Category Archives: Automation

Microsoft Outlook Rule to Archive Meeting Request Responses

I’ve been scheduling (and rescheduling) a lot of meetings in Microsoft Outlook lately and I’ve grown tired of continually moving everyone’s responses to the meeting request (Accepted, Rejected, Tentative) from my inbox.  I’ve also found that if I’m too diligent with removing those response, I miss something important someone added to the body of the their response. Instead of continuing to sort through these responses manually, I chose to set up a Microsoft Outlook rule to do the heavy lifting for me. The rule sorts through all my incoming messages as they arrive and looks for tell tale signatures of a meeting request response.  Specifically, it looks for whether my name is on the “To” line, it was sent only to me, and it has “Accepted”, “Declined”, or “Tentative” in the subject line.  When the rule finds a message that matches those criteria and has nothing written in the body of the message, it immediately moves it out of my inbox to an Archive folder.

How to Set Up the Microsoft Outlook Rule (for those familiar with the process)

For those of you familiar with Rules in Outlook, the rule I created is as follows.  You will note that the rule only looks for vowels in the body as an exception to the rule.  As I have yet to receive any important emails containing all consonants as a response, this works like a dream.

Microsoft Outlook Rule To Archive Meeting Request Responses

How to Set Up the Microsoft Outlook Rule (for those not familiar with the process)

For those of you not familiar with Rules in Outlook, follow the procedure below.

  1. Click on the File Menu in Outlook
  2. Click on Manage Rules & Alerts in the graphic below.
  3. Outlook Manage Rules & Alerts
  4. Click on New Rule in the graphic below.
  5. Outlook Rules & Alerts
  6. Make the following selection in the Rules Wizard.
  7. Outlook Rules Wizard
  8. Click on the specific words text in blue and enter the terms in the resulting window.
  9. Inline image 6
  10. Click on the specified text in blue to specify which folder to move the messages to.  Note that it can be any folder you specify.  I chose my “@Archive” folder.
  11. Rules Wizard 2
  12. Click Next and make the following selections.
  13. Outlook Rules Wizard 3
  14. Click Next two more times and make the following selections
  15. Rules Wizard 4
  16.  Click on the specified words text in blue and add the following terms
  17. Search Text
  18. Click OK
  19. Rules Wizard 5
  20. Click Next.  You may then choose to name your rule
  21. Rules Wizard 6
  22. Once you click Finish all your meeting responses (that don’t have any text in the message body) will be moved to the folder you specified.
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Create a Microsoft Windows Keyboard Shortcut to Any File or Application

Microsoft Windows Keyboard Shortcut Properties

A Microsoft Windows keyboard shortcut is extremely useful if you’d like to quickly open applications,  open files, or run scripts you use frequently.

The following steps are used to set up a Microsoft Windows keyboard shortcuts.

  1. Right click on the file (or application) and left click “copy”
  2. Right click in a directory and left click “Past Shortcut”
  3. Right click on the shortcut you just created and left click “Properties”
  4. Select the “Shortcut” tab by left clicking on it.
  5. Select the “Shortcut Key” field by left clicking in the text box
  6. While in the “Shortcut Key” field type the shortcut key sequence you desire. (In the graphic, I entered the CTRL+SHIFT+T shortcut key sequence by holding down the CTRL, SHIFT, and T key. You may also choose ALT, WIN, or other key combinations as well.)
  7. Left click “OK” to apply the changes and exit the properties window
  8. From now on,  when you type that “Shortcut Key” sequence the shortcut will be executed.

Please note that many applications have assigned shortcut keys by default.  Your newly assigned Microsoft Windows keyboard shortcut may not work if used within a program that has the same keyboard shortcut assigned.

You may also want to consider saving all your Microsoft Windows keyboard shortcuts with quick keys assigned in the same directory. Otherwise they may be hard to track down later.

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Increase Words Per Minute Using Android’s Speech to Text

Alex and Emma Movie Image

The other day I was watching “Alex & Emma“, a movie about an author who hires a stenographer to help him write a book in 30 days so that he can pay off his gambling debts and avoid bodily harm.  As I’ve been writing more, I began to wonder what similar tactics I might use to increase my productivity.  In the past I’ve used Android’s Speech to Text feature to quickly compose texts and I began to wonder whether I could exploit this feature to compose longer blog posts, at what rate, and at what accuracy.

