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How to Be Awesome at Followup

How to Be Awesome at Followup

    Photo by Marloes

    Most people are unexceptional at following up: it sounds obvious, but it shouldn’t be this way, because followup (I spell it as a single word) is key to combining smaller achievements into bigger ones. Actively following up on conversation is also a trait of people who’re successful, focused, and relentless about living their dreams. Lofty yet elegant — and if you excel at followup, you can be sure to incite delight wherever you go, too.

    “Correspondences are like smallclothes before the invention of suspenders; it is impossible to keep them up.” -Sydney Smith

    Here’s how I do it. You’ll need to find ongoing processes that work for you, but the main ideas are easy to get into!

    Don’t be the first to reply (or at least, give it a little while)

    This sounds counterintuitive. Say you get a work email Cc:ed to you and several other colleagues. Should you reply right away? Unless you’ve already thought of a sure answer and/or it’s time-sensitive, likely no. Let it “stew” and even wait for someone else to reply first — you can star it in Gmail and check the thread a day or so later.

    Why? First, you’ll be less rushed. That much is clear. Second, by letting it simmer, your mind will have more space to digest the contents. You’ll be able to sleep on it, and if it’s really a memorable email you need to give input on, your feedback will be richer and more worthwhile than something concocted in haste. Third, you can also thank the person(s) who did reply first for chiming, and consider their ideas — if they said what you had in mind, you save time, too.

    A day isn’t too long anyway, and plenty of time to still be responsive. Try it!

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    (Granted, this won’t work if all your coworkers read this… you may want to keep it a secret! ;) )

    Be a batch-processing, pirate-ninja hybrid

    Some people say ninjas are the awesomest. Others will argue it’s pirates. I like to consider what would happen if you combined both their traits: the sleek stealth of a ninja paired with the skilled sailing of a pirate.

      Photo by hober

      What do you get? Well, it doesn’t sound as exciting as life on the high seas assassinating renegade ronin, but here’s what I mean:

      When you get cool links shared with you, be they viral videos or articles of interest, they can be time-suckers and distractions from making progress on what you’re doing now. Sure you wanna check those links out, but not yet. Instead of jumping on them right away, I use Firefox 3’s star icon on the location bar (aka “awesomebar”) to bookmark each page with a single click to an Unsorted Bookmarks folder. You can access it later by going to Bookmarks menu > Organize Bookmarks, as this lovely video tutorial will show you:

      This is exactly what I’ve been doing for several weeks, and I find myself a nice berth on the weekends to chillax and peruse through one link after another. I get deeper into the content. Some are blog posts which merit a comment from me (a type of followup). Others are clips I want to pass around. And the rest which aren’t worth my time? They get deleted and forgotten. Which is fine.

      Related suggestion: save up video clips to watch on TV. I do this with my wife: we unsubscribed from cable and line up YouTube & friends’ madness to watch at dinner (and other times). With a DVI to video cable, we connected a MacBook Pro to our TV. Not only did it save us money, it makes us less passive selectors of what we consume, and raises the quality of our entertainment. And sparks discussion and sharing — followup!

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      By creating an intense, focused space for all this material, it places your experiences directly in-context of being receptive to both absorbing and feeding back information.

      Clip it… to remind yourself!

      There’s no end of to-do reminder programs out there. My means are simple: I use Google Desktop’s To Do gadget (included with default install) which always sits on the left-hand sidebar of one of my dual monitors.

        I quickly jot down short phrases when I’m in a rush, then have the leisure of expanding on it later — you and even drag-and-drop to recorder, and affix manual [TAGS] for visual ease. By now, you’re noticing this and the previous 2 sections are about you controlling time.

        In addition to bookmarks, I use Firefox’s Scrapbook add-on for saving parts of webpages to read offline and refer to later (it has a handy annotation feature which can highlight passages but I don’t use that), and EverNote (the offline app, not the version 3 beta). My point being: you don’t need the most feature-filled tools, just ones you habituate to using regularly.

        For time-specific, recurring stuff, you’ll want to set up alarms and appointments. I use Google Calendar to remind me when to pay the bill and when I might expect mail-in-rebates to arrive (so I can call if they don’t) — and oh yeah, it’s very nice that Google Desktop also has a Calendar gadget which shows me the day’s events. It’s unintrusive, clean, and saves me daily refreshes of the Gcal webpage, which is what most people do. Don’t be most people.

        I’m also searching for a simple, cheap, spontaneous voice recorder. Got suggestions? This may be overkill for some folks, but if you’re like me and have ideas sprouting out at odd hours of the day, you’ll want to capture those sprouts because your creativity is worthwhile.

        Respond to the best

        What the heck does that mean? Simply, pay attention to remarkable, amazing comments. And thankfully I’ve seen a lot of them on Lifehack, like Shanel Yang’s. ;) Not all comments are equal and most aren’t worth followup, as a casual glance of YouTube vs. Flickr can show.

        But when there are:

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        • Eclectic questions you’ve never heard before (consider making a FAQ out of the ones you do get often)
        • Knowledge that adds to the value of your or someone else’s post and makes it that much more useful, and
        • Observations which have a inimitable brand of humor…

        That’s what you’re going to remember. Those words, connected to those people, is what’s worth continuing a discussion for.

        The simple reason is: those people are more likely to followup with you, teaching you applicable knowledge and making you smile. The best followup, as all healthy relationships are, is reciprocal. Give and take. If you’re drained without inspiration, you won’t have the attitude and enthusiasm to followup.

        Don’t force yourself to be social, it serves no earnest purpose and will eventually be forgotten anyway in the sea of the Internet. Time, once spent, is always depleted. If you get a lot of thank-you’s for something you posted, don’t be pressured to type a different thank-you to each and everyone. You could, if you’re imaginative and feeling lively. But don’t force it out — flow.

        You’ll learn from experience, as I have over 10,000s of forum posts and blog comments (and having earned distinguished status like being a Lifehacker star), what followup you get in kind.

        Use subscribe/keyword reminders whenever possible

        Obvious but underused, in my anecdotal experiences asking people if they utilize ’em.

        Don’t be passive: seek out integrated reminder systems! Many different web services have various implementations. You may be a forum poster accustomed to vBulletin’s subscription system, or you may use email/RSS alerts (different ways of getting the same info) on a money-saving site like dealnews.com — which is a lucid way of following up on an item you’ve wanted to buy for awhile, but think it should be cheaper. Give it time and you’ll be pinged when the price drops — Price!pinx is another tool that can help you.

        I also have a bookmark folder in Firefox called “Waiting for Answers“. It’s a very special one, and I drop links to questions I’ve asked on forums, blogs, etc. I detest when the trail goes cold to my curiosity, and I check this folder every few days. If longer than a couple weeks goes by without a reply, I’ll post a reminder to “bump” things up. Stuff resolved to my satisfaction of course gets a thank-you, and the bookmark is placed in a subfolder titled “ANSWERED”.

        Also useful for customer support tickets!

        Don’t say “Let’s do lunch sometime” if you don’t mean it

        This is mainly about your offline life: “false followup” is worthless.

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        Don’t tell a new acquaintance you want to have coffee at some indefinite point in the future if in your heart, you won’t.

        Some will argue “this is being polite”. I’ll clarify that politeness means not lying to someone if you have no intention of keeping a commitment. There are many other things you can say, and the easiest of all is saying nothing at all and smiling.

        Economy of words frees your energy for acting on things that matter more.

        Indulge in necessary terseness

        It’s better to be pithy than, well, something rude which almost rhymes.

        Followup is largely about (conversation) flow, and tl;dr work against being an effective communicator. Be colorful, be engaging, but don’t be boring. Like music, have a sense of dynamics, don’t engage in loudness wars.

        Instead of monolithic, gargantuan writings, divide ideas into sections or multiple installments, as we’ve seen from some of my fellow Lifehack contributors. That has the benefit of attracting ongoing readers and allowing them to digest your opinion. Again, it’s about controlling your time.

        “Chop the slop!” -Torley

        If the above wasn’t what you expected yet you’ve come away with some fresh recipes for followup, awesome indeed!

        Unleash your experiences in the comments and let me know what you’re thinking… and are going to followup on.

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        Last Updated on August 19, 2019

        How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

        How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

        We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

        When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

        In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

        Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

        If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

        According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

        No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

        When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

        Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

        1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

        When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

        Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

        When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

        Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

        In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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        It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

        You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

        Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

        What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

        You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

        That’s where we all should be.

        So, answer me this:

        How are you, really?

        And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

        Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

        Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

        Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

        Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

        It’s taking control.

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        2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

        You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

        You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

        In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

        Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

        You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

        Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

        But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

        It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

        In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

        It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

        Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

        Change will happen.

        Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

        You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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        And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

        You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

        That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

        You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

        When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

        There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

        3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

        Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

        In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

        If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

        Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

        Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

        How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

        Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

        “Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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        Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

        Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

        It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

        Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

        “If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

        What would you do if you felt you were enough?

        By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

        So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

        Final Thoughts

        By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

        Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

        When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

        You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

        More About Living Your True Self

        Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

        Reference

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