My Digital Trip Back to the Future

Two years ago my “inner geek” was elated! I finally had devised a system that freed me from the confines of Microsoft Outlook.

Using a Google App with my own domain name, I configured 100% of my email—representing six different accounts—to flow through one inbox. I also began using Google calendars exclusively to store and organize my appointments.

More than a year ago I opined in a blog post that “we are veering towards obsolescence if we are still anchored to Outlook or to a Franklin-Covey planner for either our personal or work calendars.”

Ironically, this week I have been swept back into that platform because of my employer’s nationwide standardization of information technology. Fortunately, the new, cloud-based system—Microsoft Office 365—is different and better in many important ways.

I actually welcome the move and understand the thinking of those who made this decision. Yet I believe that one size never fits all.

At the risk of sounding like a cantankerous curmudgeon, I still feel compelled to devise my own systems within the architecture that others have imposed upon me. As I have become more digitally-savvy, I realize that my data must meet certain criteria. My digital world must be:

  1. Cloud-based. One of the reasons I hated Outlook was that it anchored me to a clunky office computer. I needed for all of my important data to be readily available on any device at any time and in any location. I became an early adopter of Google Docs for that very reason, though I’ve since found much better options.
  2. Synced. I want my phone, my office computer, my laptop and my tablet to sync data so that any updates on one device will automatically show up real-time on every piece of hardware I use.
  3. Always accessible. I’ve been deployed on disaster relief assignments where I was unable on Red Cross computers to access websites where I stored important Red Cross files (e.g., Red Cross logos and templates in a Dropbox folder). I quickly learned that dropbox.com was a restricted website, though I was fortunate to have a jump drive with the necessary files. That wasn’t a good, long-term solution, however.
  4. Searchable. I was once a compulsive individual who dragged emails into Outlook folders so I could boast of having an empty inbox. In recent years, though, I’ve learned to search for what I need rather than vainly trying to keep it organize in neat folders and subfolders. Now, I keep my emails in one folder and I have been able to quickly find anything I need by using advanced search techniques.
  5. Owned by me. In 1989 I began to keep all of my appointments in a digital format, initially using a Sharp Wizard with a whopping 32KB of memory. Today I have more than two decades of digital appointments, reminders and events that have filled my life, both personally and professionally. I will always keep my official calendar in a safe place where that data is not vulnerable to the whims of an employer. I understand why employers are concerned about protecting intellectual property, but that’s not the issue here.

So, this week my technological journey took me on a trip back to the future. Yes, I’m using Outlook once again, but I’ve discovered something better that 1) meets my digital criteria 2) organizes me in ways I never imagined and 3) makes me a more effective, productive member of the Red Cross team.

In the next blog post I’ll explain how I am creating my own, customized system that is cloud-based, synced, always accessible, searchable and owned by me. Outlook represents a fairly insignificant piece of that puzzle.

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2 Responses to My Digital Trip Back to the Future

  1. I’m interested to hear more about what you’re doing now. My employer just dropped Outlook and mandated a move to Google for email; I’ve embraced it and started using Google Docs for sharing important information with co-workers and it allowed us to drop an outside vendor, saving thousands of dollars. Personally, I get my work and personal email on my Android phone which also syncs to include my calendar of my work, church and personal appointments.

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Mark, I really like Google calendars. I have six or seven separate Google calendars that “mash together” into one view. I can also select or deselect any or all of them depending upon what I am working on. One of my calendars is shared with a handful of co-workers so we can collaborate on vacation and on-call schedules.

      I also have several public calendars that I use. The three I use most are 1) US holidays, 2) the Royals schedule and 3) the Chiefs schedule.

      Like you, I use an Android phone which is powered by Google. Everything syncs, and any appointment changes made on one device immediately are available on every other computer or phone I use.

      I like Google Docs for collaboration or shared writing/editing responsibilities. I mostly used it as extra document storage in the cloud, and I’ve found Dropbox and now Evernote work better for those purposes.

      This is a fun time to use “the cloud” to be organized and productive. I’ll be interested in hearing more about The Star’s migration from Outlook to Google.

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