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New Tools for a New Year: Communication

New Tools for a New Year: Communication

    Communication is an essential part of being productive in work and life. We talk about communication quite a bit here at Lifehack and think that you should be ready to communicate effectively and efficiently in the upcoming year. Here are a few new tools that you may need to add to your arsenal in 2012.

    Skype

    Skype isn’t a “new” tool by any means, but if you still aren’t using Skype to get things done during your workday as well as communicating with friends and family, we highly recommend installing it, getting a decent webcam, and using it in 2012. Most of my communication online is done through Skype by IM-ing, voice, or even video. It allows me to quickly have a conversation with someone or be able to see someone across the country in a matter of seconds.

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    Something that people don’t realize is that talking over Skype is a highly effective way to communicate complicated ideas or to make sure that your message isn’t taken the wrong way. Text messaging and IM is great for sending concrete information or just chatting, but if you want to get serious about your message, talking to someone voice-to-voice or face-to-face can’t be beat.

    What else is awesome about Skype is that it can be used on any Android or iOS device. That means if you have a nice 3G or WiFi connection you can communicate with another Skype user from anywhere for free.

    Twitter

    In the last couple of years Twitter has increased in popularity so much that it’s hard to find any “brand” or celebrity that doesn’t have an account or doesn’t want you to use some hashtag. But, just because Twitter has changed from it’s original incantation, to allow users to send 140 character messages to a group of followers, doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for that.

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    Twitter is great for sending one off messages to friends and colleagues as well as fostering a “community” feel with “at-replies.” Lately, I’ve heard it refered to as a type of digital “water-cooler.” It is a little hard to reduce the noise of Twitter as well as keep track of conversations in an ordered fashion, but for back and forth conversations it does pretty well. One of the best ways to communicate with Twitter is by direct message. It’s fast, simple, and private. Mike and I both use it quite a bit to get stuff done here at Lifehack.

    I’ve found to get the best use out of Twitter you need to use a seperate client to do it. Some of the best are:

    This allows you the control you want without the annoyingness of Twitter forcing things on you like recommendations of people you should follow or the inevitable inclusion of sponsored tweets and hashtags.

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    Path

    I guess Path is more of a social networking type of application than a communication one, but it just feels a little different (and beautiful, to boot). Path is an app that allows you to follow and be followed by only 150 people (based on Professor Robin Dunbar’s research regarding the number of trusted relationships somone can maintain) making it more of an intimate type of sharing and communication application. With Path you can share your location, thoughts, what you are listening to, images and video, when you are asleep and when you awake.

    I consider Path a communication app because as long as I update things that I am doing, places that I am going and my friends see it, they don’t really need to ask, “hey, where are you at?” You can let them know through Path. It may sound a little cold and inhuman to reduce some of this type of conversation in our lives, especially with our friends, but it really could end up saving a bunch of time for you, your co-workers, and friends.

    The only serious downfall that I see about Path right now is that there is no user interface for being able to export your data. You can contact Path via the their support site, but to do this everyday or week (depending what you deem as acceptable for a backup schedule) will get annoying for you and them.

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    Email Tools

    We can’t recommend email as a great communication tool for the new year, but what we can recommend are a few services that keep you out of the mound of email that you probably receive on a daily (or hourly) basis.

    One of our favorites that we took a look at a few months ago is AwayFind which allows you to filter all of your incoming email and create alerts for the ones that you deem important. AwayFind’s interface is awesome and you can come up with some pretty unique rules for qualifying email. You can be notified via SMS, IM, or even the dedicated iPhone or Android app.

    If you are a Gmail user, another tool you may want to check out is Boomerang for Gmail. Boomerang is an addon for Gmail that allows you send email at a later time or set up reminders of emails that need replied to by a certain time and aren’t. It’s another great way to keep up with your email while keeping you out of your inbox as much as possible.

    Boomerang’s creators, Baydin Inc., also offer Boomerang as a plugin for Outlook as well as The Email Game, which challenges you to deal with as much of your overflowing inbox as you can in 15 minutes or less.

    Conclusion

    Communicating effectively is vital for being productive so it is important that you find the best tools to enable you to keep in touch while keeping you sane. Hopefully, with the use of these tools this new year you can get more done both efficiently and effectively while communicating with co-workers, friends, and family.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2020

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

    In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

    How to Listen to Your Gut

    The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

    Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

    1. Tune Into Your Body

    Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

    However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

    Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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    Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

    In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

    2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

    Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

    There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

    3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

    Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

    As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

    This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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    4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

    As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

    Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

    5. Challenge Your Assumptions

    When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

    In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

    A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

    6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

    Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

    There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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    Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

    Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

    Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

    We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

    The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

    We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

    7. Trust Yourself

    It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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    Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

    If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

    The Bottom Line

    The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

    Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

    More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

    Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
    [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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