Groupy—grouped tabs for any application in Windows

Two Explorer windows (This PC and Downloads) grouped with tabs

Every now and then I discover a Windows utility that really makes my life easier and my tasks more productive. My latest discovery is Stardock Groupy.

Groupy allows Windows users to drag and drop multiple applications and documents together to group them into a tabbed interface for easy access and reference.

Continue reading Groupy—grouped tabs for any application in Windows

The sentences approach to email

E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.
E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.

I often wonder how much time I’ve spent writing and responding to emails over the years. Perhaps five.sentenc.es may have a solution to reducing the amount of time spent in my inbox.

I got my very first email address in 1997 when I started my MTh in Ministry at the University of Edinburgh. It was [email protected]. Other than my fellow students, most of whom I saw on a day-to-day basis at New College, I only knew about four or five other people who had email back then.

Over the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to reduce how much email I receive. I’ve unsubscribed from all but the essential email newsletters (and even then I could reduce things further, or move those to a different email account) and I now have a folder called “Action” in Outlook/Exchange where I store the emails that I need to reply to.

I quite like this ‘… sentences’ approach to writing emails, however. It offers four options:

According to these sites, the problem is that “email takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.”

Their solution: “treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.”

It’s certainly an interesting solution. I’m sure there are some situations where it won’t work, where you simply need to write more, where telephone or face-to-face conversations are not convenient (which may be a better forums for lengthier discussions).

I’m going to give this a go for the next month or so and see how I get on. Choose your weapon: two, three, four or five sentences.

My other potting shed has been decommissioned

Another Potting Shed
Another Potting Shed

Over the last few years I’ve had a second blog called Another Potting Shed, hosted on WordPress.com. This morning I migrated all my posts from it into this blog, and it’s currently just a holding site until I figure out what I want to use it for.

I’ve never been entirely clear about the purpose of this second blog, and to be honest I only started it so that I could have a WordPress.com account and check out what was going on there. In the meantime my main blogging will take place here and I achieve some clarity.

I’m already feeling happier about the situation. Perhaps it’s simply because I’ve made a decision and have done something about it; I’ve been pondering this for months.

My other blogs all have particular themes:

Pomodoro technique for productivity

Pomodoro tomato kitchen timer
Pomodoro tomato kitchen timer

A few months ago I came across a productivity technique called Pomodoro. The name comes from a Pomodoro kitchen timer that the creator of the technique first used; pomodoro is Italian for ‘tomato’.

The technique is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. It combines five steps:

  1. Choose a task to complete.
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task, uninterrupted, until the timer rings.
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes).
  5. Every four ‘Pomodoros’ take a longer break (15-20 minutes).

Windows 7 gadget

I thought I’d give it a go and not having a kitchen timer to hand went to look for a Windows 7 gadget that would give me this functionality. But I really didn’t like any of the specifically Pomodoro gadgets. They were either ugly (sorry), took up too much room, offered more eye candy than functionality, or were locked into a strict 25 minutes/5 minutes cycle.

This week, however, I discovered the Work/Break Cycle Timer from Daniel (he doesn’t supply his surname):

Screenshot of instructions showing how the timer works

First off it is compact and just looks great.

The timer has two states (white and blue). Set the white timer to how ever long you want to focus on work, the length of your break is set using the blue timer. An alarm goes off when the timer reaches zero; or, alternatively, the timer can control your iTunes, pausing it for the break.

The timers are easily set by clicking and dragging the hours, minutes and seconds digits up or down with the mouse.

So far I’ve found it a very useful little gadget.