I choose to receive—should drive me towards a specific action (e.g., answer this or click that). It’s not an ideal place to send something that I’m primarily meant to read and enjoy.

With the recent introduction of HappyLetter, many trusted and unwitting mentors have introduced email newsletters. These newsletters are exactly what I want, they just happen to arrive in the place where I want them least… my inbox.

When it comes to these kinds of recurring emails, I take an automated approach. I don’t want to miss these newsletters, so I forward them into Instapaper using a filter in Gmail. If, like me, you’re expecting to see a significant increase in the number of newsletters you plan to read, here’s how you can keep them out of your inbox while ensuring you don’t miss a single word of wisdom.

Note: The following process is for those using both Gmail and Instapaper, but it should be possible to set the same thing up with any email client and any read-it-alter service that accepts submissions via email.

Step 1: Find Your Instapaper Email Address

This part could not be easier. Go to Instapaper, sign in and click on the How to Save link. You can also click here to go directly to the How to Save page.

Image 1 - Instapaper_and_Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-3

Then scroll down until you see the section that has aptly been titled Add Content to Instapaper by Email and copy your account’s email address (I’d also suggest making a contact out of this address. That way you can forward individual emails into Instapaper with ease).

Image 2 - Instapaper-3

Step 2: Add Instapaper as a Forwarding Email

Next we’re going to add our Instapaper email address as a forwarding address. You need to do this before you can use the address to create your filter. Go to the settings screen (you do this by clicking the gear icon in Gmail), select Forwarding and POP/IMAP and then select Add a forwarding address.

Image 3 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-15

Paste in your Instapaper email address and click Next.

Image 4 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-2

Gmail will now ask you to verify that this is your account. Since you used your Instapaper email address, you will find the email confirmation alongside your Unread Instapaper articles. You can either copy the code they provide or just click the link to verify the email address.

Image 5 - __564229223__Richline_Group_Forwarding_Confirmation_-_Receive_Mail_from_michael.schechter_richlinegroup.com-23

If you have any trouble with the link, just paste in the code and click Verify back on the settings screen where you first started adding the forwarding address.

Image-6-Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-7-2

Before moving on, make sure that forwarding is disabled, otherwise all of your emails will be sent to Instapaper.

Image 7 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-10

Step 3: Get The From Email of Your Email Newsletter

Once again, this could not be more straightforward. Find a previous edition of the email newsletter and copy the From address onto your clipboard.

Image 8 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-12

Step 4: Create Your Gmail Filter

Now we’re going to create our filter. First go to the settings screen, then select the Filters tab and click on the blue Create a new filter link.

Image 9 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-11

If you’re only doing one email, all you need to do is paste the From email address into the From field. If you’re doing multiple email newsletters you can separate them with OR (e.g., Name@Example1.com OR Name@Example2.com OR Name@Example3.com). Once you’re done, click Create filter with this search.

Image 10 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-9

All that’s left is to tell Gmail what to do with these messages. Set Forward it to: as the Instapaper forwarding address we set up earlier, check Skip the Inbox (Archive it) and Mark as read, and then click Create Filter.

Image 11 - Gmail_-_Michael_Schechter_-_Work-13

And that’s it. From here on out, all of these emails will bypass your inbox and appear in your Instapaper account.

Yet To Subscribe To Any Newsletters?

If you’ve yet to try out any of these new premium email newsletters, I’d suggest This Could Help from Patrick Rhone and The Writer’s Whip from Randy Murray. I’m really enjoying these projects, especially now that they are out of my inbox and arriving in Instapaper where they get the attention and consideration they deserve.

5 Apps That Will Make Evernote Even Better →

Who is this for? Those looking for some of the best 3rd party applications for extending and enhancing their use of Evernote.

From Brett Kelly:

As you get beyond the Evernote basics and your love affair with Evernote deepens and you start keeping more and more of your life and work inside it, you’ll almost invariably come to the conclusion that you might be able to do even more with Evernote.

