Thursday, October 17, 2013

5 Tips For Better Managing Your Inbox

Email can be one of the more effective communication tools used in our daily lives. Yet, I have seen and often wondered how others ended up with hundreds, sometimes thousands of unread messages in their inbox. Truthfully, many of us struggle to get our email under control and do end up wasting a lot of time trying to sort it all out. Why? The lack of a system for doing so.

Over time, I developed an approach that works for me, in keeping with my lifestyle and habits. If you are still having difficulties in developing your very own system, I would like to recommend the following five tips for getting you well on your way toward better managing your inbox;
  • Go through your email and search out messages that are received periodically, such as newsletters, marketing deals, and coupons. If you do not read them, go ahead and unsubscribe. Over time, this would help reduce any unnecessary messages from reaching your inbox. Also, make thorough use of your spam filter and allow it to take on some of the work of managing your inbox.
  • Delete messages that you have read and no longer need (such as forwarded messages, notifications, and updates). Any messages that are kept in your inbox or archive, should be for reference only and for a period of up to a year.
  • Be strategic in how you send and reply to messages. Avoid sending emails where a phone call or in-person visit would suffice or be more effective. Always be mindful of your audience, keep your messages clear and concise, and identify what actions you expect of the message's recipient, if applicable. 
  • Inbox filters and automation tools work very well. In Gmail for instance, you can create filters for automatically marking as important, deleting, labelling, or forwarding messages that you consider important. Most email applications offer similar functionality. This saves time by helping you to clearly identify which messages need your attention. Searching your email has gotten better, so avoid wasting time by putting stuff into folders. 
  • Check your mail regularly. Some people do not check mail often enough and tend to miss out on timely messages, appointments, or information. Check in regularly during the day at set times, maybe in the morning, at midday, and in the evening. Review and action your messages. Delete what you would not need. 
Feel free to weigh in on any other tips and techniques that work for you in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Respect And Morality Are Both On The Decline

Respect is of great importance and plays an integral role in all aspects of our everyday lives; faith, marriage, family, community, education, government, workplaces, relationships, and the environment. Certainly as a child, I was taught to respect myself, teachers, elders, family, country, laws, and the rights, feelings, and differing opinions of others. Respect here, is that positive feeling of reverence or deference that you have toward another person or thing, and it does appear to be on the decline around the world.

You see it when parents are unwilling to or incapable of engendering basic values, principles, and discipline in their children, giving rise to an unhealthy lack of respect for or recognition of authority. As a result, teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain order, even as some parents threaten their lives when some measure of discipline is dared to instilled in their children. Many people aren't as neighbourly or caring as they used to be.

Employers treat employees as nothing more than mere tools to be exploited in the pursuit of profit. Criminals neither fear nor regard the law. Many unapologetically litter our streets, beaches, and parks. Carnage on the nation's roads ensue as we drink and drive, speed excessively, and ignore constituted rules and regulations. Churches relax their moral authority in an effort to remain relevant. All of these examples and linked to and do raise concerns about morality or those principles which concern the distinction between right and wrong.

We have changed and I fear, for the worst. Through globalization and the spread of technology, we continue to embrace the wavering values of a world that is clearly self destructing. Civility, order, and personal responsibility is being replaced by extreme forms of individualism, selfishness, and a belief that morality has no meaningful place in a modern, progressive, and global society. Individuals now believe that he or she has a monopoly on what passes for acceptable personal and societal norms, often without consideration of others. These attitudes and behaviours have also served to both erode and destroy the bedrock of a healthy and stable society, the family.

Many are yearning for the return of respect, morality, civility, and order, so all is not lost. We can all aspire to higher standards of living when we make mutual respect a fundamental part of our daily lives. Certainly, it would require faith, courage, discipline, and patience as we establish and maintain boundaries, work toward a singular standard, ascribe to principles that further cultivate love, honor, trust, understanding, and compassion, and engage in continuous dialogue about what constitutes these standards....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Matching Non-profits With Skilled Volunteers

Non-profit organizations today continue to play an integral role throughout the larger society, by providing much needed services to its often underserved or unrepresented members. These services are primarily driven by a worthy cause or need that is simply not being met, either by the government or private sectors.

At a recent discussion with other leaders within the non-profit sector, it was asked, what were some of the challenges faced. It was no surprise that the most significant was the lack of financial support by the government and private sectors, and in having access to other sustainable or equitable sources of funding. Other challenges did include the visibility, recognition, and legitimacy of our non-profit organizations and their efforts, increasing pressure to perform by sponsors and donors, competition within the civil space for limited resources, and staffing. The last one particularly stood out for me as it has been the major challenge for the non-profit organization that I co-founded and do run today.

Knowing that our organization does not have the required funding, we have to rely on volunteers or those willing to give of their time and energy. Understandably, volunteers are hard to come by if their personal aims, objectives, values, and desires are not aligned with that of the cause, any organization is championing. Additionally, they cannot be managed like the paid employees found in other sectors. Many have full time jobs, other commitments, and responsibilities; often making it difficult to plan and implement the strategic projects and initiatives required to deliver upon envisioned outcomes for those that you seek to serve. It is also difficult to hold volunteers accountable for the timely delivery of results.

