The average business person sends and receives 140 emails every day. That’s a lot of time spent reading, decoding, writing, editing, and re-writing emails. I find email communication essential to doing my job well: because I have a young family and my kids are with me at different times during the day, I rely on email to do most of my communication. The challenge with email is that it’s not always easy to communicate clearly and effectively without ambiguity or confusion. Reading, responding and understanding an email is a time-consuming process, so becoming a better emailer is in my best interest.
I read an article recently about giving clear, understandable instructions to employees and I realized I could interpret these suggestion to give my clients tips on how to provide clear instructions when sending me website updates. This article inspired me to do some additional Googling and thinking about what makes an effective email. Here’s what I came up with:
This week’s tip is how to request tech support. I get a lot of support requests on a daily basis. These range from adding something to a website to fixing an email problem to connecting a website to Google Analytics. When a support request comes in via email, I read it, then decide if I have enough information to act on the request. Many times, I receive some but not all of the information needed to complete the support request. This means I have to reply back to the email and request additional info. This is the normal ebb and flow of support and it may take a few back and forth communications for me to understand the issue or request. Today, I read a great article on uncluterrer about being organized when requesting tech support to help speed up the tech support process. Here are the key points and tips when requesting support:
- Write out problem in detail. Be as specific as you can.
- Learn to take a screenshot. Screenshots can capture what you’re seeing on your screen and can help me understand your issue. If you can’t get a screenshot, write down any errors or messages you see.
- Have any relevant passwords, user names or login information on hand. If I need to connect your website to your Google Analytics account, I’ll need your login information to make this connection.
- Identify what browser and version you are using. Different browsers — Chrome, IE, Safari, Firefox — can all display or produce different results when viewing a website. It helps me to know what browser you’re using.
- Is this a new problem or has it happened before? If you can remember when you first saw the problem, it may help me pinpoint the cause.
- Can you reproduce the error? If you can reproduce the issue you’re seeing, let me know the steps you took to do so, as I’ll try to reproduce the error on my computer before debugging.
- What have you already done, if anything, to troubleshoot this issue? You can save me some time by sharing what you’ve tried to fix the issue.
I’m always happy to help add a new feature to a website or debug a problem and these tips will get us off to a fast start!
Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr
For the past several months, I’ve been trying to take focused breaks away from my computer and work. I used to feel guilty about stepping away from my laptop — from deadlines and people waiting on me — but I finally started to listen to my brain and my body. The best thing? I’ve noticed a dramatic uptick in my productivity when I limit the time I’m in front of my screen. I see it as giving my brain a break – a break from the code I’m writing or the mock-up I’m creating – and a chance to idle or wander. I notice that, after working for a period of time, my mind has trouble focusing. I’ll switch between tasks more often. I’ll check social media sites. That’s usually my cue that I need a break.
This week’s tip is about finding two minutes to meditate. Mindfulness-based meditation has been a popular buzzword for the past couple of years as it’s gotten some [well-deserved] press and companies like Google have launched Mindful Lunches. But, when it comes to mindfulness meditation, I’ve always struggled with finding uninterrupted time to do my meditation, especially on a consistent basis. So, I’ve modified my expectation and the time I do my meditations to just two minutes. For two minutes, I find a peaceful spot or moment – while taking a shower, or in the morning after the kids are at preschool and just before I begin my work – and I focus on my breath. Just for two minutes. Sometimes, my mind flits around and I find myself continually drawing it back to my breath. The more I practice these two minute meditations, though, the more I find myself looking forward to the short little breaks of peace and the more easily I can focus my breath. I think of it as giving my mind a two minute break away from the chaos and information overload it’s exposed to on a daily basis.
Why two minutes? It’s really about cultivating a habit. When I tried to meditate for 20 or 30 minutes daily, I just wasn’t doing it consistently. You can certainly meditate longer than two minutes, and some days, I do. Some days I meditate multiple times for just two minutes. I know I can always find two minutes every day to meditate and focus my mind. Zenhabits has a great post about How to Meditate Daily. It starts with two minutes and gives tips on growing that habit.
Image by Bes Z (CC BY 2.0) via flickr
I’ve written a lot on this blog about the challenges of raising a family, working from home, work-life “balance” (hah!), and growing a small business. I love all of these things – it’s very important to me to be available to my kids and my family and it’s also important to me to challenge myself through the work I do in the web design world. Yet, there’s a point when it becomes not fun – when I feel too busy, too stressed, too drained… and life just overwhelms me. I felt that a lot through the late summer and fall of last year. I was struggling with my workload. There was never enough time. Never enough sleep. I was too busy and couldn’t keep my head above water.