I’m starting to really appreciate Twitter

I checked my BB, as I always do when I get up in the morning, and was surprised to discover that I didn’t have a single new email. When I got to work shortly thereafter and logged into my computer, I found the same thing.

Nothing new. I had that sinking feeling we’ve all experienced when you realize you’re in the middle of a tech ‘failure to communicate’.

We had recently made some changes to our server (and everything seemed to be going fine), but today we had a glitch that made inbound and outgoing emails come to an abrupt halt.

And while the situation is being repaired (though being in the middle of it, it sure feels endless), I do feel lost without the action of my email fix.

Fortunately, we still have Internet and I was able to Twitter the fact that ‘we’re experiencing technical difficulties – please stand by’ to all and sundry who may be trying to contact us. And I felt somewhat empowered by that.

The challenge is to get the people you’re trying to reach to tune in.

Of course, we do have another old school option: pick up the phone.

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Speed trap

Our 24/7 communications world sometimes seems a lot like the Autobahn: no limits to speed.

But I think we’d be a whole lot smarter if we if we took our foot off the accelerator and paid more attention to the road ahead. (Watch our for that pothole!) We could even enjoy some of the picturesque scenery along the way.

Now I’m not referring to a bucolic, Green Acres type of existence. Far from it: As they sing so eloquently in the show: ‘New York is where I’d rather stay.’

However, I am talking about situations where we, as communicators, feel that high sense of urgency (anxiety?) and instantly react.

It happens most often in emails. We press send and there’s a typo, a missed word, an undeveloped idea or – a mistake. We’re all guilty of this. But it’s an easy fix.

Instead of speeding through your to-do list, take an extra few moments – that all – to reflect, consider, think.

Unsubscriber blues

Guest blog by LOUISE ARMSTRONG, executive vice president, Palette PR

When I turned 40, I decided to draft some resolutions for the second half of my life. Each goal is designed to simplify my life by eliminating time wasters – things that are a part of my day but which I neither need nor want.

I had no trouble finding my first victim – email newsletters. A weekly scan turned up 25 distinct titles, seven of which arrived on a daily basis. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had requested them but most were uninvited guests to my inbox.

I made it my mission to unsubscribe myself from the lot and set to work with a single-minded zeal. First, I divided them into three categories: those I voluntarily subscribed to and actually read (only one fell into this category); those I subscribed to and didn’t read (six here) and, the vast majority, those I had not subscribed to and didn’t want.

In some cases, I had been systematically placed on the email distribution list of professional groups I belonged to. Others were from stores I visited, hotels I stayed at and restaurants I frequented, all of which assumed that I would be fascinated by their every move. Finally, there were the ones whose source eluded me – monthly real estate reports and investment trends – authored by people who must have received my business card at a networking event.

Removing myself from these lists varied from remarkably simple to downright impossible. The ones I had voluntarily signed up for took the news fairly well, although many asked me to log in, forcing me to recollect ancient passwords. Others acquiesced after some prodding but said they would need up to three months for it to take effect. A few gave up the fight only when I threw myself on their mercy with a tale of how out of control my life had become.

The best response I received was from a community newspaper whose tech person responded that I was now ‘blacklisted’ from their email distribution list. Imagine that.

At this writing, several weeks after the start of my quest, I have reduced my daily newsletter total by about two thirds but I’m ticking it off my resolution list as a ‘complete’.

Next task: deal with snail mail as it comes in.

In-box to overcapacity

It’s happening everywhere. That seemingly never-ending deluge of emails, filling up your in-box, often to overflowing. It’s like gridlock every time you look at your computer screen. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to inch two cars ahead.

And it doesn’t rest. I have days when I get 40+ messages between 7 pm and 7 am (and yes, I know some of you get 100). And they’re all clamoring for my attention when I get to the office in the morning (or sneak a peak at my BB at night).

So what’s a poor blogger to do?

Here are four things I’ve tried that help ease the congestion (a bit):

1. Stop being so anal about ‘covering your ass’. File or delete. Make that your mantra. Be more strategic and make decisions about what you need to keep. Don’t leave your in-box with a deluge (as I occasionally do). So much email is little more than a recorded instant message exchange.

2. Prioritize your messages and deal with them in bunches. I have to admit, I’m not great at this, but I am getting better. And I’m never more productive than when I’m at a two hour meeting, come back and then take 30 minutes to respond to the onslaught. Selectively using a BB on a long subway is also good (just remember to press send before Rosedale and Davisville).

3. Take an email vacation. When you’re away for a week or more, ask people you work with to stop cc’ing you on anything but the most important documents. See if they’ll be kind enough to prepare one email summarizing the key points about what’s happened. Offer to do the same for them.

4. And talk to people. (How quaint!) The conversation isn’t only online. Not everything has to (or should) be in writing.

Any other thoughts to add?