How to Process Incoming Comunication

You should work to manage of your incoming data with the fewest possible moves; including e-mail, voice mail, real-time phone calls and regular mail. It’s doesn’t take long for incoming data to constantly demand your attention and drain your day. Good workplace habits come from working smart and with control.

If you receive new e-mails and voice mails all day long, schedule a couple of times per day to check them. (E.G., first thing in the morning and right after lunch.) Read or listen to messages and determine their priority; particularly with regard to current schedules. If necessary or appropriate, send off a prompt answer (promising follow-up, when required).

  • E-mail
    • Use the two-minute rule to process your e-mail. If it takes less than two minutes to answer a message, do it then file or delete the message.
    • Use folders to organize messages.
    • IMMEDIATELY delete any messages you do not need to keep.
    • Use follow-up flags or dated calendar alarms to bring forward e-mail when it needs attention.
  • Voice Mail
    • Review your voice messages, take notes and delete them.
    • Respond to those that fit the two-minute rule.
    • Schedule the others for follow-up, as appropriate.
  • Postal mail
    • Open your post once a day.
    • Toss the junk or the unneeded paper into the bin.
    • Use the two-minute rule.
    • File those that are just for information. Delegate what you can. Place in rest in a follow-up system, so that it comes to your attention, when you need it and not before.

Finally, don’t get into the habit of reading every e-mail, as it arrives, or even answering the phone every time it rings. Answer calls from people you are waiting for. Otherwise, use voice mail. Your goal is to have systems in place to ensure that you manage incoming communication within your schedule, rather than letting it manage or even overwhelm your schedule.

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How to Write the Annual Christmas Holiday Letter

Regardless of what you think of them, family Christmas letters have become a part of our culture. Here are some tips on how to write Christmas letters the recipients will enjoy.

1. Start off on a positive note.

It’s a trend you can count on. The bulk of holiday letters begin with a sentence like this: “I can’t believe the year has come and gone so quickly!” Look for something more original and positive to start the letter.

Try openers like, “One of the blessings of this time of year is the chance it gives me to connect with you, my friends and family.” or “We’ve had a happy, busy year here in the Smith household!” Even a stock “Holiday greetings from the Young family!” is a better opener than the traditional plaintive cry about the passage of time.

2 Be yourself. Write in your own voice.

Too often, holiday letters show symptoms of “writer-itis”: big words, inflated sentences, piled-up adjectives. Friends and neighbors don’t want to hear from Edward Bulwer Lytton, they want to hear from you. Use your own voice, and write as you speak. You’ll bring a breath of fresh air–and a happy echo of your own personality–to your letter.

This is the cardinal rule of holiday letter writing. Write like you speak. Your letter should sound like you wrote it, not like it was penned by your seventh grade English teacher.

3 Don’t exaggerate or brag.

If something good happened to you and your family, announce it, but keep it low-key. Readers don’t enjoy gloating. Remember when you played sports in school and had to shake hands with the losing team after winning a great victory? Keep that image in mind while announcing your latest victories.

4 Be creative.

Your Christmas letter doesn’t have to be a long narrative of everything that happened to your family this year. Be creative. Use bullet points, create a puzzle, or turn it into a multiple-choice quiz. Ask each family member for a list of five things they would like to share about themselves in this year’s familyChristmas letter. You may be surprised by what they choose, but their choices will add personality to your letter.

5 Add colour.

Holiday letters are easier and more fun to read when you spice them up with family photos, Christmasclip art, or other images (such as scanned children’s artwork). People love to see photos. Make sure you include pics of the adults and not just kids.

6 Have fun.

Remember that the goal of your annual Christmas letter should be to entertain and inform the recipients. If you don’t have fun writing it, your recipients probably won’t enjoy reading it.

7 Read it out loud.

Have you succeeded in writing an informative, entertaining holiday letter? Read it out loud, or have someone else read it to you. If it doesn’t sound right, go back and revise it.

8 Personalize the letter.

Before sending the letter, personalize each one with a couple of handwritten lines at the bottom of each letter. This adds a personal touch leaving your readers feeling good.

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Learn How to Manage Your Boss

No matter where you work, you report to someone – maybe even to two or three bosses. And whether you think your boss is brilliant or a bore, the fact is that you have to manage the relationship with your boss if you want to advance your career.

Many of us give little thought to managing our supervisors. We do so at our own peril. Supervisors can have a lot of influence over our success in a job and our long-term career plans. Supervisor recommendations carry a lot of weight when it comes to decisions about raises, promotions, training resources and even job references. Why then do we fail to develop positive work relationships with our supervisors?

In the past, the supervisor-employee relationship has been view as one-way, with the supervisor as boss and the employee subservient to their authority. It is better to view the relationship as a partnership involving mutual dependence. Supervisors need the contributions of subordinates, just as subordinates require support and resources from supervisors. Both parties need to co-operate in order to fulfil requirements and achieve goals.

Why do so many employees try to stay out of the way of supervisors and avoid their notice? Surveys indicate, more than 50 per cent of employees list relationships with immediate supervisors as the worst aspect of their job. Sure, there are poor supervisors, just as there are poor employees. However, both employees and supervisors are responsible for creating effective working relationships.

Develop positive working relationships

Employees, consider your immediate supervisor as an important internal customers. Ask yourself, what does my supervisor needs from me? What is the preferred work style of my supervisor? What kind of environment does my supervisor work in and what pressures do they experience?

What does your supervisor expect of you? Use this information to guide and build your interactions. Remember, supervisors are busy people with many demands placed on them. Make good use of their time and resources.

