Tips and Tricks for Overseas Business Travel

A few weeks ago I went to the NZALM conference in Wellington and next week I’m off to Bali, so I thought I’d try to gather a few tips and tricks for overseas business travel.

International Roaming

Firstly, when it comes to international roaming and smart phones you have a choice, either disable your data usage, or be prepared for a huge bill when you get home. Prior to the trip I prepaid for a data plan, but on my return I still found that I had an excess data usage bill of $70. On a pay as you go style data plan this actually only equates to less than 5MB of data (cost is $15/MB). Half way through the trip I remembered that my Kindle DX has free internet access through their WhisperNet service so I tried to use this where possible. Now this may not be the best experience for web browsing, but for things like sending and receiving emails, I found it worked a treat. To access Google Mail on a mobile device, navigate http://m.gmail.com and you will get a very text based view of your emails cutting down on a lot of the extras that you just don’t need.

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With the Kindle web browser, there are obvious limitations such as the fact that you only have a black and white screen, you don’t have a mouse so you have to use the 5-way controller and previous and next page to navigate around, but if you are prepared to live with these you’ll save yourself a fortune in roaming data charges.

Most of the Google apps are easily viewable on the Kindle Gmail. Navigate to http://m.google.com and you will be presented with a list of many of the Google apps including Gmail and Google Reader that you can access.

Other great sites that work well on the Kindle are Lonely Planet (http://m.lonelyplanet.com), Yahoo Mail (http://m.yahoo.com) , Facebook (http://touch.facebook.com) and Twitter (http://mobile.twitter.com). There is also a great service which collects some of the most popular links at http://kinstant.com. Be sure to check out the great lightweight Google maps app they have at http://kinstant.com/maps/.

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Power Converters

Fortunately NZ use the same power points and voltage as in Australia, so I didn’t need to take a converter for my previous trip, but for my next trip I’ll need to take a power adapter. One trick I learned was make sure you not only take a power adapter, but also at least a double adapter. Not only will there be times when you need to connect more than one device, but also just in case any fellow travellers you are with forget theirs.

 

So what tips and tricks do you have for overseas business travel? Please add them to the comments below.

Migrating Outlook Rules to Google Mail Filters – Filtering External Emails

Further from my recent post on Google Mail Filters, another rule that I had setup in Outlook was to move emails that originated from outside my organisation into a separate folder "Inbox – External". This way marketing information, or newsletters for example wouldn’t clutter my inbox. There isn’t a predefined scenario in the Outlook Rules Wizard to handle this, but you can achieve the desired result by setting the “with specific words in the sender’s address” to “@” and adding an exception “except with @myorganisationdomain.com in the sender’s address” as shown below. Effectively the rule states that all emails except those originating from my organisation should get moved to the defined folder.

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You will see in the screenshot that I also have exceptions for specific individuals and domains. What I found was that after setting this rule up, I was missing important emails as they were being moved out of my Inbox. For example, emails from the client of the project I was working on, my car pool buddy (in case he was leaving early that day), and of course my wife. Effectively you can set these up as exceptions to the rule by adding them to “except if from” or “except with @clientdomain.com in the sender’s address”.

Now that we have moved to Google Mail, I wanted to replicate the rule in the Google Filters.

  1. Under Settings -> Filters select Create a new filter
  2. On the Choose search criteria screen, set:
    1. From: –@myorganisationdomain.com (note the minus before the @)
    2. To: me
    3. Doesn’t have: from: wife OR from: car.pool.buddy (obviously replace with the names you want to exclude)
  3. Use the Test Search button to test the criteria you have entered. The filter looks something like this:

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  4. Click Next Step >>

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  5. In the Choose action screen, tick “Skip the Inbox” and tick “Apply the label: Inbox – External”
  6. 6. Click Update Filter

Migrating Outlook Rules to Google Mail Filters

I’ve been following the practice of Getting Things Done by David Allen for some years now, and one of the core things that I have learnt is to keep my inbox for unprocessed work only. You will find there are many other strategies for managing your inbox but essentially they all discuss the same concept of and dealing with the overload of emails your receive on a daily basis. One of the important concepts of the Getting Things Done methodology is triaging you inbox. This is done by applying what they refer to as the 4 Ds:

  1. If you can get it done in under 2 minutes: Do It.
  2. If it will take longer than 2 minutes: Defer It.
  3. If it isn’t important: Delete It.
  4. If you don’t need to do it: Delegate It.

