Top 3 Gmail Hacks

If you use Gmail, chances are you did not know of a few features that can truly help you out when it comes to managing your inbox, your outbox, or any aspect of your Gmail account. Whether you use the browser version or rely on POP’ing your e-mail to something like Outlook or your iPad, these three features are indispensable.

  1. Dots – if you have a Gmail address, there is a good chance you signed up with either a concatenated name (e.g. JonSmithe@gmail.com), or got “tricky” by adding a dot to it for readability or because it seemed available (e.g. Jon.Smithe@gmail.com).  In actuality, Gmail does not care if, where, or how many dots are in your name. It could be J.o.n.S.m.i.t.h.e@gmail.com – any iteration will end up delivered to your Gmail inbox. The beauty is that you can then use one e-mail address to pre-filter e-mail. Signing up for e-mail from an eCommerce site – use Jon.Smith.e@gmail.com and set-up a filter in Gmail (or rule in Outlook) to route those to an eCommerce folder.
  2. Ooops – Gmail has a function that allows you to “undo” an e-mail just sent (this is in the browser version). To do so, you have to enable the feature under settings. Settings can be accessed at the top of the mail window (looks sort of like a gear/bolt). From there, hover over settings and click. From there, hover over “Labs” in the top navigation and click. Scroll almost to the bottom (the tools are listed alphabetically) and click the radio button next to “enable”. You are now set to create a “pause” in the send process. The next time an e-mail is written and send is clicked, a yellow bar will appear at the top. If you need to suddenly stop it, click “undo” and you are safe to go back and update your error (or mood/tone). To do the same in Outlook, set up a rule to delay the delivery in the outbox for ‘X’ amount of time.
  3. Timing – Some people are “early”people. Others are”late” people. Want to try to fit in more with when people do and/or expect things? There are tools to allow you to select the send time for your e-mails. In the browser version, you can use Boomerang for Gmail. This is a Firefox/Chrome plug-in that helps you to schedule the optimal time to send. In Outlook, you can use the “delay delivery” function by clicking the proper icon.

Delay_Delivery

Be Ready For Heart Attacks

I have written before about paying attention for the signs of a stroke. Although traumatic experiences often cause people to become confused, desperate, and scared, it is extremely important to learn ahead of time ways to identify issues and, when possible, be able to act quickly to minimize long-term effects.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Patti Frenette. Patti is a spunky entrepreneur based in Dallas that has developed a handy little product that can literally help save your life. That product is called Aspirinpod. Patti developed the concept of Aspirinpod when she was advised of the benefit and immediate impact of aspirin related to heart conditions. Specifically, when a cardiac event is occurring, chewing a single, un-coated 325mg aspirin during the event can minimize the impact on the heart and increase the chance of survival. In fact, the FDA reports that this action not only saves lives, it also decreases heart damage.

When it comes to inventing products, it is important to develop something that is useful, handy, and readily available. Patti created the Aspirinpod with these things in mind. The Aspirinpod is a mini heart – actually shaped like an anatomical heart. It attaches easily to a key-chain  bag-strap  or other accessible accessory. Within the Aspirinpod (which opens like a pendant), can be stored a single Aspirin.

Note, this has to be aspirin (i.e. acetylsalicylic acid), not just any pain reliever.

Immediately, when heart attack symptoms occur, call 9-1-1, then chew the aspirin. Acting quickly and thoughtfully, can save a life and reduce lasting damage.

 

What to do With a Tax Refund

IRS Tax Refund

It is hard to believe that tax filings were due six weeks ago. So, it is about time that those getting refunds are receiving checks or electronic deposits. It is often difficult to find fruitful ways to use the money. Keeping in mind this was your money to begin with, it is always a good idea to use the proceeds to invest in more ways to save money.

