Happy New Year! As the first post of the year, I’m going to capitalise on two things. The first is how fresh our memories of Christmas lunch or dinner are, and the second is the openness to forming resolutions characteristic of January.
But first, let’s talk turkey. My in-laws traditionally celebrate on Christmas Eve, and traditionally can’t decide whether they want to embrace our beautiful Western Australian summer or stick to tried and true Christmas Dinner traditions, so taking a leaf from the book of the little girl from the Old El Paso commercial, we do both.
Our shared seafood BBQ course always happens outdoors. Everyone brings something to go on the big round table, lots of plates of delicious things in the middle to share (I was particularly proud of my sea bream ceviche tostadas this year), and everyone reaches in and grabs what they want, when they want it. Think dim sum-style, with less trolleys.
The traditional turkey course moves indoors. Rectangular table. Big (like… really big) turkey. Big bowls of sides. Lots of passing bowls & plates sideways. Also lots of waiting for things to be passed, and the usual round of “have you got turkey, Joel? How about bread? Has anyone not got [insert food name here]?” conversations. Plus paper hats & terrible jokes. And the desperate need for a nap.
Not to be one of those guys who can’t switch his work brain off, but this got me thinking. This brings me to my second point to capitalise on – resolutions. I don’t want to use so much email this year. We don’t need to send so much email. There’s better ways.
In this age of digital collaboration & transparency, email is like that turkey course. I can’t grab the shared resources I need when I need them. Everything being shared is being shared from point to point around the table. Sure, the turkey itself gets carved and plates move, but that’s just like attaching a file & filling out the CC field. Also, if I had my heart set on a turkey wing, but someone else had already “edited it…”
You get the picture.
This year, I want to treat communication & collaboration like that seafood BBQ. Open, shared, transparent, jointly accountable (keeping those flies at bay was EVERYONE’s responsibility), and available. I want the people I communicate with to be able to reach into the middle of the table when they need to, and be on the same page as everyone else because they’re accessing exactly the same material as everyone else, not a copy of it that may or may not have been edited since they accessed it. Of course, some things need to stay in the domain of traditional email, but I want to be more discerning about what those things are, and break up the monotony where possible and appropriate.
Here’s how I’m going to do it.
I’m not going to send file attachments anymore.
Instead, I’m going to send links. I can store files in Dropbox, Box, or Minus, and either share entire folders for read & write access, or create one-off web links. The advantage here is that rather than sending many copies of a file to individuals, I’ve got one copy. It sits in the middle, and people come to pick it up. Everyone’s on the same page.
If I want input on a document from my colleagues, I’m going to create that document online.
Google Docs gives me a full-featured productivity suite (and 5GB of free storage space) that runs in my web browser. I can create, share & collaborate on documents, making them as private or as public as I like. If I want to really concentrate on presentation, I can download it in my choice of file formats and open it in something with a bit more firepower. The best part? It’s got half as many buttons as Word, and it’s free.
If I’ve had an idea I’d like to save & share for feedback, I’m going to publish it.
I like being able to keep track of my ideas easily, and I find writing about them helps me to crystallise, troubleshoot and develop them. I also need to discipline myself to keep a record of the interesting things I get up to, so a way for me to manage that is to actually document it on the fly as part of my development process. Blogs have become so user-friendly that it’s never been easier to set up a website to use as a space to publish ideas, host discussion & collate a portfolio. It can be as simple as creating an account at WordPress.com or Blogger, or as fully customised as your own site on your own domain with private hosting.
If I want to ask a lot of people a quick question, fire out a quick link or observation or join a bigger, broader conversation, I’ll look to Twitter.
The number of times I’ve had a tiny, specific query about anything ranging from movie recommendations to managing media types in video editing, tweeting my question with the hashtag #asktheinternet is yet to fail me. It is a very people-driven environment, so like joining a new workplace, team, or neighbourhood, it does take time to get established on Twitter. It’s also prone to a bad reputation because of bad press or bad photos of breakfast, but if you treat it like any other social environment and only associate with people who have something substantial to offer, it can be an incredibly positive & beneficial experience.
Some things just need to be left in the realm of face to face conversation. Leave it out of your inbox altogether.
What do you think? Is 2013 the year we resolve start managing our communication more effectively so that it works for us, as opposed to being something else to manage? Do you have any other alternatives to traditional email as post-and-parcel communication?