What do you do?
I’m a Communications Consultant with Manulife. On the side I do some photography and I am also working on some blogging.
How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?
I actually tend to look at what’s going on in other industries. This lets me constantly generate ideas and perspectives that are often different from what other people bring to the table. I follow a few blogs – I am a huge fan of Vidyard’s Blog. I use Twitter a lot; it has connected me with so many people I wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance to know.
I also spend a lot of time talking to people. I’m always curious to learn about different perspectives, to hear how others think about the topics I write about. I am particularly interested in the words people use – it’s so easy to adopt esoteric industry jargon and forget that it might not mean a lot to other people; it may even alienate them. I want to create content that is accessible to everyone, so listening to people helps me to write more meaningfully.
Best way to stay on top of email?
Use it less. While email can be helpful it can be slow for consensus building, poor for collaboration, and doesn’t convey tone of voice well – which can easily lead to misunderstandings.
I often find it better to pick up the phone, have a quick meeting, or simply walk over someone’s desk for answers. We get more accomplished and build a stronger relationship in the process, which makes us better collaborators and colleagues.
That being said – I still use email a lot. The key for me is to deal with messages quickly and decisively. I use my inbox like a to-do list, meaning that every message in there is something I need to act on. I only keep the most recent email in a thread in my inbox and I file messages as soon as I have dealt with them.
Top five applications or programs?
As someone who spends most of my time writing, a word processor is my most useful tool – I use MS Word at work and Google Docs at home.
For communications, I rely on Gmail and Twitter (I use Blaq for Twitter on my Q5).
I make pretty heavy use of Notepad – it’s great for getting rid of wonky formatting, transferring text between applications/programs, and also comes in handy on the rare occasions that I need to muddle around with HTML eNewsletters.
I use Photoshop CS5 for processing images – I love it, though I am not nearly skilled enough yet to really leverage the power of that program.
What is your best time-saving trick?
Talking to people. As I said, a 5 minute conversation with the right person is often more productive than an hour of back and forth on email.
I also avoid using voice-mail. As Rob Delaney said.
Favourite productivity tool?
I am still trying to figure that out to be honest. I have tried a number of tools to organize and track projects, but in the end I always revert to a simple to-do list and my inbox.
Still, I do need to track larger projects that have numerous development stages and for that I use MS Project to keep tabs on milestones and ensure I have the right people involved.
One non-tech thing you can't live without?
Music. Music can completely change my mood; it can turn frustration into excitement and get me pumped up to take on new challenges.
Listening to music also helps me creatively focus. I like to isolate a specific sound or instrument and really focus in on what the person is doing; understanding how their sound stands apart and how it works with what other players are doing. I try to bring that to every project I work on: to see each person’s point of view, understand their objectives and how their goals fit within the overall goals of a project.
Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?
My days are kind of variable depending on the status of different projects, but in general I start with email. I look at what’s come in, determine whether priorities have shifted, and make my to-do list for the day based on what’s top priority.
Most days I have a number of meetings, but I block 1-2 days a week in my calendar for project work. That doesn’t mean I have no meetings on those days, but it allows me to be judicious about which meetings I accept and allows me to concentrate on projects.
I try to find lots of reasons to leave my desk. Sitting for too long is bad for the back and for the creativity. I make time to talk to people face-to-face and try to get out for a walk in the afternoon.
At the end of the day I review my inbox to see what I’ll likely start on the next day. Before I leave I tidy up my desk so I come in to an organized workspace the next day.
Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?
I had a really hard time whittling this down as there are so many awesome people in our community who seem to be doing a million things amazingly well. A few names that come to mind are Loretta Kooymans from Cowan Insurance Group (@LorettaKooymans), and David Tubbs from Meer Social (@davidbtubbs), and Lori Butler from the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre.