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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.