What Do You Do?

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I hate this question. It’s a terrible question.  It’s the first question at every party, but it’s still a very bad question.  Yet some law of human nature states any two strangers standing next to each other long enough will eventually ask – whether for reasons of genuine curiosity or to evaluate relative status –  “What do you do?”

“I am a Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Functional Consultant.”

I’m met with a blank stare.  I’ve said words and communicated nothing.  Only once have these particular words been sufficient. I was on a plane.  The woman next to me lit up, “Oh! I’m a Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Functional Consultant too!”.  Then she paused, “How do you explain what you do to your family?”

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Memento Memoriam

There should be a word for the awareness, in moments of joy, that your memory of the moment won’t last.

I’m holding my son.  He pumps his chubby legs.  He can’t walk yet, but he wants to jump. I throw him in the air.  The corners of his mouth stretch wide as he floats.  Eight tiny teeth peak through 11-month-old gums.  Laughter gurgles from his tiny frame, filling my body with delight.

I won’t remember this.

Luana says Lawrence looks like Calvin when Calvin was Lawrence’s age.  Moms must be better at that.  The boys look similar in photographs, but I don’t have a photographic memory.

Calvin is 2 ½ now.  We don’t even count the months anymore.  I don’t have a 9-month-old, 10-month-old, 11-month-old memory of Calvin in my head.  When I close my eyes, I mostly see the same 2 ½-year-old Calvin I do when I open them. Did I play with Calvin the same way I’m playing with Lawrence now?


Last fall, my family watched Buddhist monks make a sand mandala.  The monks spent weeks laying geometric patterns on the ground with colored grains of sand, tapping the sand through slim funnels to form vibrant fractals.  

Then they just swept it up.  

They put the sand in an urn.  They poured the urn into a river.  Have you seen that guy ruin his girlfriend’s food pic?  Same energy.

A sand mandala’s beauty is temporary order.  It’s the same sand arrayed on the floor, or in the urn, or in the river.  But we wouldn’t have driven to see it in the river.  We wouldn’t have visited if it was always on the floor.  We appreciated it because of its impermanence.

My mother-in-law took a selfie with the mandala.  I’m not sure we all left with the same lessons.


The Romans had Memento Mori. When a Roman hero paraded through the streets, his servant would ride in his chariot whispering Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori.  Look behind you.  Remember you are human.  Remember your death.

Memento Memoriam isn’t so fatalistic.  No need to fall apart.  Just recognize that memories are fickle. Memories are fragile.  The act of remembering changes our memories, like the wear and tear on a photograph repeatedly pulled from a wallet.

When I close my eyes, I can see Lawrence sailing through the air.  But his 11-month-old smile isn’t as vivid as it was.  Tomorrow it will fade a little more.  

My sons won’t remember this.

In several years, we’ll look at pictures from this time. Our family will huddle together on the couch, and point, and I’ll tell them the stories as best I can.  And we’ll smile too.  

But for today, if I always hold my camera in two hands I cannot also hold my sons. 

There should be a word for the joy of having moments worth remembering, whether or not you do.

Memento Memoriam.

11-month-old Lawrence

Chrome Tip – Search Open Tabs

Do you compulsively open new tabs, then leave them open forever because “you might need that later”? Is the top of your browser just a bunch of tiny icons without any context? This shortcut might be for you.

CTRL+Shift+A in Chrome allows you to search your open browser tabs. Recently closed tabs are also visible at the bottom of the list.

Use CTRL+Shift+A to search open tabs

This is probably also a good time to mention that CTRL+W can be used to close your tabs, and CTRL+Shift+T can be used to reopen the most recently closed tab.

And my favorite Chrome shortcut, CTRL+F can be used to search for a term on a webpage, while CRTRL+Enter can be used to click on the found text if it is a hyperlink (this is especially helpful if you are using cloud software like Dynamics 365).


Fun fact: the upper limit on open chrome tabs is around 10,000 tabs.

DynamicsCon is HERE! (almost)

The day I’ve been looking forward to since my last post is almost here. DynamicsCon starts next week September 20th – there are so many great presentations to check out (I heard a lot of rumors about this one in particular).

You can view all presentations on the DynamicsCon Agenda website. If you want to put them on your calendar, it is easy to download meeting invitations to specific presentations there.

If you’d like to track all the Finance and Operations presentations in a calendar view, I created a google calendar for that – you can access it from the google calendar link below.

Get the Google Calendar

Outlook Tip – Create a Rule for Meeting Responses

Juliet Awaits Romeo’s Outlook Meeting Invite Response | James Northcote | oil on canvas | c1790

While my preference in meeting sizes is to abide by the two-pizza rule, sometimes large meetings are necessary. After sending a large meeting invitation, the trickle of meeting responses to my inbox throughout the day becomes an unnecessary distraction.

My solution is to create a new folder for meeting responses, and a rule to sending all meeting responses to that folder. No more distracting inbox pings for every response, though I can see a summary of meeting response activity by looking at the unread messages flag on the folder. At my convenience, I can right-click on the folder and mark all as read if I don’t care about responses, or I can dig into the folder and have an easily filtered view of meeting responses received.

This rule is easy to setup in the Outlook Web App (Outlook.com)

Create Rule for Meeting Responses

Step 1: Create folder for meeting responses.

Step 2: Sign into Outlook.com, Click on settings, Search for rules, Select Inbox rules.

Step 3: Create rule name, Choose Type: Event response for condition, Choose Move to [created folder] for action.

Outlook Tip – Rules Rule!

Outlook rules are one of the oldest, most under-utilized productivity hacks in the business applications toolbox. They’re excellent for getting distractions out of your inbox.

Newsletters you only occasionally read? Make a rule to send them to their own folder!