[…]

Having tried and tested dozens (and dozens) of different Evernote-capable applications and services, I’ve found these to be crazy useful.

A great list of apps for extending Evernote functionality from the man who literally wrote the book.

Really wish Powerbot would play nice with Mailplane

NOW Years Day →

Who is this for? Anyone struggling to effectively use their calendar.

From Mike Vardy:

As of today pre-orders are now available for The NOW Year: A Practical Guide to Calendar Management.

My podcasting partner-in-crime, Mike Vardy, has been hard at work on a solid overview of how you can put your calendar to better use. While the guide is technically a follow up to The Productivityist Workbook, his latest project also serves as a “how-to” guide for his first book, The Front Nine.

The guide only costs $5 and, if you order by November 5th, there are tons of great pre-order bonuses including interviews on how some truly smart folks like Erik Fisher, Mike Rhode, Srinivas Rao, Todd Henry, Julien Smith, Chase Reeves (and more) use a calendar to push their work forward.

If you’d like to check out a sample interview or are curious as to how I put my calendar to good use, be sure to check out The Now Year, A Practical Guide to Calendar Management pre-order page for Vardy’s conversation with yours truly.

What Am I Actually Doing?

Who is this for? Those who struggle to find a balance between what they feel they should do and what they tend to actually do.

From Chase Reeves:

Innovation comes from discovering what a thing actually is. It always starts with something and then goes deeper, closer to the core of what that thing is.

It’s not blue sky solutioneering or spit-balling. It’s, “hmm, I think people will actually behave this way, not that way …”

And that phrase shows up wherever innovation happens.

“People don’t want that. They ACTUALLY want this.”

I’m busy right now. Busier than I’ve been in a long time. This reality has contributed to the slowdown here, but I’d be lying if I said that was all that has kept this site quiet.

Before starting this site I looked at what I had been doing (which was essentially slowly and methodically dealing with my own challenges in public), then I thought long and hard about how to take that work to the next level (helping you more effectively deal with your own work). I determined what I thought would be the best way to build upon the work I’d been doing on the web. Despite still believing in my initial assumptions for Workflowing, it turns out I don’t care enough about them.

In his post, Chase makes a great point about what we assume others will do versus what they actually end up doing. I also find that the sentiment holds true for myself. I have to let go of what I think I want and embrace what it is that I’m ACTUALLY doing.

The more I think about this site, the more I think about the role I want it to play in my life, the more I consider what I want to say, and the more I consider what it ACTUALLY is that I do, the more I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to build a better site about productivity and workflows. What I really want to do is continue to push myself and hopefully inspire one or two other people out there to ACTUALLY do better.

I’m not exactly sure what that looks like, but I’m looking forward to figuring it out. I hope you’ll continue to stick around and, more than anything, I hope that whatever comes next helps us both to do better.

A Good Day For Evernote and Markdown

Who is this for? Those who use (or are curious about) Evernote or Markdown and are looking to improve the usefulness of either one.

Today there are not one, but two useful new tools that I urge you to consider. And both of them are made by wonderful men named Brett.

Evernote Essentials 4

Brett Kelly is introducing the fourth version of his Evernote Essentials guide. Like Evernote itself, the revised edition sports a new design and in addition to being rewritten for the newest version, it includes several new chapters.

There is an overview chapter on Evernote Business and a walkthrough of the new Reminders feature. The new edition also includes instructions on how to set up an new Evernote account for those who are yet to take the plunge.

My personal favorite new section walks you through how Brett uses the app. While I’ve always appreciated the broad appeal of both Evernote and Evernote Essentials, I found it helpful to see how Brett uses the application.

In addition to buying the book directly from Brett as an ePub, Mobi and PDF file (in other words, you can use it on everything from a PC to a Kindle to an iPad), Evernote Essentials is being released in the iBookstore for the first time ever. It’s also sporting a shiny new launch price of $15, a nearly 50% discount. If you’ve already purchased Evernote Essentials from Brett it is a free upgrade (unless you want it in the iBookstore, where it is a separate purchase).

