a love letter to Entourage

Aside from working on Entourage, I use it. No, that's not right: I don't use Entourage, I live in it. (I feel like those old infomercials -- I'm not only the president, I'm also a client!) I've had a couple of people ask me lately how I keep on top of everything that I'm doing. I'm not the sort of person whose monitor is covered with sticky notes, and I don't keep everything in my head. (Some might argue that I don't keep anything in there ... ) Entourage contains my entire life.

First and foremost, I am a big user of categories. My categories are all colour-coded. This is essential to me. Everyone in my address book is associated with a category. When I get email from people in my address book, their email is colour-coded in my inbox. (On any given day, I'd guess that less than 5% of the email that hits my main inbox is boring non-categorised black.) Here are some of my categories: MacBU, one for each of the application teams that I support, travel, services, personal. This means that I can tell, at a glance, what kind of traffic I'm getting in my inbox. Likewise, all of my calendar events have a category associated with them, so I can quickly tell what I'm spending the most time on this week. Tasks, notes, it's all colour-coded.

One of my goals in Entourage is to have an empty inbox. One way that I accomplish this is by extensive use of the Mailing List Manager and rules. I have more than 20 sub-folders that get the bulk of my email. I want my main inbox to only contain email that is addressed directly to me, which is the email that I’m most likely to need to do something with now. Of the stuff that ends up in my main inbox, I try to deal with it immediately upon reading it. This means responding to the email, creating a task/note from the email, or filing it away. I'm not perfect about this, but I'm getting better.

I use the Project Center to help me keep on top of projects. Some of these projects are pretty short-lived. For example, I usually set up a project for each usability test that I run, which means that those projects last for roughly 6 weeks from beginning to end. Others last a couple of years or more. The main benefit of the Project Center is that it gives me a directed view of what I'm working on: I can go in there and see only the emails, calendar events, tasks, and notes associated with that project, as well as the files on my hard drive associated with it. Depending on what I'm doing, I'd guess that roughly a third of my email/tasks/calendar/notes are associated with a project at any given time. And when I'm done with that project, archiving it is easy.

The best part about all of this? It gets even better in Entourage 2008. We've already shown an early version of my single most favourite feature, My Day, at Macworld Expo earlier this year. There's more, and I can't wait to tell you about it. Stay tuned.