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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 September 17, 2018

        7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

        7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

        Relationships are complicated and when you’re unhappy, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing it and what needs to change.

        Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to your partner about your problems, while other times it may be necessary to switch partners or roll solo to get your mind straight.

        When you’re in the thick of things, it can be difficult to tell if you’re unhappy in your relationship or just unhappy in general (in which case, a relationship may be just the cure you need).

        Here’re signs of an unhappy relationship that is possibly making you feel stuck:

        1. You’re depressed about your home life.

        No matter what you do in life, you’re going to have good and bad days. Your relationship is no different.

        However, no matter what you’re going through at home, you have to feel comfortable in your own home.

        If you constantly dread going home because your significant other is there, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s something you already know about, everyone has an argument or just needs some alone time.

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        When that yearning to be alone becomes an insatiable obsession over the course of months and years, it’s time to realize you’re not the exception to the rule.

        You’re unhappy in your relationship, and you need to take a look in the mirror and do whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

        2. You aren’t comfortable being yourself.

        Remember all those things you discovered about yourself when you first got together? The way your partner made you feel when you met that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place.

        If they don’t make you feel that way anymore, it’s not the end of the world. If your partner makes you uncomfortable about being you, then her or she is only dragging you down. It’s up to you to decide how to handle that.

        You need to be comfortable with who you are. This means being comfortable in your skin and with the way you walk, talk, look, breath, move, and all the other things that make you uniquely you.

        If the person who supposedly loves you doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, know that you can do better. They’re not even one in a billion.

        3. You can’t stop snooping.

        Mutual trust is necessary in any relationship. The only way to get that trust is with respect.

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        I can find you anywhere online, no matter how private and secure you think you are. The odds of you having a password I can’t crack are slim. If we’ve met in person, I could install a remote key logger on your device without even touching it.

        Finding your information online hardly takes a clandestine organization. Any idiot with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can cyberstalk you. I’m just the only idiot in the village admitting it.

        So now that we know everyone snoops, it’s time to address your personal habits. Governments snoop because they don’t trust us. If you’re snooping on your partner, it’s because you don’t trust them.

        It’s ok to have doubts, and it’s perfectly normal to look into anything that looks weird, but keep in mind that data collection is only half of an investigation.

        If you find yourself constantly snooping and questioning everything, clearly there’s a trust issue and the relationship likely needs to end.

        4. You’re afraid of commitment.

        If you’ve been dating longer than a year and you aren’t engaged, it’s never going to happen.

        Commitment is important. People will come up with a million ways to describe why they can’t be committed.

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        No matter who you are if you like it, you need to put a ring on it. Find an engagement ring, stick a gemstone in it and marry the person. If you’re not legally able to get married or you don’t believe in it for one reason or another, have a child (or adopt one, however you’re able to) or treat your partner’s family like your own. It’s a huge financial and mental commitment.

        If you’re not ready for one or the other after some time, don’t waste anymore of your precious life on the relationship.

        Your relationship should be something that propels you forward. If it’s not going anywhere, make it an open relationship and call it what it is—dating multiple people.

        5. You imagine a happier life without your partner.

        If all you’re doing is imagining a happier life without your partner, it’s a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship. You’re unhappy and you need to get out.

        Your partner should be included in your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a future with someone.

        Try to remember what you dreamed of before you got your heart broken by the realities of life, love and the pursuit of human success.

        Remember when you would crush on that cute kid in class? You would secretly imagine marrying him or her and going on an adventure—that’s the way life should be.

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        If you’re not at least imagining adventures together, then why are you in that relationship?

        6. You resent, rather than love your partner.

        When a relationship starts to crumble, you begin to resent your partner for all the things you once loved about him or her.

        When you’ve reached this point, your partner has reached at least No. 2 on this list. From your partner’s perspective, your unhappiness with them is picked up as bashing them for being who they are.

        If you’re both unhappy in the relationship, it’s better if it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

        7. You chase past feelings.

        It’s okay to reminisce about the past, but if all you do is wish things were like they used to be, it’s a sign you’re not on the right path.

        You’re unhappy and, at the very least, you need to have an open dialogue about it. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the relationship should end, but it definitely needs a spark.

        When you talk to your partner candidly about what it is you’re looking for, you never know how they’ll react. The risk alone is worth it, good or bad.

        Final thoughts

        If you’re feeling stuck in your current relationship, it’s time to reflect about it with your partner. Don’t ignore these signs of an unhappy relationship as they will slowly go worse and harm both you and your partner in long-term.

        Featured photo credit: josh peterson via unsplash.com

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