If you’re new to Evernote or just looking to up your game, there is no better place to get started than Evernote Essentials.

Marked 2.0

Brett Terpstra is finally unveiling Marked 2 to the world. I say finally as I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the beta for this app since day one, which was in April of 2012. Yes, 2012… Brett has been working on this refresh for a very long time now and it shows in the final product.

Not only has Brett refined everything Markdown geeks love about Marked, but the new version is a leap forward. The app makes it easier than ever to view and export your Markdown text into a variety of beautiful documents or formats (including HTML, PDF and Word). Brett has also started a series of videos that shows off some of the lesser known features of Marked 2.

While Marked will be a delightful addition for fans of Markdown, the new version will even prove to be a useful tool for non-Markdown users as well (but seriously folks, write in Markdown). In fact Marked 2 is one of the few applications that will make you a better writer. Why? The new keyword highlighting feature. With a single keyboard command (⌘⇧H for those keeping score) Marked will highlight the words that the Plain English Campaign suggests you avoid. If you’re prone to overusing certain words or phrases, you can add them to Marked in the Proofing tab in Preferences and they will be highlighted going forward. You can even use regular expressions to highlight similar words. Overuse adverbs? I certainly do. By adding /\S*ly/ to the “Avoid” words Marked 2 will highlight any word ending in “ly” to help you to reconsider your choices of words.

Better still, if you’re working on a specific document and need to ensure that certain terms are used with a certain level of frequency, Marked 2 makes it easy to add on the fly temporary keywords. Just open the keyword drawer (by hitting ⌘⇧K) and enter your words, phrases or expressions. Hit CMD-Enter and they will be instantly highlighted in Marked. This is ideal if you need to see keyword density.

Marked 2 is a new application, it is not currently available in the Mac App Store and costs $11.99. It is worth every penny. If you write for the web, or if you write at all, get Marked 2 today.

Related Side Note

Both Brett Kelly and Brett Terpstra are two of the smartest and most generous guys I know. If you’re even the least bit curious about Evernote or Markdown, you should check out Evernote Essentials and Marked 2. I know you have far too many options for spending your hard earned money, but seriously consider boosting your productivity with two great offerings from two great independent creators.

Unpausing

Who is this for? Anyone interested in the recent changes in my world, the impact they’ve had on my personal projects and the approach I’m considering getting those personal projects back on track.

Pausing a project is easy. There’s often a significant amount of thought that goes into deciding what you will and will not continue to do, but the actual final act itself couldn’t be simpler: decide to stop doing something and then stop doing it. If you use software for project management, hit pause or put the project on hold and—like magic—watch it drop off your list and off your mind.

Over the past few months, I’ve had to hit pause on more than a few projects. I even killed some. Since January, I’ve been working on projects for my job that took significant mental bandwidth. For months, I aided in the due diligence process as we sold our family business. Immediately after we closed, I transitioned myself out of the company in order to go work for our new parent company. I closed the book on a 13 year career and watched what has always been our family business no longer be our family business.

This is all good news. I’d been seriously thinking of making a professional change for some time, and I happen to really like the company that did the acquiring. But these are big, emotional changes, and when I added them to a significant increase in actual workload, something had to give.

For months, things I care about have gone by the wayside. This site hasn’t received the attention I would have liked. Relationships that mean the world to me have been malnourished. I haven’t worked on the second draft of my book. This might sound bad, or at least unproductive, but the decision to pause these things is paying off.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m finding professional flow. The decision to focus on my career is helping me to make the most of my new opportunity. I’m challenged by the work. I like the team. And I’m interested to see where things go.

I’ve also benefited from the space I gave myself to emotionally settle the sale. This “exit” is something to celebrate, but I’d be lying—to you and to myself—if I didn’t need some time to accept the reality that what my grandfather created and my father built is not something I will ever be able to pass along to my children. I’m happy with how things turned out, but I’m also glad I’m not ignoring the significance of that truth.

Professionally and emotionally, I feel like things are on track. On the other hand, my personal projects are kind of a mess. When things were getting hectic I gave myself permission to take a step back, to ease off and give major life changes the attention they deserve. Now that the dust is starting to settle, I have to decide what to do about them. I have to figure out what to unpause and I have to decide if there’s any more that I have to kill.

I’ve tried to unpause it all as if no time had passed, the results have been poor and rife with procrastination. The reality is that I have to redevelop habits and muscles that have atrophied over the past few months. I don’t write as much as I used to. I don’t find my mind wandering to these personal projects as often as it used to. I could chalk that up to my being ready to move on, but that’s not really it. I’m just out of practice and these projects have been out of sight.

I really need to start revisiting these projects and will need to rebuild my habits. I need to prioritize the unpausing. I need to build back up some of my muscles. And once I’ve gained some momentum, I need to reassess what continues and what ends.

I’d love to make that decision now. I’d love to know exactly what I plan to unpause and accomplish over the next few months, but I’m just not there, yet. I have a good sense about what I’m doing professionally. Now I just need to dedicate some of the newfound time and emotional bandwidth towards figuring out what it is that I really want to do with my spare time. And then I need to dedicate myself to doing it.

In the meantime, things will continue to come a little slower than I’d like, here and on other personal projects. I need to get back on track, but I also need to be okay with the fact that it’s going to take some time to get back into a creative routine and to figure this all out. Pausing might be easy, but unpausing … it’s proving to be a lot harder than I imagined. That said, it’s time to start getting back to work. Acknowledging the hard time I’m having with that seemed as good a first step as any.

Productive Counterpoints →

Who is this for? Those who struggle to strike a balance of working on how they work and actually doing their work.

No matter what it is that you care about, it’s important to seek out those who disagree with what you believe to be true. When attempting to put your passions and beliefs in perspective, it’s helpful to find voices you respect, yet often fundamentally disagree with.

When it comes to the ideas of productivity and workflow – two concepts that struggle to maintain their meaning, yet matter greatly to me – Matt Alexander is that voice.

We’ve had our disagreements – both in writing and on the podcast – but Matt continues to be a grounding force as I refine my thinking.

While I believe in the importance of examining and refining the way we work, Matt does not. It would be easy to dismiss his ideas, to focus in on where he goes too far. Yet when I look past the hyperbole, he often has a point.

On this week’s Bionic podcast, Matt once again shares his frustration with the obsessive nature of the self-help and productivity genres as well as the authority that many within it bestow upon themselves. While I believe he goes too far, it’s difficult to ignore what he’s saying.

If you’re struggling to strike a balance between working on the way you work and actually doing your work, you’re going to want to give the first segment of this episode a listen. If you have a sense of humor and appreciation for the absurd, you’re also going to want to stick around for the very unrelated second half of the episode (be warned, it is very NSFW).

Like most things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Those who struggle to meet there goals should think about and experiment with the way that they work, but we also have to be careful. It’s easy to get lost when attempting to improve. It’s easier to optimize your skills than it is to use them.

Until you find that balance for yourself, keep experimenting, but be sure to seek out a few people like Matt to keep you honest.

Give this week’s Bionic a listen. It’s equal parts eloquence and absurdity. And if, like me, you’re prone to overdoing it with your attempts to improve, it offers a healthy dose of skepticism.

How To Merge All Of Your Inboxes Into One

Who is this for? Anyone looking for step-by-step directions for merging all of your email inboxes into a single Gmail account.

As promised, I’m going to walk you through the initial setup and tools I use to manage a single inbox.

The Service

A Google Apps for Business account serves as the backbone of my email setup. This costs $50 for a single email address. The account offers 30GB of storage, the search cannot be beat and—if you’re a fan of their interface—the keyboard shortcuts are fantastic. It also makes it easy to setup and maintain a one inbox approach.

The Setup

Step 1. Select a primary email address. First things first, choose an email address you plan on having for a very long time. Don’t worry if you need to make a change down the road, though. It takes some effort, but if you ever find that you need to move from one primary account to another, you can always use a service like Backupify’s Migrator for Google Apps to move your data from one Google Apps account to another.

Step 2. Start forwarding alternate email accounts. You should begin forwarding messages into this primary account. This process will vary by email provider. If you’re using an alternate Gmail account, you can do this by clicking on the gear icon in Gmail, clicking on Settings and then clicking on the Forwarding and Pop/IMAP tab. Click on Add a forwarding address and add your primary email account.

Settings_-_scheky1068_gmail.com_-_Gmail

You will need to confirm that you own this address by email. Once you receive this verification, click on the link to confirm that you own the account. Now you will be able to set Forward a copy of incoming mail to your primary inbox. You should also decide what you would like to do with the emails in this account. I would suggest archiving messages rather than deleting them in case you ever decide to go back to separate email accounts.

Step 3. Setup your additional Send Mail As addresses. Next you need to setup proper reply-to email addresses for every account you own (these are also known as domain aliases). This ensures that, when using Gmail, a message will respond from the correct account (or whatever account you specify). Go into the settings panel in your primary Gmail account. You can do this by going to your inbox, clicking on the gear and then selecting Settings. Once you’re in the settings go to Accounts to make sure that When replying to a message: is set to Reply from the same address the message was sent to and then select Add another email address you own.

Gmail_Accounts_Page

Enter your address and leave Treat as an alias checked. You can Specify a different “reply-to” address if needed, otherwise an email will reply from the email address it was sent from when using the Gmail interface.

Honora_Pearls_Mail_-_Add_another_email_address_you_own

You will be asked to verify each email address. If you’ve already setup the forwarding, these messages should arrive in your primary inbox.

Honora_Pearls_Mail_-_Add_another_email_address_you_own_verification-3

Enter the verification code and you’re good to go.

Honora_Pearls_Mail_-_Add_another_email_address_you_own_verification_code

Step 4. Add some labels (optional). While not necessary, I’ve found that the strategic use of labels can be helpful, especially since I have several email accounts. All work related emails (which accounts for over half of my email addresses) get the same label. This allows me to filter out all work only messages. I don’t use this all that often, but it’s a valuable tool on the days where I cannot even consider checking personal messages when processing my inbox. To do this, go back to the Settings menu, select Filters and click Create a new filter.

Gmail_Filters_-_Create_New-3

Include the email addresses you would like to apply a label to in the To field. You can do this for a single email address or create a filter for multiple addresses by placing OR between each email address (i.e. Work@Email.com OR OtherWork@Email.com OR YetAnotherWork@Email.com).

Mailplane_3

Once you’ve added your email addresses click on Create filter with this search. Last but not least, click on Apply the label and select your label (or create a new one). Once you create the filter, all messages received from this account (or accounts) will automatically include the correct label when it arrives in your inbox.

Add_label_to_filter

The Apps

Not all applications honor these domain aliases (including the built in mail applications on OS X and iOS), so be sure to confirm that your email application of choice honors these settings. My preferred apps are Mailplane on the Mac and Mailbox on iOS.

Mailplane essentially wraps the Gmail web interface into its own application, so there are no additional settings required.

Mailbox just added Gmail domain aliases in a recent update. Click on settings, select your email account and choose Gmail Aliases. From there you’ll have to add each address manually. You only have to do this once as your aliases will sync across the Mailbox app on various devices. Be sure to test that all of your domain aliases are working properly. For some reason, I had to completely close the application and reopen it to get things working. Excluding this one hiccup, I haven’t had a single issue since.

The Day-To-Day Use

Once this is all set, there will be no more checking multiple inboxes and no more worrying if you replied from the correct address. You’ll want to be careful when creating new messages as most email applications default to your primary account, but all of your responses are handled perfectly. The setup takes some time and effort, but it makes juggling far too many email accounts far easier.

One Inbox Zero

Who is this for? Those who are deciding between merging all of their inboxes or keeping their various email accounts separate.