The Experiment

As I consider myself a reasonable typist, I decided to perform an experiment to determine whether Android’s Speech to Text feature would be a viable alternative to typing.

I would take an online typing test to measure my typing speed and accuracy.  The online test calculates the words per minute (WPM), characters per minute (CPM), and one can determine the accuracy based on the number of words typed and mistakes made.

I would read a page from The 4-Hour Workweek, one of my favorite books, aloud and have Android’s Speech to Text feature transcribe it.  I would record the time using a stopwatch and derive the WPM, CPM, and accuracy from the results.

I would repeat both tests 3 times and average the results for comparison.

Experiment Results

Below are the results of my online typing test. The average of the three trials showed 63 WPM, 344 CPM, and a 91% accuracy.  According to the web site my average CPM is faster than 88% of the 21 million people that have taken the online typing test. So, I suppose I’m pretty fast.

Typing Test Results

WPM CPM Accuracy
Trial 1 66 360 90%
Trial 2 63 342 92%
Trial 3  60  330 90%
AVERAGE  63  344 91%

Note:  It’s unclear whether the CPM from the typing test includes or excludes spaces.

Below are the results from my reading The 4-Hour Workweek and having Android’s Speech to Text feature transcribe the information. The average of the three trials showed 166 WPM, 798 CPM, and a 91% accuracy!  This is more than double my typing speed and the Speech to Text feature achieved the same accuracy.  The CPM is literally off the chart and is faster than 100% of the 21 million people that have taken the online typing test.

Speech to Text Results

WPM CPM (Spaces Excluded) CPM (Spaces Included) Accuracy
Trial 1 137 664 801 93%
Trial 2 187 882 1,068 90%
Trial 3 174 846 1,019 89%
AVERAGE 166 798 963 91%

Note: Punctuation and returns have been excluded from the accuracy numbers such that the online typing test and the Speech to Text comparison would be valid.  There are voice commands in Android’s Speech to Text feature, but I didn’t have time to get proficient with them.  Plus there are no punctuation or returns in the online typing test.


Using Android’s Speech to Text feature to generate content quickly is a viable alternative to typing.  In fact, even a non-typist should be able to generate high WPM and CPM rates using Speech to Text transcription.  If you are a decent typist, then you can use Android’s Speech to Text feature to give your hands a break.  Heck, you could even do it laying down and give your back a break.

Knowing what to say and how to say it greatly enhances the speed at which content is created. The rates achieved during this experiment were while typing or reading existing materials. For a descent typist, it’s likely that the productivity gain due to the faster Speech to Text transcription rate is marginal compared to the time spent thinking about an idea, researching it, and constructing the information. However, there’s definitely a novelty in composing the written word through transcription.

Based on the test results, I’m able to screw up 9% of what ends up in the first draft, whether I’ve typed the information or had it transcribed. It’s highly unlikely that the Speech to Text transcription or anything typed will be publishable without further revision.

I’ve been considering using the speech recognition software at work, but I suspect that may be too distracting…  especially if everyone started doing it.

Additional Information

Android punctuation and line spacing voice commands are as follows:

  • Period (.)
  • comma (,)
  • question mark (?)
  • exclamation point (!)
  • Enter
  • new line
  • new paragraph

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Protect Your Personal Cell Phone Number and Email Address with Proxies

I was thinking about how I might handle work related correspondence over the upcoming holiday. On one hand, I don’t want to repeatedly jump on my work computer to check work email and voicemail just in case something important comes up and I don’t want to experience the anxiety of not knowing.  On the other hand, I don’t want to broadcast my personal cell phone number and email address as a means of contacting me while I’m away and risk having those be abused as a primary means of contacting me for future work related issues.

As I like to define boundaries between my personal and work related activities, I’ve opted to use a free Google Voice phone number, a secondary email address, and autoresponders to act as a proxy.  This approach allows coworkers to escalate important work related issues without compromising my personal cell phone number and email address.  It also gives me the option to abandon or disable the Google Voice phone number and secondary email address after the fact if (or when) these methods of contact are abused.

