Access Google without a Google Email Account

Posted on March 13, 2012. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , |

I work with several not-for-profit groups (and a few other informal groups) and we have found the Google Site and Google Group services to be very useful. They are powerful, easy to manage and free! But Google is a business and they want to know who is using their services. While it is possible to access these services without a Google account, you must still register your email address to sign in.

TO REGISTER YOUR EMAIL:

[If you have not already registered your email address with Google, do so by following these directions; you DO NOT need to have a Google email account!]

  1. Go to the protected site or click the link in the site invitation (or go to http: http://www.google.com and click, “sign in”)
  2. Click the red “sign up” button in the upper right corner of the window
  3. Enter the requested information (does not have to be a Google email) and click “create my account”
  4. Go back to the protected site and sign in with the email address / password just set up; if you click “stay signed in,” the browser will remember your password
  5. Accept the invitation (see your site administrator if you have no invitation)
  6. You are in!

POSSIBLE ISSUES:

Web browsing is everywhere and Google is synonymous with web browsing. Anyone who has been online for more than a few minutes (if you are reading this article, you are a candidate), may have already associated their non-Google email address with a Google Account and simply forgotten the fact. Believe me, it is very easy to do! How can you tell?

When you go to a Google Site (used to create personal or group websites and may be protected with security) or visit a Google Group (used for group distribution lists and keeps a record of messages sent), you are asked to “Sign in.” See Figure A, if this is what the login looks like, you have already associated your non-Google address with a Google Account. The process above won’t help.

Google Sign in where a non-Google email has already been associated with a Google Account.

If your “Sign in” screen looks like this, you will need to recover your username or password (or both). Click the link immediately below the large blue “Sign in” button labeled, “Can’t access your account?” and follow the instructions. You’ll need access to the email application where you receive messages associated with your email address.

However, if your “Sign in” screen looks like Figure B, the process above should work for you! Wait! You say. What’s the difference? These screens look identical! Aha, but they are not. Look in the upper right corner, the red “Sign up” button is the main thing that is different. If you see this button, your email address has not yet been associated with a Google Account and you can follow the 6-step procedure outlined here.

Google Sign in screen where the email address HAS NOT been associated with a Google Account

Good luck and happy surfing!

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Time Management 2.1

Posted on February 12, 2010. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , , , |

Borrowing from the popular Web 2.0 theme, I’ve been considering what would the next generation of time management look like… since a lot of really smart people have already been working on this topic for a while, I decided my work is nothing special so it doesn’t deserve a 3.0 label, but I think I have an interesting twist on a very popular subject, hence TM2.1.

Consider all the tools — paper-based, client-based and web-based — available for free or purchase. The options are overwhelming and it is not my intention here to create an inventory. If I did, it would soon be out-of-date… probably before I hit the “Publish” button on my blog!

And this is the inspiration for my newest quest in time management… what would time management look like if it were tool agnostic?

Time Management Without Brand Names

My time management practices tend to become driven by the capabilities of the system I’m using. When I used Outlook, I filed all messages in a single folder because that was all that was possible. When I switched to Gmail I quickly learned the value of using categories instead of folders because now I didn’t have to decide which folder to use, I could use whatever categories fit. Even then, after years of using Gmail, I rely much less on structured organization and mostly use the search  feature to find what I’m seeking.

Herein lies the problem, when I align my practices with the features of a product I become beholden to the product and not the underlying task requirement. This started me thinking about the basic building blocks of my time management system. The challenge here will be to think about each part without using the Microsoft, Google or GTD names! Instead, I intend to describe the specific task in generic language.

Correspondence

When I started my career in 1980, email didn’t exist. All correspondence happened in paper form or by telephone. Instant messaging wasn’t even a dream. It was customary to plan 3 days for one’s correspondence to get to its destination. If something was really important, courier services existed for overnight delivery, but they charged a high premium for the privilege.

With email, instant messaging, chat, texting and social network sites we now have many ways to keep in touch, communicate and reach out. Plus, the old standby of postal mail is still in the picture. I’ve not seen an interoffice memorandum for some time, but I’m sure some businesses and public organizations still correspond in this format.

Tasks

In my world, correspondence usually leads to tasks. A meeting with a colleague, an email from a student, and IM from my child — these usually generate something for me to do. I wonder sometimes if, what we refer to as time-management wouldn’t more accurately be called task-management.

Scheduling

For me, scheduling is really tasks with priorities applied. While many of us play with the idea of multi-tasking, such divided attention practices rarely produce useful, meaningful outcomes. They are better suited for monitoring or maintaining what is happening around us. When we need to devote our attention to getting something done, we must focus our attention. This typically involves setting a priority and putting it in our schedule.

People

None of us is an island, we all rely on others for even the most mundane of activities — try starting your day without using products and services provided by someone else! Whether the person is a loved-one, a friend, an acquaintance or a service provider, I am often challenged with keeping track of them all. Throw in account numbers, usernames and password codes — all of which allow us to interact with other people or the services they offer — and this becomes a significant element for time management.

Reference Locators

This group is particulary hard for me to describe without using a common technology label, bookmarks. Its purpose however — and what distinguishes it from the next group — is its reference to accessing information that is routinely needed. In the year of 2010, we are stuck in a transition from reference information stored in a physical place to storage in a virtual place. The result is, we must have duplicate, parallel systems that work well together. To complicate things further, items stored in physical space are of a variety of dimensions. While a file cabinet and storage locker may work for most items, there is invariably something that fits in neither. There is a parallel problem in the virtual world — bookmarks, pictures, email, documents, etc require slightly different treatment.

Archives

This the miscellaneous category. Pretty much everything I’ve ever dealt with has one. Those nasty exceptions that just don’t fit anywhere else. The typical characteristic here is they are important — otherwise you would have thrown it away — and the time horizon of need is undetermined — otherwise, you would put them into your schedule. The primary challenge with archives is remembering you have them and being able to find what you need when you need it.

A Roadmap for Future Work

This topic has been on my mind (and a task list) for months, ever since I struggled with adapting the outdated electronic systems used by the State of Oregon to my personal time management system. I still remember a conversation with my carpool partner Steve about the topic. I was frustrated and threw my hands into the air — I feel like I’m being forced back to a paper system, but I still remember all the problems with paper! I initially wrote this blog article on 20-AUG-2010, but couldn’t finish it.

Subsequently, I struggled with the difficulties of having multiple locations from which I needed to access information. The age-old problem of not being in the same place as my address book when I needed to make a phone call, and related problems.

In more recent days, I am worried about my reliance on any one product or service. I enjoy when my time management system works for me and stays in the background. I become discouraged when a provider changes a feature I rely on or a technology change out dates an application that is the cornerstone of my electronic system.

Having a roadmap that lays out the basic blocks of my time management system and its requirements is a useful tool for future migrations and tool modifications. We all know they are coming, it’s only a matter of time! I’ll use my professional blog as a forum for working through these issues and options and I invite questions and opinions along the way…

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Google Conundrum

Posted on January 20, 2010. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , , , |

Computers and technology seem inherently disappointing. Isn’t it amazing all of the things we can do today that nobody even imagined 10 years ago… Facebook, Twitter, phone apps, mobility, cloud computing, blogging, etc.

The problem is, when I find an application that does something I want — like Outlook does a nice job organizing a calendar and has a super powerful task function — there are trade-offs, Outlook is confined to a single PC. As computer hardware becomes more ubiquitous, being confined to a single work station, even if it is a laptop or a smart phone, seems silly and limiting.

From Outlook to Google

So, I moved on to Google. The Gmail email interface is more flexible than Outlook and replacing folders with tags was ingenious… and liberating. With tags and Google’s famous search capabilities, filing and retrieving messages is no longer a chore. Plus, I no longer I have to limit myself to a single piece of hardware. I can access messages anywhere I have an internet connection. Plus, the calendar function has evolved to be even better than Outlook (it didn’t start there!) Google is working on an improved “task” functionality, but it too is painfully so slow in coming.

Next Comes Mobility

Once freed from a single work station, my mind begins to worry about accessing information when I’m not connected to a network. Sure, I could pay my Verizon cancellation fee, spend an exorbitant sum on an iPhone and throw the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on PC-compatibility out the window so I could switch to Apple’s dark side, which also brings other complications. Too bad money doesn’t grow on trees. Plus, AT&T cellular coverage sucks in the small community where I live. And, all cellular coverage has holes. So, expecting to always have a network connection is such 2025 thinking.

Enter an iPod Touch. The benefits are great — in addition to getting a portable, flexible organizer that works even when the network is unavailable or inconvenient to use, iTunes allows synchronization with Outlook; Outlook will sync with Google and the whole system “hangs together.” The Touch does not require an expensive phone plan and it can sync with this time management universe through a small USB cable.

Onto Convenience

With computer memory so cheap and so many useful applications available, 64-bit technology is the next logical step. With old style 32-bit processors, computers are limited to 4GB of memory. That worked when there wasn’t much to run on your PC, but things have changed. The 64-bit processor allows virtually unlimited memory but also requires more modern operating systems and sophisticated software programs. Windows 7 promises many improvements over Windows XP (I never did make the step into Vista) and I dutifully updated all of my equipment to run Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system this month.

Now the Google Conundrum

Even though 64-bit technology has been around for years, Google hasn’t discovered it yet. While their Calendar Sync application does a wonderful job of keeping my iPod synchronized with Google calendar via Outlook and iTunes, it doesn’t work in a 64-bit environment. Windows 7 offers this cool gimmick called “compatibility mode” which allows a user to run applications as if they were in a previous operating environment. I say “gimmick” because it doesn’t work. Much like the play ground toys at my local grade school, there are lots of knobs to tweak and levers to pull, but nothing happens outside of your imagination.

And, I’m on my own. Nobody seems to have this same problem and Google has no plans to support 64-bit operating systems. Microsoft has no incentive to put its client-based application online in a meaningful way for an individual user. Apple is stuck in their arrogance of wanting to control all elements of their tiny virtual ecosystem. All those mobile app builders are busying themselves with more important functionality for the masses like Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars or iMario Lite.

Once again, my fantasies drift back to simpler days of paper-based Franklin Day Planners…

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Time Mapping Through Transition

Posted on July 4, 2009. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , , , |

Since reading (okay, listening on audio-book) Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing From the Inside Out, I’ve been fascinated with the concept of time as an arithmetic equation. That is, there are 24 hours in a day and try as we might, we cannot put 25 hours of activities into it. We can steal from other activities, but ultimately, if you want to do 25 hours worth of stuff (technical term) in a 24-hour period, it doesn’t add up. This is an important first concept.

Next, consider life maintenance activities, I call them LMAs for short. Within the course of any day or week, there are things we have to do to support our existence — things like sleeping, eating, hygiene, housework, paying bills, maintenance work, etc. These are things for which we can get great joy if we have the right attitude. I’m familiar with the zen-like state that comes while so focused on a mundane chore like cleaning the oven that I lose track of time and location. Even if you can’t seem to use the activity as a trance producing state of ease, the LMA must still be done.

Finally, over the past few years I’ve developed a belief that work and job are two different things. A job is something I do for money to support my lifestyle while work is something that feeds my soul, it can be either job or non-job related. For instance, when I’m doing “men’s work” or “volunteer work” I’m not getting paid, but these things feed my soul. Even when I am on-the-job though, I may still do things that feed my soul. Helping a colleague solve a problem or create a plan for example. But there are some job-related activities that do not provide intrinsic reward, I treat these activities like paying taxes — I gotta do ’em even if I don’t wanna do ’em. (more…)

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Levels of Perspective

Posted on April 20, 2009. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , |

Levels of PerspectiveIn his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen refers to the Levels of Perspective. The diagram at right briefly identifies the six levels, describes what they reflect and how often they should be revisited. The remainder of this article will address these levels and provide some insight into how I use this information in my personal productivity practices. Rather than starting at the ground level, however, I’m going to start in the clouds to provide perspective. As we move closer to the runway, you will notice a much more concrete sense of what is being done.

50,000 Feet

You can see a lot from 50,000 feet, in fact, in this model you can see your entire life. This is where we ask the really big questions of ourselves – What do I want to with my life? How do I want to be remembered? Why am I here? Is this all there is? It is critical to note, questions asked at 50,000 feet are the kind that have the potential to change us and the lives of those who are near and dear to us as well. For example, if I decide my job is not rewarding and I want to change careers, everyone in the household who relies on my corporate salary will be impacted – not only financially either.

Because such swings have far-reaching impact on our relationships – we don’t make changes at this level very often. Therefore, an annual or even bi-annual (every other year) or longer time period between examination may be appropriate. But during times of great disruption – birth of a child, job loss, death of a loved one, marriage or divorce, relocation as a trailing spouse, etc. – more frequent review may be appropriate.

The Fuzzy Middle

As we begin our descent from lofty altitudes, things begin to become more concrete. I tend to see the thinking that is done at 40, 30 and 20,000 foot level as a bit fuzzy. Fuzzy because it depends on your circumstances as to how important three levels of perspective really are. Some of us think in great detail and need to see a clearly defined hierarchy of relationships. Others are overwhelmed by the volume and frequency and need the space that less detail provides.