On a recent episode of Mikes on Mics, my co-host, Mike Vardy, and I discussed our respective approaches to managing our email inboxes. Both of us maintain multiple accounts spanning our personal and professional worlds, but Vardy keeps his various email inboxes separate while I prefer to combine everything into a single inbox.

Tomorrow I will touch on the exact tools and tactics I use, but to start I want to explain why this approach works for me. I also want to give some background which may help you decide if this approach is for you.

I receive a fair amount of email. I average over 100 messages a day. I have multiple addresses that center around my job, a few for various web projects, a purely personal account and what’s known as a bacon account.

There’s nothing wrong with using multiple inboxes. In fact, Vardy makes a valid case for keeping things separate, but here is why I opt for a one inbox approach.

Processing More Less

Getting into a regular Inbox Zero practice helped me stay on top of email but was a challenge with multiple email accounts. Early on I always felt as if I was constantly neglecting one inbox or another. I also felt like too much time was spent jumping between accounts (and remembering which accounts had and had not been checked). I went down to three accounts that consolidated emails from work, my personal life and my various web projects, but even this felt like too much. So eventually I rolled everything into a single account. Even though I potentially see more emails in a single sitting, I only have one place to check and feel better about checking it less often. I also never worry if I am neglecting any one particular email account.

One Person One Voice

Despite the fact that there will often be a clear difference in the way that I talk to a friend, a stranger or colleague, I don’t like to over think the tone I take when responding to emails as I process my inbox. By having personal and professional emails sitting side by side, I don’t give myself enough space to worry about which part of my persona should respond. I just focus on the best possible response. Some people prefer to have one voice for personal emails and another for professional correspondence. There’s nothing wrong with this. I’ve just found it to be more efficient to blur the line.

One Search To Rule Them All

As my personal and professional lives continue to merge and as my memory grows ever worse, I’ve come to count on search more than I would care to admit. When I had multiple accounts, I often found myself jumping from one to another seeking a message from a friend who sent a message to my work email or a colleague who accidentally sent a work email to my personal account. One inbox means one repository. When I search, all of the correspondence with that person comes up. It gives me a more comprehensive archive of messages and saves me from ever having to wonder where a specific message lives.

Making One Inbox Manageable

While I plan to talk about the exact tools I’m using and how you can go about setting things up in an upcoming post, there are a few general best practices for applying a one inbox approach to your work.

The first is to ensure that whatever desktop or mobile applications you use properly handle what are known as domain aliases. These allow you to control the reply-to address with little to no thought. You can set these up so that messages automatically respond from the same address they were sent from, you can group multiple accounts so that they respond to a single address or you can have everything respond from the same email account.

Consider setting up filters that group related accounts. I use a Gmail label to wrap up all of the work-related emails. This way, if I really need to focus or have a heavy load on a particular day, I can just filter out unread messages using my Work label and not see a single unnecessary message.

Mercilessly unsubscribe from nonsense. A one inbox approach will increase the amount of emails you see when you check email. Mitigate this by unsubscribing from any and all unnecessary notifications, superfluous email newsletters or spam that finds its way into your inbox. This takes effort in the short term, but in the long run it leads to far less nonsense that to process.

Getting To One Inbox

This approach takes a bit of setup, but once it’s up and running, you can send, receive and store emails from all of your accounts in one place with ease. If you’re at all curious about how to setup a single email inbox, check back for the next post or subscribe for free to the feed for a walkthrough of the tools I use to effectively manage all of my email in a single inbox.

Podcast – Every New Beginning →

Who is this for? Those preparing to leave a job, start a new one or both.

Last week, I ended a 13 year career. Yesterday I started something new. Mike Vardy and I discuss this big ending and new beginning in the latest episode of the Mikes on Mics podcast. We examine how to best end one thing well while preparing to start another.

It’s an exciting time in my world and I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about in the near future, but for now, here’s how I’ve been approaching a massive change in my professional life.