Take initiative

The workplace is fast-paced; it’s smart to take the intiative. Don’t wait for your supervisor to give detailed directions. Instead, show initiative, demonstrate sound judgment and ask questions. Ask your supervisor for feedback and act on the feedback. Most supervisors appreciate the participation of employees in company work activities. For example, participate in meetings, volunteer to sit on important committees and welcome delegated tasks as a way to increase your skills.

Be professional

You create good working relationships with your supervisor by acting professionally. Meet work deadlines and keep your supervisor informed about accomplishments and problems. Be honest and don’t agree to do things if you have no intention of following through on them.

The workplace requires you keep up-to-date about developments in your field and improve your work skills through ongoing learning. Avoid the temptation of becoming a superhero, working solo for long hours with excessive overtime. These behaviours can have negative effects on your family and volunteer activities. Learn instead to become a team player and to strike a good balance between work and family responsibilities.

Be resourceful

Growth requires change. Supervisors appreciate employees that are resourceful. Be creative, share ideas and develop problem-solving skills. Have Plan B on standby, in case Plan A doesn’t yield the outcome measures or standards required.

Flexibility is a worker’s key asset. Practise time management skills and schedule time each week for networking. Know who you can call for help when you need it. Supervisors are looking for self-motivated individuals who are interested in more than financial rewards alone.

The choice is yours

Supervisors can be an advocate or an adversary. The choice is largely up to you. The relationship you develop with your supervisor should not be left to chance. Learn to manage your supervisor by taking initiative, being professional and resourceful. Treat your supervisor as your most important internal customer and offer exceptional customer service. Doing so will enhance your employability skills and increase your marketability.

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How to Set Up a Home Communication Centre

It’s getting close to back-to-school time in this part of the world. Another couple of weeks and the summer lull will be over. You’re going wake up on the Tuesday after Labour Day and realize you have three more people to get out the door in the morning. Don’t leave the preparation to the last minute.

One of the handiest tools in our home is a communication/organization centre. It’s a two-part system, a message board and a calendar (see images below). We keep both in the kitchen, which is a hub in our home.

LUNS writing magnetic board IKEAFor the message centre, we use the LUNS board from IKEA. This is a magnetic chalk board, with two trays below the blackboard, a storage space under that and a couple of hooks on the bottom. The board is attached to the kitchen door through which we generally leave and enter the house. The dry-erase calendar is magnetic on the back and is stuck to our refrigerator.

The message centre holds reminders for items that aren’t attached to a date or that need to be completed quickly. For example, the top item on our board is dry cleaning that needs to be picked up this week. The slip from the dry cleaners is attached with a magnet. As we head out, we check the board. If we’re going in the direction of the cleaner, we grab the slip and pick up the cleaning.

The board has slots that can be used to hold things like bills until it’s time to pay them. We also leave things like coupons and entertainment books in there. so that they are readily accessible when we go out.

There are a couple of hooks on the bottom that holds keys. As we come through the door, the keys are hung on the hook and they’re the last thing we grab on our way out.

The calendar serves to track what is going on in the month. Both my wife and I use separate PDA-based calendars. At the start of each month, we transfer information to the dry-erase calendar. That way, we have a quick, at-a-glance view of what we have scheduled. We also note repeating reminders such as garbage and recycling pick up.

Setting up your system

Set up a zone with a family calendar and a bulletin board. Have family members pin invitations, schedules or school events to the bulletin board.  Enter each family member’s information on the calendar. If you assign different colours to each family member, it makes it easy to see which activity belongs to who.

Review your paper clutter. Decide what to keep and what to toss. Sort your papers into categories that work for you. For example: to do, to pay, pending, and to file.  Other categories might be: the names of children and partner, ongoing activities, current schools and contact information.

Now that you have categories, decide what organizing product might assist you best in keeping these papers in order. Look around the space, measure the area for size, and think about your personal organizing style.  Do you prefer to see paper or not? If so, think of open box-like items to use for each category.  If not, look for a desktop file suited to the décor of the space with hanging files to label with each category.  Be sure to choose a product you love and this will help you stay organized.

Have routines for your family communication center.  Hold a family meeting regularly to update your calendar.  Take turns as secretary to add information. With paper processing, designate a time to work with each of the categories. This will likely take an hour a week, especially if you choose a time you are high energy to get the job done.

A family communication center makes a difference in keeping information accessible. Find the right space, categories, tools and time to make it work. The organization you teach now will serve you and your family a lifetime.

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7 Tips for Effective Email

There is something about e-mail that fosters poor communication habits. Users see it as a form of instant communication and therefore, doesn’t require the same care and attention that a letter might.

For many organizations, e-mail has become the preferred means of communication, both formal and informal. Here are some tips to make your e-mail as effective and efficient as possible:

  1. Use short paragraphs. E-mail is generally read from a computer screen. Keep your paragraphs short –50 words or less– to ensure maximum readability.
  2. Get personal. Use second person terms. Words such as “you”, “your”, and “yours” let the recipient know you’re thinking of them specifically.
  3. Don’t send spam. This includes forwarding every bad joke and poem your second cousin sends you. People don’t like receiving junk paper mail at home and they don’t like the electronic version either. If you’re building a new relationship with a customer, don’t bury them in your sales spam.
  4. Check spelling and grammar. You should invest as much effort in checking the content of e-mail as you do any other written communication. A sloppy e-mail message will communicate negatively about your professionalism.
  5. Include a signature section. Most e-mail software will automate this process for you. Your signature should include your name, job title, contact information, and company name.
  6. Respond efficiently. Develop at set of personal rules for processing your email in a productive way. Read:  @ 43 Folders
  7. Ignore the above tips. If you exchange a large number of messages with a particular co-worker, create a set of rules to optimize the way you each process e-mail. You can develop short cuts and templates that bypass some of the above tips and steps because you have worked out you own protocols.
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