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5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good

5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good

I’m a big fan of Twitter, and have been using it heavily since the outset. For those of you not yet using it, Twitter is a communications gateway that asks the question: “What are you doing now?” Users can answer and hear their friends’ answers via SMS, via IM, or on a webpage. Updates have to be under 140 characters. Think somewhere between IRC and IM and that’s Twitter.

Twitter is a constant pulse product, meaning it can really sap your attention span. That seems antithetical to life-hacking, or at least to Getting Things Done. So how is it useful? Here are my tricks.

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Use Twitter for Good

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  • Quick Human Answers– Ask folks on your friend’s list which digital camera to buy for under $300 US, and you’ll get back a stream of responses.
  • Conference / News Briefings– The last several major tech events were covered by Twitter. I heard about the Apple iPhone faster through Twitter than I would via blog surfing. Similarly, I’ve watched people in San Francisco report earthquakes that took news sources hours to confirm.
  • Friendsourcing– Last Tuesday, I asked about a web designer for a project. I got back 14 emails in 10 minutes from different sources on Twitter. It’s a great place to find folks to help with things. We once helped a friend out of a bind when he got stuck at an airport, strictly by Twitter. (I write about friendsourcing on my blog).
  • Micro-Attention-Sharing– Lots of us use Twitter to direct folks to blog posts we’ve written, news we find needs sharing, or entertaining things we’ve found on the web (Twitter has a built in function to use tinyurl.com to shrink URLs to keep it under 140 characters). It’s *like* using del.icio.us to share, but it’s instant, and you wouldn’t drop 100 links on someone in Twitter in a given day.
  • Direct People to Good Causes– I’ve seen plenty of posts of someone doing a walk for hunger or a collection for diabetes. Twitter allows people to use their friend lists to propagate that information faster, and try to draw more direct help down to a problem.
  • Bonus– As advertised, Twitter answers the question “What are you doing?” It means that you can stay in touch with others without being intrusive. Just follow their twitters.

Twitter can be distracting, but it can be useful. It’s up to you.

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-Chris Brogan is Community Developer for Network2.tv a guide to Internet TV. You can add him as a friend on Twitter. His username is “chrisbrogan.”

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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