Here are a few ideas –

  1. Start, or add to, an emergency fund. If we have learned anything in the last five years of economic uncertainty, it is to be ready with back-up funds for whatever unexpected thing comes your way.
  2. Invest in yourself – consider taking a course in something that sparks a new career interest. Or, buy some workout equipment to get in shape.
  3. Invest in Assets – thinking about buying some land or a new vehicle? This money could be used to lower future payments.
  4. Retirement – put money away now, and watch it grow tax free – win, win.
  5. Pay down debt – the sooner that debt goes away, the less interest you are paying. Less interest means more available for other needs later.
  6. Selling your home? – use a refund to spruce up areas of your home and maximize the re-sale potential.
  7. Energy Savings – ever consider new appliances or energy saving alternatives? This money could be used to upgrade and then save over the long term.
  8. Get prepared – use funds to stockpile canned foods, water, batteries or other items needed during storms or other catastrophes.
  9. Health – if you have been putting off getting a health issue checked, now is the time.
  10. Travel – put a down payment toward a trip you have been considering. The bite will be less later.
  11. Charity – nothing feels better than helping those that need it. Donate to a local cause or a large charity with strong discipline to meet their intended goals.

It is always better to look forward and plan good uses than to look back and wonder where it all ended up.

Play Atari Breakout on Google Images

The Google team has struck again(more fun with search). The easter eggs that this team develops and delivers means never a dull moment when searching. This time they have embedded a version of Atari Breakout. To play, go to Google Images. In the search box type in Atari Breakout. Wait a few seconds and the results will re-align into a brick grid and a ball and paddle will appear. Just use your keyboard arrows or mouse to move the paddle back and forth. Can you beat your high score from the 80’s?

Atri Breakout on Google

Look Back to Look Forward

When I started this blog about four years ago (really the second incarnation of it), I wanted to be able to capture general musings about disintegrated things.  For the most part, I think I have done that.

I have one post that gets about 10-15 visits per day (New Indicator of a Stroke – The Tongue).  Others show up in searches, apparently, at random times.  So, last week, I decided to go back to the beginning and stroll forward through the posts.  Now I see why Facebook was so interested in the timeline format and why Google plays the commercial, over and over again, about the dad writing e-mails to his child.  Sometimes we have to look back to look forward.  The memories are as important as the things to which we strive.  I highly suggest spending time re-reading the posts that have been written and hearken back to how, why and to whom they were written.  The value is immense.

Josh Hamilton – Two Weeks in Baseball

Josh Hamilton is an amazing person – and an amazing ballplayer.  As happens in baseball, streaks are a common occurrence.  Players will slump for a period of time, and then break out for no reason.  Conversely players may hit everything in sight only to fall back to baseball average.  Such was the case for Josh over a short, two-week period.  He reached the pinnacle of performance and then came back to his average play – all in 14 days.  Here are the stats of interest:

May 7 – 13 – Josh hit .467 with 9 home runs and 18 RBI.  This included one game with 4 home runs, 8RBI and 18 total bases (the first tied a record and the last is a new A.L. record).  This is an incredible week by pretty much all standards.  With every great accomplishment comes an offset to bring things back into a state of equilibrium.

May 14 – 20 – Josh hit .318 with no home runs and 3 RBI.  The average is more average, but the home runs and RBI dropped way down.  Despite this, Josh remains a leader in most categories in baseball.

Above all was how Josh handled the ebb and flow of the game.  He worked hard, played hard, respected the game and stayed positive.  What a joy he has been for the Rangers and DFW sports.

My Top 10 Live Sports Events

I am a sports fan through and through.  Beyond the normal American sports of baseball, basketball and football, I tend to like other sports with a more global appeal.  The list below includes some homegrown sports, but I have also been blessed to go outside of the United States and see sports in other countries.  In recounting this list I realized what great experiences I have had and it makes me look forward to the next opportunity see see something  new and even more exciting (first thoughts include: Cricket in India, Formula 1 in Europe, and either Rugby or Australian Rules Football in Australia).

Now for the list (in order of enjoyment and the breadth of the experience)

  1. VLN 6 hour Enduro at The Ring – Nurburgring – Nurburg, Germany – August 26, 2006; Guest of Hermann Tilke — My business partner, Steve Patti, and I got to travel over to Aachen, Germany to meet with Hermann Tilke and his firm to discuss a unique business concept in Central Texas.  As the meeting was ending he invited us to be his personal guests at the VLN 6 hour Enduro taking place that weekend at The Ring.  The cars were awesome. The racing celebrities were mixing with the people. The experience was unforgettable.  My new love for auto racing was born.
  2. Arsenal v. Man City – Emirates Stadium – London, England – April 4, 2009; — Being in London for the 2009 Linkshare Symposium, my business associate, Alan Rapoport, and I wanted to do something memorable.  I looked on Craigslist for some football tickets for any club playing in the city that weekend.  A nice listing from Peter Egbe turned up, I rang him and we were confirmed to meet him at the stadium.  The tickets were expensive relative to American sports.  However, once inside the stadium we were treated to the ultimate English football experience. Not only were the seats spectacular, but we were sitting in the section that originates the yells, chants, and singing.  So, we were thoroughly immersed in the experience that day.
  3. 1986 Texas-OU Game – Dallas, TX — Brian Bosworth was arguably the best linebacker in college football.  The Texas Longhorns were at the tail end of the Fred Akers era.  Akers was already getting the “Fire Fred” attention so Bosworth wrote “Fred” and “Akers” on the tape on his shoes. He wanted Fred to stay so that OU could continue to dominate Texas. I watched Boz through binoculars most of the game. I have never seen a more intense player in college football.
  4. 2009 Bristol Fall NASCAR Race – Bristol, TN — My dad and I flew into Knoxville, TN for my first opportunity to see a NASCAR race live.  It was great having my dad there (he grew up in Tennessee) and we were treated to a great experience because my company had a box at the race.  Being the “stadium racing” event that it was, it was not short on action. As a part of being in the box, we got to draw a driver at random with a little prize money attached if the driver placed 1st, 3rd, or 5th.  I drew Kyle Busch – my least favorite driver.  He ended up winning and the cost of the trip was covered!!
  5. June 30, 1998 – Chicago Cubs v. Arizona Diamondbacks –  Sammy Sosa hits 20th HR in June (still a record for any month in baseball history) – On a spur of the moment, with two business colleagues in tow, we decided to take the train down Wrigley from the client with which we were working.  We bought a few scalped tickets (and they were amazingly cheap in the upper deck).  Sitting and looking straight down the first base line we watched Sosa hit a monster shot over the right field wall.  While not high (it never got higher than we were sitting), it was still rising when it got over the wall and onto the street.
  6. Winnipeg Jets v. Minnesota Wild – December 13, 2011 – Winnipeg, Canada — Again on a business trip, my colleague and I were hopeful to get to see a Winnipeg Jets game.  I have always been a hockey fan, but an opportunity to see hockey in Canada would be truly spectacular. The game was more than sold-out (street tickets were going for $400). With the return of the Jets to Canada after a long absence, the fans were the most supportive group I have ever seen for hockey.  Luckily the company we were visiting was able to get us two tickets (and provided an authentic Jets sweater) and we got to see the Jets beat the Wild.  I am now a Jets fan and Canadian hockey is the best hockey on earth.
  7. 1986 Dallas Cowboys v. Seattle Seahawks – Irving, TX – November 27, 1986 — Having moved away from Seattle in 1983 I had missed seeing the Seattle Seahawks play in person. My parents decided to surprise us with a trip up to Dallas to stay at the Westin Galleria and then go to the game on Thanksgiving. It was COLD, but the game was fun (especially with the Seahawks winning).
  8. 1994 World Cup Soccer – Germany v South Korea – June 27, 1994 — My good friend Robert Graham scored a pair of tickets to each of the three Group C & D games in Dallas for the 1994 World Cup.  Being a huge Germany fan he asked me if I would like to attend so I could root for my team. It was really hot and the Germany fans were having a blast.  We got into the singing and chants and enjoyed seeing Germany win.  The day prior we got to go see the German team practice at SMU. The discipline and regimen was a sight to behold – and steadfastly German.
  9. Seattle Mariners v. Toronto Blue Jays – Seattle, WA – July 1, 1983 – This was the last game I ever got to see in the Kingdome before moving south to Texas.  Seeing these two 1977 expansion teams play one another was not particularly memorable. What was memorable was before the game when I was standing in the center field bleachers, holding up my glove, and watching Spike Owen throw me (and I caught) and BP ball from second base. I still have that ball today (and find it ironic that Spike Owen played for UT and I was moving to Austin).
  10. 1996 Olympic Soccer – USA v. Argentina – July 20, 1996 – My best friend from college, Rich Fletcher, was living in Birmingham, Alabama and was offered a pair of tickets to an Olympic soccer game. Knowing I was the biggest soccer fan he knew, I was invited to attend with him.  It was not as good as World Cup soccer, and the US was not playing well in the game, but the experience was still wonderful (and patriotic).