One of the best ways to manage my inbox I found, was to get Outlook to automatically triage as many incoming messages as possible through the use of rules. I created several folders in Outlook to help me process the messages:

  • Inbox – CC
  • Inbox – External
  • Inbox – Alerts

Then I would have a series of Rules to move items out of my Inbox into the relevant folder. One of the key rules I had was to move items where I was being CC’ed into the "Inbox – CC" folder. The reason for this was that if someone included me on the CC list but not in the To list, this would mean that it was for my information rather than requiring any response on my part. The rule in Outlook looked like the following:

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The Rules Wizard in Outlook covers many pre defined scenarios, so I was a little concerned with the move from Exchange Server to Google Mail that I wouldn’t be able to get the same functionality. There is however a very advanced search criteria functionality that comes with the filters which take a little getting used to. Many of the advanced functionality can be found at Using advanced search.

To re-create the above rule "where my name is in the Cc box", do the following:

  1. Under Settings -> Filters select Create a new filter
  2. On the Choose search criteria screen, set:
    1. To: -to:me (note the minus before the to)
    2. Has the words: cc:me
  3. Use the Test Search button to test the criteria you have entered.
  4. Click Next Step >>

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  5. In the Choose action screen, tick the following:
    1. Skip the Inbox
    2. Apply the label: Inbox – CC
  6. Click Update Filter

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Moving from Exchange Server to Google Mail for Windows Phone 7

As part of my organisations move from Exchange Server to Google Mail I needed to update my phone settings to sync to the Google server. To do this, from the home screen I select the right arrow at the top of the screen:

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Then selected Settings:

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Finally, select email & accounts –> Outlook.

My existing settings have the username as my network login  id, and the server set to exchange.mycompanydomain. To switch over to using the Google Mail server, I changed the username to my email address (e.g. david_cook@mycompanydomain) and changed the server to m.google.com. After saving I received an alert “Action Required” on the email & accounts screen. Selecting the Outlook account I was prompted to “Update your password for m.google.com and press Save” after re-entering my password the account showed “Synchronising”. and my emails are now syncing via Google Mail.

Moving from Microsoft Exchange Server to Google Mail

    Today my organisation started the move from Microsoft Exchange Server to Google Mail and as part of the move I have been nominated what they are referring to as a Google Champion. This is effectively an early adopter from each department which essentially means to help iron out any issues during the transition and to help flesh out FAQs and training material that might be useful for the rest of the organisation. imageHaving used Microsoft Outlook as my primary email client for well over 10 years I thought it might be useful to share my experiences with moving to Gmail. As part of the early adoption phase, I wanted to try and exclusively use the web client and make the most of the features they have made available rather than continuing to use Outlook and using the available sync tools.

    Something many of us use in Outlook is folders, but Gmail doesn’t use folders, instead it uses labels. Therefore when my Exchange mailbox was converted, the folders actually get converted as filters with the emails within those folders also tagged with the relevant label. As you can see on the image on the right, the folder structure is a hierarchy, however the labels in Google Mail are simply a text label, therefore the representation of the tree structure gets converted to my folder structure include all folders will be converted as Level1/Level2/Level3 or given my folder structure Inbox/Reference Material/Personal.

    I wanted to clean up the structure by simply renaming them back to a single level structure. This can be done under Settings –> Labels as shown below:

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    I simply renamed the Inbox/Reference Material to Reference Material:

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When renaming the label, all emails also get their labels updated. You can also rename labels from the main page as follows:

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    After I started doing this, I discovered one of the greatest strengths of using the web client as opposed to a desktop client is the use of Labs. Under Settings –> Labs is a treasure trove of add ins for Gmail which provide a heap of extra functionality, and the gem I used in this instance was called Nested Labels. Enabling this add in as the name suggests gives us a hierarchy for labels which means I can keep the folder structure I had in Outlook.

    Enabling the add in:

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    Renaming labels now allows for providing a hierarchy:

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    View of labels in the desired hierarchy:

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