The reason I say these middle perspectives are fuzzy is that while a 50,000 foot level review is essential, for some having so many “levels” of perspective is not useful. What’s important is, what works for you. If you need to combine levels to simplify or keep separate reviews to feel in control, go with it. However, regularly scheduled reviews at monthly, quarterly and annual time intervals are essential.

Current labor force statistics show three years is typical for how long most of us remain in a job. In my personal experience, it takes almost that much time to learn a job well enough to master it. By then, it’s usually more satisfying to start looking for ways to impact my surroundings beyond just a good, steady job performance or move to a different job. By suggesting an annual review at this level of perspective, I’m really suggesting each year you look at the lay of the land (your environment and situation) and determine whether your activities are “in line” with your big picture. Deep evaluation at this level could lead to re-evaluating your 50,000 foot level priorities… or it could simply mean deciding to discontinue certain projects or activities.

VISION

Examples of questions to ask at the 40,000 foot level might be:

  • If I want to change careers, will I need additional education?
  • Is my living space serving me or do I need to begin looking for a new home – new community – or planning for a remodel?
  • Am I satisfied with my primary relationship or are there things I want to do with my partner to change our lifestyle?

LONG-TERM GOALS

Goals in this context are a more granular version of your vision. In other words, if you are changing careers and deciding you want to obtain additional education, you set a goal to identify what degree program to pursue, identify the best places and options for attending school and understand and complete the requirements for application. Each one of these goals should specify what is to be done, by when and how you will know it is complete. See my article on Linking Strategy and Tactics for a review of how to create SMART goals.

Plan to review long-term goals quarterly – more frequently if they feel more like “areas of responsibility” less frequently if they are more like your 3-5 year vision.

AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY

This could look like a job description – yes, I’m suggesting you review your job description regularly. If you work without a job description but have a manager, shame on you! Having a clear understanding of what you are responsible for on an ongoing basis is an essential part of effectiveness. Most managers will actually value if you take the time to evaluate what you are doing routinely and present it in the form of a description of duties. Areas of responsibility should be reviewed monthly. One client of mine decided she wanted to do this monthly review with a friend. We created an oral monthly review with a few guidelines, please A Template for an Oral Monthly Review for more specifics.

Current Projects

Critical to personal effectiveness is a regular and frequent examination of your current projects. Done on a weekly basis, this 10,000 foot level may feel more like tree top flying at times. Most of us have more to do than we have time to do it. This type of review is definitely about keeping your head above the weeds and ensuring you are using your time wisely.

Weekly ReviewAll current project must be reviewed weekly – except in extreme and infrequent occasions like vacation, crisis and rush seasons like the couple of weeks before 15 April if you are a CPA.

Note within the diagram, the very first thing to do is to gather everything together. If you are like me, work has a tendency to pile up. For example, I opened the mail in one room one day and a different room the next, I have notes from a meeting in a binder, a friend loaned me a book with a typed set of questions, etc. All of this should be in front of you within easy sight, preferrably in a single pile. Only handle things once. Pull out all of your lists of actions and either check things off (often I find I can eliminate a good share of the lists even if I hadn’t been keeping track during the week), prioritize things that are due appropriately and even schedule an appointment with yourself on the calendar to ensure you have time to get it done. Don’t forget to look at your calendar. I find it useful to look one week forward and one week back to ensure I’m not forgetting anything. Finally, after everything has been reviewed and dispositioned, update your lists and get back to the tasks that demand your attention. I find if I’m regular about my weekly reviews, I can get these done in as little as 20-30 minutes. When things are particularly hectic, it may actually be the only time during the week when I stick my head up at all to re-connect with my bigger picture.

A similar activity to the weekly review is done when things get “piled up”. It’s called clearing the decks. My next blog article will address this subject in detail.

The Runway

I do this one a lot, at least once per day and sometimes more often. At the beginning of the day (if I have time, otherwise the night before) I look at my calendar and task list to evaluate what comes next. If I’m consistent at putting things on my lists – scheduling work as appropriate and keeping my inbox clean – this takes less than a minute. By the way, I typically batch my email – meaning, I keep the inbox covered, closed or out-of-sight except for 2-3 times per day. I triage my inbox during these times – if I can respond to the message in 2-5 minutes, I do. If the message will take more time it goes onto one of my action lists.  In priority order I review my lists and inboxes as follows:

  1. Email and phone calls,
  2. Tasks scheduled on my Outlook Calendar,
  3. Tasks in my Outlook Task list,
  4. Email that takes longer than 5 minutes to complete,
  5. Things I’m waiting for or incubating,
  6. Finally, I’ll look at my bulk mail.

Next week, I’ll write a follow-on article to this called The Weekly Review.

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Natural Planning

Posted on March 16, 2009. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Because best is much better than good, it is always a good idea to take time to do some planning anytime you take on a project – even if it is a simple project, planning pays. The following 4-step natural planning model is derived from more than six years using David Allen’s Getting Things Done model (aka GTD) for time management plus another nearly 30 years of personal training, reading and trial and error. Although the GTD site is generally a good resource for tips that support the books, I found nothing on this topic, so I’m putting an article here for reference.

Natural planning is “natural” because we do it whether consciously or not… it happens naturally. What makes this concept powerful is that it specifically takes a “one size DOES NOT fit all” approach to planning. Sometimes having a robust and powerful project management software tool is necessary, these are also the projects with a dedicated “controller” whose fulltime job is to maintain the project plan and coordinate progress reports with the leads who are accountable for deliverables. Face it, 99.9% of projects do not have controllers and MS Project is overkill!

The following process works well using a spreadsheet program (Excel or Google Docs, etc) but can also be done in a project notebook or – my favorite – in the notes section of an Outlook Appointment or Task. (I like using Outlook appointments and tasks for two reasons, it keeps me in a single system and I can add a reminder.)

1. What Needs to Be Done?

Whether its just you or you and a hundred colleagues, explicitly stated purpose, vision, goals and metrics will play a unique and important role in getting things done. In more complex projects, these activities are often separate steps. When the project is small, they may be identified in a single step.

  • PURPOSE shows how this project fits with the bigger scheme of the company or your life. In bigger projects, purpose may never be fully realized. Then again, it might be as mundane and routine as “make sure my children’s teeth are healthy.”
  • VISION is the concrete form of the purpose, something you can literally “see.” For a company in the business of providing consulting services for a technology sector, it might be, “become the leading provider of XYZ services to ABC industry.”
  • GOALS are where you start to get “messy.” Some people will argue about objectives versus goals but don’t let that distract you. All are a form of nesting that simply make the goals easier to organize and track. Go with whatever terminology makes the best sense and get on with things. See my previous article on Linking Strategy to Tactics for details on goals.
  • METRICS sounds fancy, but only means knowing when you are finished. Will you have completed manufacturing of X number of widgets or will you have shipped them? Will you want them sold or is having booked orders good enough? It is always easier to answer these questions before you start than at the conclusion of the project!

2. Brainstorming

Having come from an engineer-driven work culture, I know very well the appeal immediate action has for getting things done. There is nothing more satisfying than identifying a problem, seeing its root cause and dispensing with a quick fix. However, often in life “slow is fast.” Meaning, if you have the time to think through various options, solicit input and gather data, you will be better off in the long term. Unless you work in an emergency room, first responder services or the military, there are very few real “emergencies”. (A wise, former boss used to remind me, “if it’s important it will still be here in the morning.”) A few hours of perspective or a few trusted colleagues’ differing perspectives may provide unique options you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

3. Organizing

Do yourself a favor, while your plans are fresh and current, write them down! And write them as if they are for someone who has no knowledge of what was discussed. In the 2000 movie Momento, the protagonist is attempting to remember who killed his wife, but he’s sustained a blow to the head and loses his short term memory. Every time he falls asleep his memory is cleared and he has to start over. He attempts to write notes to remind him of what he’s learned, but they are too cryptic to be of value. Don’t be like Leonard in Momento, write your notes as if you have no short term memory.

When organizing my project plan, I’ve found it powerful to collect who, when and how measured. That is, who is responsible for getting the task accomplished (you may find the RACI model useful in keeping track of roles and responsibilities if your project is complex); when will the task be completed; and how will you know the project is finished?

4. Next Actions

Make the question, “what comes next?” automatic after every meeting, phone conversation or commitment you make. Planning is no different. By asking this next action question, you focus your energies on where they’ll matter most – the very next step closer to completion.

Summary

My rule of thumb is, anytime I feel nothing is getting done, lower my perspective; and when things are chaotic, raise my perspective. Simply put, when it feels like I’m working hard without getting anything accomplished, my perspective is too lofty. Lowering my perspective means I switch from a focus on the big picture and ask, “what is the very next thing that needs to get done?” This usually causes me to split up my existing tasks or add new details to my task list.

On the other hand, when I am so deep-in-the-muck that I feel overwhelmed… my thinking is too grounded. Chaos is a sign of activity not guided by purpose. This is where reminding myself of why I am here is useful and can often provide the perspective to either jump back into the fray or decide to change the game altogether.

Happy Planning!

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