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The Real Problem with Email

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The Real Problem with Email


    Over the past week there have been a slew of articles on email, especially considering we are coming up on the 30th anniversary of email. What is often being discussed is the problems that email has created (as well as the problems email has solved), but there has been more talk about how we must work to “tame” email in order to fix the problems that it creates.

    But the problem isn’t email. Email doesn’t need to be tamed. The problem, quite simply, is how we treat email.

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    Individuals and companies treat email in ways that go against the grain of what email should be used for: to communicate in long form without using the phone. It’s not a replacement for the phone, it’s not a means to get in touch with someone immediately. Yet the expectation is that it is – or should be.

    People seem to think that since you receive the email almost instantly that you should reply in kind. But for most people (there are some jobs where the work is email management) managing email is an aspect of their job – and a small one at that. Yet it is almost one of the first things we mention that we do during our day.

    Think about this: do you wait for the postal worker for all hours, opening and closing the door to check the mail nonstop every day? Of course you don’t. That would be a waste of time and energy. You know when the postal worker arrives (approximately), so if you’re expecting something then you have a general idea of when it will arrive. Because of that, you don’t sit by the door all day waiting. You go about your day, doing the actual work you have on tap rather than let the possibility of an important delivery get in your way.

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    Do you do the same thing with email? Likely not.

    Instead, you keep your email application open, waiting for that imminent notification alert to come so you cna check and see what new thing just got delivered to your inbox.

    Perhaps you don’t do this. Perhaps you check email 2–3 times per day, and that’s it. Perhaps you treat email in a way that it allows you to treat your other work better.

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    Perhaps.

    Do you manage your tasks from your email application? Unless you’re using something like ActiveInbox or a similar add-on, then you are using a communication tool as a task management tool. And that doesn’t work.

    Do you put Post-It Notes directly (and exclusively) on your phone to remind you of to do items? You may do this for items that require using the phone, but beyond that I highly doubt it. Yet we do this with email applications without even thinking about it in the same way.

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    The barrier to using a task management application is often because people “feel” or “think” they can use their email application to manage their tasks with folders and the like. You can try, but you won’t be nearly as effective or efficient. I challenge you to use a separate piece of software (or, if you’re using Outlook, use the To Do component) to manage your tasks rather than using your email application to manage your tasks. Stick with it through the initial adjustment, and I bet you’ll see your workflow improve.

    So what’s the bottom line?

    No matter what email app or service you use, unless you put the discipline and boundaries in place when it comes to using this valuable communication tool, you’re doing it wrong.

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    So what’s the email problem? It’s not the technology; it’s the people using the technology. And until we fix that email will always appear…broken.

    (Photo credit: A Lot of At Signs via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on November 25, 2021

    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

    There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

    Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

      What Does Private Browsing Do?

      When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

      For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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      The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

      The Terminal Archive

      While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

      Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

      dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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      Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

      Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

      However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

      Clearing Your Tracks

      Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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      dscacheutil -flushcache

      As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

      Other Browsers and Private Browsing

      Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

      If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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      As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

      Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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