So, it got me thinking. How can the problem be solved where non-profit organizations can source and recruit reliable, willing, and capable volunteers? Too, how can volunteers be made aware of potential opportunities within the civil society, where they can also gain additional skills and experience, whilst meeting an innate need to help and contribute toward the success of a cause in which they have an interest?

One possible solution: a professional and national organization or body aimed at bringing non-profits and volunteers together, in a viable manner. This organization should seek to;
  • Register volunteers, their qualifications, experiences, and desired areas of work
  • Similarly register non-profit organizations, their aims, objectives, causes, and activities
  • Match through innovative technologies and schemes, opportunities at non-profit organizations with volunteers taking into account key requirements, schedules, skills, competencies, performance, projects, and social networks
  • Institute a code of ethics, applicable policies, and guidelines for volunteering
  • Work with non-profits to create engaging opportunities for volunteers characterized by comfortable, challenging, and exciting projects and work environments, aligned with their personal interests
  • Institute a rating and referral system for volunteers by the organization and organization by volunteers, which seek to improve both the organization and those seeking to volunteer
  • Work with the government and private sectors to encourage volunteering as a part of their corporate social responsibility and human resource development programmes
  • Make volunteering a mandatory part of courses and programmes within selected undergraduate and post graduate programmes
  • Finally, work with the government and private sectors to offer some incentives for volunteers, either through tax breaks, annual bonuses or rewards, or some credit trading scheme

I know that there are some international organizations matching non-profits with volunteers. Here in Trinidad & Tobago however, there isn't a perceptible or prominent culture of volunteering. These ideas are merely a reflection of my thoughts and observations over the past several years, but it is my sincerest hope that some meaningful progress can be made toward aligning non-profits with the skilled, capable, and willing volunteers they do require. Please feel to let me know what you think by leaving your comments and thoughts below.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Knowing When And How To Say No

Do you find it hard or difficult to say no?

A very good friend remarked quite recently that I'm probably too nice for my own good. Her reasons for saying so in light of the situation at the time, encouraged me to take a step back and take a long hard look at why I had a problem saying no. Whilst I believe that there are other reasons, I was able to understand that I do genuinely like helping others, desire not wanting to come off as being rude or disrespectful, do not like to disappoint, prefer to give consideration to their feelings, and do wish to avoid conflict or dissent, if possible.

Many of these reasons are really nothing more than misconceptions and impediments to me focusing on the aspects of my life which matters most. Many of the those that I have difficulty telling no, can too be somewhat inconsiderate, selfish, and less respecting of others' time and commitments. Some, due to their own misconceptions and experiences, react emotionally to being told no, probably perceiving it as some form of personal rejection. As much as I might desire to, I simply cannot help everyone. There is also a growing and innate need to be mindful of my own energies.

The thing is though, saying no is neither rude nor disrespectful, if done with an accurate motive in mind. Any fears of disappointing others and conflict are also misplaced, as all through life, we meet people with views, opinions, and goals which differ from our very own. Why become a prisoner to that fact? I need to be more honest with myself and others. What it really comes down to now, is knowing when and how to say no.

To help with this, I had put together a few questions;  
  • What are some of my other commitments, plans, or activities and how important are they?
  • Can I delegate some of my ongoing commitments, freeing me up to engage in any new ones?
  • Am I dedicating the time and energy required by that which ultimately matters; such as God, self, and family?
  • By saying no, what might be some of the other fears and concerns that I have?
  • What’s the worst that can happen if I do say no?
  • Can the question, opportunity, or situation itself be framed differently or put into a different context?

With the responses to these questions in mind, I do believe that I could now respond accordingly, accurately, and comfortably using the right tone and language. For example;
  • "I'd love to help you out right now, but..."
  • "Sorry, but I'm working on...", briefly explaining how busy I might be at that time
  • "Sorry, I can't do this right now. How about...?"offering a later time when you may be able to assist
These of course are just a few responses that can be used, but they should be more easily received by others with a deeper understanding and appreciation of my time and commitments, and hopefully without feelings of rejection.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Living With Integrity Makes Life Easier

Within the last several months, I have been observing and giving thought to how many of us live our lives without Integrity. Men, not living up to their promises or taking responsibility for the care and upbringing of their children. Managers, acting in their own self interest at the expense of their organizations, employees, projects, and others. Many, fail to speak the truth for fear of being rejected by society or their peer groups. Some, choose to live contentiously with others at home or work. Others, waver in their beliefs and are disingenuous to others and themselves.

Integrity is the foundation upon which good principles, virtues, and values can be successfully built and integrated into all of our lives. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints (Proverbs 2:6-8). Living with integrity makes life easier. It brings peace, contentment, and a lack of having to look over one's shoulder. It helps built trust, respect, and openness in relationships with others. It brings you the confidence to make the right decisions and continue walking accurately, especially according to His word.

I acknowledge that no one is perfect. Not even myself, but I do sincerely seek to give it my best everyday. Living with integrity requires continued awareness of our environments, selves, and others. So, seek to be yourself and not that which is defined by society or others. Say what you mean and do what you say you will. Give credit where it is due and do not take credit for the successes of others. Avoid conflicts of interest at work and respectfully decline if you are asked to make unethical decisions. Keep your promises and if you cannot say that you cannot. Don't speak ill of and seek to raise up others. Before making a decision, consider all of your options and the impact it will have. Seek to be professional, open, and transparent.

If we all practiced these things and more, life would be much easier. For everyone.