It seems that every day brings with it a new way to pass information – some to varying degrees of want.
With a constant stream of data and touch-points, when does it all become a blended and deafening cacophony of “noise”? How can one “squelch” out the static and focus on that which is truly important? How can we take back control of our personal “airspace”?
I remember years ago when our biggest grip of wasted time and effort was sorting through the “junk-mail”. Our mailboxes were full of catalogs of considerable heft – what child doesn’t remember the Sears Christmas Catalog with some fondness? Then there were the countless solicitations for credit cards (thankfully the credit crisis has all but killed that practice). But all of that was fairly manageable. If the piece of mail looked interesting, we opened it – and if not, we tossed it.
Then there were the commercials on the television and radio. Other than the crafty commercials that aired during the Superbowl, most people use commercials to channel surf, catch a snack, or take a biological break. We somehow managed to retain claim to this time on our terms.
And what person has not had their dinner interrupted by some telemarketer – and what’s worse – an automated telemarketer.
But today, we find ourselves being pinged by so many sources that it is hard toseparate the wheat from the chaff. How do we let the information which is of value through, but filter the noise? Better yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to aggregate all of this information and apply rules as to when and how it would reach you.
Before eMail, we had to rely upon either telephone or hard-copy transported by courier or fax. And it was very difficult to organize meetings, or conference calls. So when eMail first arrived on the scene some years ago, I realized immediate benefit and was quite thankful.
But as eMail became pervasive, it quickly turned from a pure facilitator to an inhibitor. People started creating multiple eMail accounts – personal, professional, perhaps one for on-line purchases or subscriptions. Then there came unsolicited eMail and Spam. And of course the higher on the Totem Pole you are, the more likely you are to be copied on eMails.
Mind you, I like using eMail. Except for the eMails without value which I immediately delete (which probably account for 75% of the eMails that I get) I save them as my “to-do list” and don’t file them or delete them until I have responded or otherwise acted upon them.
In the interest of being “Lean”, I make sure that the time I use to manage my eMail is predictable and finite. I will usually use the first 15m-30m in the morning to read and respond to new eMails – and I will devote a similar amount of time to the end of the day. I will also devote time every day (usually up to 1h) to eMails which are really “to-do’s”.
What I will NOT do is allow myself to be distracted by eMails to the point where they dilute my day’s workflow and responsibilities. And since I realize that I am the sort of person who can only do one thing at a time, I absolutely refuse to link my eMail to my mobile so that I can remain “in the moment” with whatever task I am performing.
There are some eMail management solutions which can help filter unwanted or unsolicited eMail – usually by invoking some sort of validation protocol – but to me that is just another system I have to manage. Besides, I get a lot of eMails which are worthwhile, but that could not be easily validated.
It’s a tough call. Bring me opportunity and information relevant to me quickly and without a lot of effort on either my part or the part of the sender – but bounce the rest. How can an automated system reliably know which to pass and which to bounce?
I appreciate a good eMarketing initiative. I welcome most eNewsletters that are informative and relevant either to my profession or personal interests. I do NOT like eMails which try to “sell” me something. Maybe it’s because I am a “guy” – and I heard once that “gals shop, guys buy”. I don’t know if this is actually a rule, but I am a “guy” and I “buy”. If I want something, I will get it – otherwise don’t bother me. So as you can imagine, all eMails from retailers get deleted.
But even cases where the eNewsletter is relevant and informative, they can get overwhelming in; i) the volume of different eNewsletters that I may receive, ii) the number of issues from a single source, iii) and the volume of content.
My firm publishes an eNewsletter using Constant Contact and I believe we create a “balanced offering”. I try to make it so that 50% of the articles are submitted by non-XONITEK resources so that the reality of the eNewsletter is such that it is not purely a “self-promotion” piece. And we only publish once per month so that we are not too intrusive and become a burden.
Our hit-rates (opens) are pretty good while our “opt-out” rate is low. And out of 15,000-plus contacts (and growing), we only get flagged as “spam” by no more than one (1) person per issue. I also have noticed that a great many people will comment about the eNewsletter when they meet me for the first time. All-in, not too bad.
I supplement our eNewsletter with what I call an “ePostcard”. An ePostcard is a simple eMail that is sent ONLY to people I have personally met as well as friends and family. It is a brief personal note which usually contains a short anecdote (usually humorous – but not always) and perhaps a few of the upcoming events which I might be attending. I also make sure to include my complete contact information and a small picture of me. You would be amazed at how useful including a picture is in your eMail signature for recognition in the future. If you don’t have a picture of you in your signature, add one today!
There are many social networks out there – and I know a great many people who are members of several. They spend an incredible amount of time and energy maintaining their information and “networking”. I also find that most of them are redundant – I know this because I joined several over the last few years.
Besides which, each site will start generating eMails listing the goings-on of your connections and the groups to which you belong. Just what I need. Not just noise – but redundant noise.
Because of this redundancy, I decided to go “inactive” on all but two:
– Facebook for my personal network
– LinkedIn for my professional network
With a few exceptions (where the connections are both personal and professional), the connections in one network will not be the connections in the other. And as a personal rule, I will not conduct business in my personal network nor will I conduct personal business in my professional network – a separation of church and state, if you will.
