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Entries in technology (6)


The 50 Word Rule

In our training programs so much discussion is generated around the mountain of e mail people get and how to better manage it. There are effective systems and procedures to handle it, but we won't spend time here trying to highlight them all. One proactive step you could take is to manage how you SEND email to other people. Your level of control is much greater here.

One guideline we use is the 50 word rule. If an email will require more than 50 words, choose to make a phone call-or schedule a phone call with someone (or meet with them face to face). In most e mails over 50 words there are multiple questions and information to be processed. What happens if they don't respond to all the questions or understand the information. You will spend 3-4 more emails trying to clarify the content when one phone call of 5 minutes could have handled everything.

Sure, there are times that a long e mail is the best way to impart lots of information, but people often get lost in the content (or get distracted by something else before they are done). Keeping the email short and concise increases the possibility that they will read all of it and respond accordingly.


A Picture to Improve Your Memory

Taking a picture is a great way to remind us of special moments in time and help create memories that we will hopefully never forget. We take pictures of important events like birthdays, graduations and anniversaries. We load up on photos of those we care about, vacations and places that we have visited. But what about those not so important items and events in your life that are worth remembering...even for a short while.

Consider using your digital camera (especially if your mobile phone has a camera) to help you remember the not so "important" events of your life:

  • Take a picture of the row and space where you parked your car at the airport or large parking garage. It is more convenient than writing it down on a card or piece of paper that you have to keep track of. When you return from your trip or shopping, the information will be at your fingertips and then you can delete it.

  • If you are in a traffic accident, take pictures of the scene, the cars involved, license plates, even the people. After an accident, your adrenalin is pumping and it is easy to forget details. "A picture is worth a thousand words!"

  • If you rent a lot of cars for work or vacation, take a picture of the license plate so that you have the information available when you check into hotels (some hotels ask for car information for parking). It might also be helpful to take a picture of your hotel room number so you can remember which room is yours. If you travel a lot, you know how room numbers start to blur after awhile and it will save you a trip to the front desk.

  • If you see a quote or thought on a sign, billboard or plaque that you would like to remember, rather than scrambling for paper and a pencil to write it down-take a picture!

Once you think of your digital camera as a resource, you will find many more uses to help you remember things. The value is that once you take a picture (record the information) you can forget about it and keep your mind clear for more important things. It's a snap!


Social Networking and Your Job Search

While many people are comfortable posting pictures, comments and taking strange quizzes (i.e. Which member of the Addams Family do you look most like?) on social networking sites, few are comfortable leveraging these sites for job searches and employment.

The Yahoo article, Social Networking Basics for Job Hunters, offers some good initial ideas to get you started.


The Cost of Not Paying Attention

While working on the Juggling Elephants "Train the Trainer" program, I came across a fantastic research abstract entitled The Cost of Not Paying Attention-How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity. Consider some of their findings:

-Unnecessary interruptions cost U.S. businesses $588 billion per year.

-Twenty-eight percent of a knowledge worker's productivity may be lost to unnecessary interruptions such as instant messaging, spam e-mail, telephone calls and the web.

The abstract offered three great solutions to minimize such losses. They were:

-Training knowledge workers to prioritize work at hand

-Providing them with discretion to turn off technology

-Separating themselves from technology to do work


Going "All Digital" - Not Yet!

We recently had a customer of "Juggling Elephants" write to us about tips for going "all digital" with a system that would be small and compact. Here was my reply:

When it comes to calendaring I struggle like you do. I love electronics and technology. But I haven't found an electronic calendaring solution that I totally like - especially when I am away from my desk a lot. I am a visual person and like to see a layout of what is going on in my life and small PDA screens just don't do that for me. A few tips that work for me:

  • I carry a paper based system with me - mainly for my calendar and for taking notes (I can't take notes fast enough on a PDA especially when I am on the phone). I use Franklin Covey's compact planner with the 2 page calendar spread - it fits in a brief case (or purse) and is easy to carry

  • It is critical to have just one MASTER calendar (for me it is my planner). Everything goes in the Master calendar and then I update other calendars as necessary (the family calendar, my schedule in Outlook at work, etc.)

  • In my planner I carry a quad-pen that has red, blue and black ink along with a pencil. On my paper based calendar I track the 3 rings of my circus with a different color of ink (red-relationships, blue-self, and black-work). I use the pencil for stuff that is tentative and hasn't confirmed

  • I still use technology. I update my schedule in Outlook so that people that I work with know my schedule. I also like that my mobile phone will sync with my Outlook automatically and will "beep" to remind me of appointments (my planner doesn't beep). This function also mutes my mobile phone during meetings so that I don't get interrupted by an incoming call.

These ideas seem to work for me but I travel and am away from my desk a lot. If I were at my desk most of the time I think that I could go 100% digital due to the bigger screen of my computer. The key is to take planning of your circus seriously and to find a solution that works for you. A custom solution that fits your needs is probably the best answer. I have also found that talking with others and finding out what works for them has given me new ideas and increased my productivity.