Friday, September 2, 2011

Outlook tip of the week: turning off the 18-hour default alarm

Like many of you, I’ve found one of the most frustrating things about Microsoft Outlook to be the hard-coded 18-hour default reminder for all-day meetings. An 18-hour reminder for an all-day Monday appointment, for example, means getting woken up by your smart phone at 6:00 AM on Sunday morning – not how you want your week to start!

Unfortunately, while the default reminder for appointments at specific times can be set to whatever time interval you would like (10 minutes? 15 minutes? half an hour?), all-day reminders will default to 18 hours every time. Although users have complained about this for years, the feature has remained in version after version of Outlook, including the one just installed on my shiny new laptop.

Unless your co-workers are all diligent, courteous and intelligent enough to remember to manually change the setting every time they schedule an all-day appointment (hint: they’re not), you will face this dilemma again and again. Manually checking your calendar on a regular basis will help, but some appointments may still slip by. And if your smart phone isn’t fully compatible with Outlook (and it probably isn’t), turning off the reminder in Outlook may not turn it off on the devices synced to it.

Luckily, I have discovered a quick and easy fix that will disable the 18-hour alarm feature permanently, affording you a few extra minutes of sleep every morning, and preventing anyone you invite to a meeting from wanting to skin you alive. I discovered the fix quite by accident this past weekend, and I am happy to report that it is both easy to replicate and 100% guaranteed to work.

First, while this technique can be executed at any time, it is really far more satisfying if you have just been woken up at 6:00 AM after getting only three hours of sleep. Besides the fact that this will put you in the right frame of mind to finally stab a knife through the belly of the beast, you will benefit (as you will see in a moment) from the adrenaline rush of being extra, extra pissed off.

The first step is to grip the offending instrument – be it cell phone, laptop or whatever – firmly with your dominant hand. If you are right-handed, for example, hold it with your right hand. This is important, because you need both strength and finesse.

The second step is optional, but highly recommended: yell at the top of your lungs. In fact, you should seriously think about screaming words so obscene that you will later have to apologize to your kids, neighbors and the police. Trust me, it will be worth it for the added adrenaline strength.

If you are on high ground, all the better, but if not, do not stop to climb. That arrangement should be made in advance or not at all, as climbing will quickly sap your strength, especially when you are sleep-deprived.

Next, and this is an important step: open a window. If you’re already outside, don’t do this. That would be silly.

Then, chuck that f***er at the ground with every fiber of strength in your body. If you are in full possession of your mental faculties, make sure to hit something hard. But in any case, whip it! Whip it good!

Don’t stop there, though. The final step is the clincher. Go get in your car and drive over it again and again until it is no longer recognizable. (This is where some foresight comes in handy: throw it on your driveway and you’ll save yourself a lot of future gardening work and/or community service time.)

That should solve the problem. Enjoy your Sunday mornings.

iPhone photo courtesy of magerleagues