I have found Facebook to be a great network for connecting with (and staying connected to) friends and family. It’s easy to use, fun and is feature-rich. The “quizzes” can be addicting and I find Zynga Poker to be a great place to take your mind for a walk for a few minutes. And between the photo-management and comment utilities, you really keep abreast of what is going on with whomever. Just one thing – be careful of “overshare”.
But the real power in networking professionally is in LinkedIn. I can’t tell you all that we use it for, but I will give you an anecdote. In early October, I was approached by a gentleman in Poland (who I met on LinkedIn a few years ago where we subsequently organized a lunch on one of my visits) about “teaming” our firms. I thought it was a good idea and agreed to meet in Warsaw in the middle of November. I then decided that I should try to meet other resources and prospects whilst I was there – I mean, after-all, I am there.
So I posted a simple “discussion” in a few LinkedIn Groups as follows:
Visiting Warsaw Poland; Nov 12th-17th. Networking…
Hello; I will be visiting Warsaw, Poland with the expectation of furthering my company’s capabilities in the EU (already in UK, NL, and DE). My consultancy firm specializes in Operational Excellence (Lean, Six-Sigma, and Leadership) with an emphasis on manufacturing, logistics and supply-chain. I am interested in meeting individuals and companies with whom there may be synergies – either as partners or as clients. Academia welcome.
Within a very few days of my post, almost thirty (30) quality people had reached out to me. Of those who reached out and within three (3) weeks, I was able to organize and confirm twenty (20) meetings. A few of the contacts actually introduced me to others such that I expect to meet upwards of forty (40) people. All I can say is, “amazing”.
Blogging, Webcasts, and Podcasts:
We have all heard of people “blogging” and doing “webcasts”. Some people even swear by it as a means of disseminating information. Unless you are a “celebrity” or have a “name” like Jack Cafferty in the “Cafferty Files” (and even then), I am not sold.
I know several people who maintain blogs. Some of them even maintain several blogs (some even more). It takes an incredible amount of energy to maintain these blogs and even more difficult to keep them fresh, relevant, substantive – and for what? Most blogs do not generate revenue but are used as a means of staying connected.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that vast majority of blogs, webcasts, and podcasts created or maintained by the average individual or business person are attended by a very few number of people – oftentimes less than twenty (20). A lot of energy goes into developing and delivering such information products with very little evidence that it has any benefit (to either the creator or the intended audience).
This is not to say that such information streams from industry giants such asApple, Microsoft, Dell, etc… do not get a lot of attendance, because they do. But the average business or individual does not. And in the case of a business, the effort and resources required to produce content would be better spent elsewhere.
The only thing worse than hearing noise, is generating it – especially when you think it’s actually being received. Most businesses would be better served by going-out and meeting their constituents and not hiding behind the internet and thinking you are making progress – or even a difference.
Telephones, Mobile Phones & SMS/Texting:
I had mentioned earlier that I can only work on one task at a time. That is why I often let my in-coming telephone calls go to vMail – because I am working on something else at the time and don’t like to be distracted.
But even worse is answering a telephone call while you are meeting someone or otherwise engaged in a conversation. It’s just rude. It shows the person with whom you are speaking that they are less important than a telephone call. Worse, if you don’t actually know who is calling, it let’s them know that they are the least important person in the WORLD because, no matter who is calling, they are more important.
Another thing – when you call someone; identify who you are, what company you represent, with whom you would like to speak, and the purpose of the call. This is especially important if you are leaving a message on vMail. In fact, if I don’t know you and you don’t provide this information, the chances of my taking or returning the call is ZERO. It’s simple to do, and will actually help you get to who you wish to speak; anything less lacks a level of sophistication.
There is a friend of my son’s who lives down the road. EVERYTIME he calls he asks, “Who is this” to which I always respond, “How many guesses do I get?” Someday… someday…
I do enjoy SMS/Texting – both sending and receiving. But of course I NEVER send or retrieve when I am in the middle of something else for the same reason I would not take a call while talking with someone else – it’s just rude. What I like about SMS/Texting is that they are short and succinct. They also serve as useful “sticky notes” to remind you about whatever. And they are not as extensive as eMails and won’t usually cause serious distraction.
Personally, I don’t understand all of the hype and excitement behind Twitter.
I can see it being of benefit to a tight-nit and integrated community where there is a lot of action (such as in finance and trading or following a basketball leagues goings-on for who is injured, scores, etc. However, I don’t understand what benefit an individual would get from having their own personal account – much less sending out “tweets”. It’s just noise.
My firm has a Twitter account – if nothing else, to reserve the name while we consider for what we would use it. One idea that we are pondering is to have a “XONITEK” Twitter for communicating with internal resources only. Perhaps we need a consultant with specific experience – or some intelligence on a solution or a prospect someone might have. I can see using “Twitter” to do an “all call”.
But seriously, just a few days after we created the account, people (some we knew, some we didn’t) started “following” us. For what, I couldn’t tell you. It’s not like we churn-out content or speak bite-sized nuggets of wisdom. I wonder what they are hoping to hear?
In the end – if you want to take more control of your life so as to be less frantic and more productive – keep a focus, maintain a semblance of order and structure, and by all means, squelch out the noise.
Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence.
He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.
For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at: http://de.linkedin.com/in/josephparis