[slideshow]

Defining Key Organizational Traits and Developmental Objectives

While going through some files tonight, I came across this paper I wrote about eight years ago. Since it was before I was blogging, perhaps it is time to get it into the public sphere.

Background

This paper was written after several years of organizational change surrounding the turnaround efforts at a large multi-channel retailer.  As stability takes hold, it is necessary to build the foundation for continuous improvement from an organizational standpoint.  After groups within an organization have prospered and learned significantly over a period of time, it is critical to maintain the desired growth for the business, as well as individual professional growth for the associates within the group.

Opportunity

An associate within a group should be developed to grow on three particular levels – Tactical, Analytical, and Strategic.  As an associate grows, he or she should become well versed in all three disciplines and these skills will be transferable upward within the group as well as into other groups throughout the enterprise.  As the group seeks new associates, it is imperative to look for moldable traits from each level in order to develop long-term growth.  The ultimate goal is to produce associates that can think strategically and understand the analytics and tactics within a program or group.  In turn, this produces a logical path as follows:

▲    –          An associate that is solely focused on tactical execution

■    –          An associate that has learned or is being trained in tactics, analysis and strategy

▼    –          An associate that has developed all three traits and leads through strategic direction

▲  –>     ■  –>    ▼

The director of the group should be ▼.  His or her direct reports should be ■.  In turn, all others within the group should be developed from ▲ to ■ over a pre-determined interval.  This creates opportunities and direction for associates while defining measurable objectives and creating a well-run and effective organization.  The following information outlines each level of development and how they inter-relate.

Tactical

Day in and day out, there are functions that need to be performed in order to keep programs running, customers happy, and analysis happening.  These tactical procedures are typically basic in nature and repetitive at different intervals.  This is the best training ground for associates as they grow into analytical and ultimately strategic associates.  Being grounded in the basic fundamentals of programs allows for easy movement between programs and ultimately to a deeper understanding of individual programs and enterprise directional thinking.

Traits:

  • Detail Oriented
  • Organized
  • Learning Focused
  • Process Oriented

Analytical

Being analytical does not mean printing out reports once a week, glancing at them and putting them into a binder never to be seen again.  Analysis means getting into the numbers, understanding the strategy set forth by the enterprise, and seeking knowledge to which action can be associated.  An analytical associate is usually grown out of tactical execution.  Someone that has done the day-today activities of a function should inherently be able to analyze the output of the function.  Current associates should be challenged and the organization should seek new associates that get into the business at a micro level and seek a thorough understanding of it in order to drive the program and enterprise ever-forward.  Finally, an analytical person should always have a sense of the metrics of the program and seeking new ways to measure the business.

Traits

  • Detail Oriented
  • Organized
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Contextual Thinking
  • Intuitive

Strategic

Often, people confuse strategy with operational effectiveness.  In the article “Michael Porter’s Big Ideas” (K. Hammonds, Fast Company. March ’01),Hammonds writes “There’s a fundamental distinction between strategy and operational effectiveness. Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different. Operational effectiveness is about things that you really shouldn’t have to make choices on; it’s about what’s good for everybody and about what every business should be doing.”  He follows on to say “The essence of strategy is that you must set limits on what you’re trying to accomplish. The company without a strategy is willing to try anything. If all you’re trying to do is essentially the same thing as your rivals, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be very successful.”  Therefore it is imperative that associates can understand, derive, and deliver strategy in an effective manner.  The learning of this takes time and is built on a foundation of understanding of the enterprise, the business, and roles within the enterprise.  Before strength in strategy is built, an associate must first know the tactical and analytical roles within the program or group.  As each of these is grown it leads to a basis for strategic understanding.

Traits

  • Visionary
  • 360° View
  • Tactical
  • Analytical
  • Strong Business Acumen
  • Communicative

Summary

While these points may seem intuitive, it is necessary for a manager (at any level) to maintain a view of these types of traits and the corresponding development.  Often companies spend more time reacting to growth, positive or negative, than to developing a solid platform to attract, grow and retain associates that are ultimately responsible for the long-term goals of the company.  As an architect designs a house and a contractor builds it, each piece is reliant on another to be successful.

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