In practice, my work email autoresponder references my Google Voice phone number and secondary email address. The Google Voice phone number forwards calls (& texts) to my personal cell phone and the secondary email address forwards email to my personal email address.  This is visually represented in the bullets below.

  • Work Email Autoresponder >> Google Voice Phone Number (Proxy) >> Personal Cell Phone Number
  • Work Email Autoresponder >> Secondary Email Address (Proxy) >> Personal Email Address

Work Email Autoresponder

The work email autoresponder is intended to notify coworkers that you are out of the office. Many out of office autoresponders I’ve seen list only the start date and end date of their being out of the office.

I exclude the start date from my out of the office autoresponder as I find it somewhat redundant.   If you receive my out of the office autoresponse,  I’m probably already gone.  Furthermore, if I’ve taken the whole week off and someone receives the autoresponse on Thursday, then why publicize that I’ve already been out of the office for 4 business days.   Why not let them think that I’m only out Thursday and Friday.

I include only the last business day in my out of the office autoresponder .  If I’ve taken the whole week off, I state that I’m out of the office though Friday instead of stating that I will return on Monday.  If someone receives my autoresponse on Thursday they might think “Ok, he’s only out through tomorrow” instead of “O crap,  he won’t be back for 4 days”.

I include alternative contacts for my main activities and I list my manager as a catchall for everything else as a means of further reducing interruptions while out of the office.  Only if my coworkers are unable to address their issues through the contacts provided and can not wait until I return, do I ask them to leave me a message through my Google Voice number and secondary email address proxies. My coworkers are unaware that the phone number and email address provided in my autoresponder are proxies and are left thinking how dedicated I am to include my personal contact info while I’m out of the office. In the 10 years I’ve been using this autoresponder only a handful of people have taken me up on the offer.

I’m currently using the following message body text in my work email autoresponder.

I am out of the office through DD MMM YYYY, but I plan to check email and voice mail infrequently while I’m out. However, if you require immediate assistance, please contact the following individuals:

  • For project X, contact “FirstName LastName” @ ###-###-####
  • For project Y, contact “FirstName LastName” @ ###-###-####
  • For project Z, contact “FirstName LastName” @ ###-###-####
  • All other inquires, contact “FirstName LastName” @ ###-###-####

If you are unable to resolve your issues though the contacts above and can not wait until after DD MMM YYY, please leave me a message at:

  • Email:
  • Phone: ###-###-####

Google Voice (Proxy)

Google Voice is a free service and can be used to act as a proxy between your personal cell phone number and the outside world.  In addition to simply forwarding calls / texts to made to the Google Voice phone number there are several other options to consider when using this tool.  I personally have mine set to NOT ring through to my personal cell phone;  however it transcribes received voice mails and texts the transcription to my personal cell phone.  Although the voice mail transcription isn’t always 100% accurate, it typically gives me enough information to gauge the importance of the call.  I also have it set to send me an email containing the voice mail audio in case the transcription isn’t enough.

You can also set a custom voice mail greeting for particular incoming phone numbers.  Just imagine your managers face when he or she is addressed by name in your outgoing voice mail greeting.

Secondary Email Address (Proxy)

The secondary email address can be used to act as a proxy between your personal email address and the outside world.  In addition to simply forwarding emails you may wish to set up an autoresponder when not in use as a deterrent for abuse.  I’m currently using the following subject and message body text in my secondary email autoresponder when it is not in use.
Autoresponse: “” Email Address Inactive
Message Body:
You have sent an email or reply to an email address that is inactive.
Please contact me through regular channels.
Thank you,

Michael Strejcek

This secondary email address could be a free advertising supported service such as Gmail or you could implement a virtually unlimited number of custom email addresses using your own domain names through a Web Hosting provider such as 1&1 Web Hosting.

Further Applications

I should note that the techniques outlined above also work for home loans, car purchases, raffles / contests, etc.  If you’ve ever applied for home loan rate quotes, car price quotes, or entered any contests, then you’ve likely experienced the deluge of phone calls and emails that follow those activities.  Just imagine the satisfaction of having all those people fight with your autoresponders and proxies for a change.

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