System generated messages you never check? Mark them as read!

Let the computer do your work for you.

Today I want to share a set of rules I create when I start working with new customers to help me manage my inbox. But more generally, I just want to encourage you to use more Outlook rules.

Create Customer Category and Rules

When I start working with a new customer, I like to create an outlook category for that customer, and rules so that all customer-specific emails will be tagged with that category.
This works for me because I frequently work across multiple customer projects at the same time, though rarely more than a handful.

Create New Outlook Category

In the Tags group, Under the Categorize button, click All categories
Then click new, and create a category for the new customer

Create Outlook Rules

In the Move group, click on the rules button and select Create Rule
A rule to tag email from the customer.
A rule to tag email to the customer.
A rule to tag email that includes the customer’s name in the subject or body of the email.

OK, What’s the Big Deal?

Automatically categorizing email by customer visually organizes my inbox. I can quickly identify customer vs. internal emails, as well as recognize which customer they pertain to.

It also provides the same visual distinction when looking at meeting invites for the week.


How do you manage your email inbox? Do you use any practices or rules that are exceptionally effective? Let me know in the comments.

Outlook Tip – Time Blocker

Here’s a secret: I’m not great at planning my time.
Good news: A strategy I’ve found for dealing with this that has proven very successful.

Jesse J Anderson introduced me to a method he calls the Tactical Time Blocker, based on techniques in the book Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Everyday by Jake Napp and John Zeratsky.

Essentially, plan out your important tasks and schedule them at the start of your day. Then, track what you actually do during the day. At mid-day, revise your schedule based on what you still need to accomplish, new tasks that have come up, and revised priorities.

Jesse explains this better than me, as well as how he manages it on a sheet here:

I liked this format, but the sheet wasn’t working for me, so I recreated the experience in Outlook.

I created three new calendars, naming them Planned, Actual, and Revised.

In the Folder tab of the Outlook Calendar form, you can create a New Blank Calendar

I grouped them together to make them easier to manage

Right click on the calendars area, and they can be organized in a New Calendar Group

I made a Day view in the calendar section aligning my Work calendar with my Planned, Actual, and Revised calendars.

I also pinned my tasks in the todo bar on the right.

My Tactical Time Blocker workspace in Outlook

I like this approach for a few reasons:

  • At the start of each day, I fill my planned calendar for the day – transferring my work meeting first, and then figuring where I will insert time for the work tasks that I need to accomplish.
  • Outlook’s “current time” bar sliding down the calendar is a great reminder for me to keep my Actual calendar updated during the workday.
  • Having multiple calendars allows me to block out my day, while still giving colleagues visibility to actual availability in my work calendar (which is shared with them).
  • I can view and add to these multiple calendars from the Outlook mobile app (which works great with Siri for appointment scheduling, btw)
  • Maintaining my actual calendar facilitates easy time entry at the end of the day.

Do you have any good time management strategies that work for you? Do you think this will be helpful to you? Let me now in the comments.

Also, if you prefer the paper version of this technique, Jesse’s printable version is available for download on Gumroad.

FastTabs in D365 Finance

FastTabs are blocks in D365 forms that can be expanded or collapsed. Like a filing cabinet or library card catalog (remember card catalogs?), FastTabs allow lots of information to be compressed into a tiny space and opened for access when needed.

Below are some tips for navigating FastTabs in D365 Finance:

Personalization and Saved Views

If you routinely need access to certain field positioned lower on a form, the Move personalization feature can be used to move the more utilized field into a more prominent FastTab, or even to move an entire FastTab higher on the form.

Right-click and select personalize on a field and you can also select Show in Header, which will display that field attribute on the right side of the FastTab whether the FastTab is expanded or collapsed.

Expand All

If you are looking for a field on a form, but unsure which FastTab it is filed under, Expand all can be your friend. Right-clicking on the fasttab header gives you the option to Expand all FastTabs on the form. Used in conjunction with Ctrl+F, this can be a powerful method to quickly find the field you are searching for.

Less Words, Moar Video

I made a quick video of this. Let me know if this is helpful, and whether you’d like me to make more videos like this.

DynamicsCon Is Coming!

DynamicsCon is just 2 weeks away, happening March 16-18.

What is DynamicsCon?

DynamicsCon is the #1 Free, Virtual, Super-hero themed D365 conference in the world. Over three days, Microsoft Dynamics & Power Platform professionals across the globe will connect to learn, share ideas, and develop new skills.

I’m excited to participate in DynamicsCon, presenting a session of my own on Tuesday the 16th (Saved Views, Custom Fields & Developer-less Developments).

Why am I participating in DynamicsCon?

There are three reasons why I am participating in DynamicsCon:

  • Community – The D365 community is great. It is fun to meet and interact with the other D365 and Power Platform professionals. I’m grateful to the others who have helped me learn and apply new technologies and I’d like to be a part of improving the experiences of others.
  • Video – I have written on this blog for a couple years, but video is a new medium for me. DynamicsCon presentations involve 40 minutes of recorded video – committing to present stretched me out of my comfort zone, but this is a good thing. I hope to create more video content in the future.
  • Fun – DynamicsCon is fun. Just look at the super-awesome super-hero masks they made for Calvin and me! And don’t just take my word for it – check out this avid endorsement from Grammy award winning musical artist Kenny G

Why should you participate in DynamicsCon?

If you are a super-hero and/or Kenny G fan, I think the reasoning is self-evident. It is a harder sell if you are not, but the value is still there. DynamicsCon is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things around Microsoft’s D365 and Power Platform technologies. Even if you are unable attend the live event, it is worth signing up and watching the recordings afterwards.

Also, did I mention it’s FREE?!?

REGISTER HERE: DynamicsCon | Sign-up